Monday, August 1, 2011

Oh No He Didn't

David Sedaris 2007

"You should read David Sedaris. You'll love him." That's what one of the Wenches said to me recently at our monthly W.E.N.C.H. meeting in Washington, DC where I live.

(W.E.N.C.H., a professional woman's group I founded, stands for Women Exploring New Career Hemispheres. I wanted to name it Careers Undergoing New Transformation, but the ladies voted that one down.)

So I did just that. I read three of his essay collections and loved them. Funny. Self-deprecating. Dark. All things I love. I began imagining that with practice, focus, and the proper amount of childcare, maybe one day I could be a humorist writer like Sedaris. Except with boobs. And hair.

I start researching his agent because that's what Betsy Lerner, in her book The Forest for the Trees, recommends as a smart first step. After I type "David Sedaris" in Yahoo, the first hit is not his representation information, but rather  "Chicken Toenails, anyone?", an article he published on July 15 in the UK's Guardian newspaper.

The article floors me. It's not his usual hysterical account of Life as David. It's a mean, scathing diatribe of his recent visit to China with not a trace of the self-deprecation for which he's so famed. No disclaimers of any sort. He just drones on and on about the lack of sanitary conditions and the poor quality of food, sounding like a hoity toity bitch. And I don't call just anyone hoity toity.

Maybe I fell in love with Sedaris too quickly and now I'm seeing him in the morning with bad breath,  scratching himself through dirty, worn boxer shorts.

I fell in love with China too. But that took much longer. It's where I lived for several years, the first half of my 20s to be exact. It's where I got one of my degrees, making me the first Westerner to graduate from Henan University. It's where I became Kaifeng's Beer Girl with television ads and everything.

View from my beloved tiny, humble, concrete room at Henan Univeristy, Kaifeng, China. 

I won't go in for a tit-for-tat. Not here anyway. Jeff Yang, in his follow-up article "David Sedaris talks ugly about China" published in the San Francisco Chronicle, does a better job than I could. And he's Chinese.

I'm just wondering what happened. Was it the typical you-become-famous-and-turn-your-venom-outward syndrome? Sedaris, in his secluded fame bubble, should remember his own recipe for success. Direct the venom where it belongs, at himself.