The first David Sedaris book I read was Me Talk Pretty One Day. The chapter in which he and his fellow language students explained Easter to a Moroccan student in their feeble French almost killed me– I literally laughed until I cried, then started choking. It’s for that reason I’d recommend you start there, although you can start with any of his works.
Each book of stories reads like a choppy little memoir, colored with wit, humor, and a large dose of the author’s character– selfish, narcissistic, morbid, honest, and full of wonder. He lays himself bare before us, and we recognize ourselves in his fantasies of grandeur, his dogged pursuit of ever-elusive parental appreciation, his petty hatreds, or his deep and tangled insecurities. In his work, as in life, humanity isn’t always pretty, but it’s always interesting. Happy Birthday, Mr. Sedaris!
On his father:
“I’m sure my father said plenty of normal things to me when I was growing up, but what stuck, probably because he said it, like, ten thousand times, was ‘Everything you touch turns to crap.’ His other catchphrase was ‘You know what you are? A big fat zero.'”
“I also appreciate that Americans wear campaign buttons– identifiers saying either ‘You and I are alike,’ ‘I am a huge asshole,’ or, in the case of a third-party nominee, ‘I don’t mind wasting my vote.’ It makes everyone so wonderfully easy to pigeonhole. I only wish that the buttons could be larger, the size of plates, at least. That way you could read them from a greater distance and have more time to activate your scowl.”
On the internet:
“I like the trail that the Internet created. For example, I was watching one of those Douglas Sirk movies, and I noticed that Rock Hudson towered over everyone, and I typed in “How tall was” and I saw “How tall was Jesus,” and I’m like, “Sure,” and half an hour later you’re somewhere you didn’t expect to be. It doesn’t work that same way in books, does it? Even if you have an encyclopedia, the trail isn’t that crazy. I like that aspect of it.”
On the French language:
“Of all the stumbling blocks inherent in learning [French], the greatest for me is the principle that each noun has a corresponding sex that affects both its articles and its adjectives. Because it is female and lays eggs, a chicken is masculine. Vagina is masculine as well, while the word masculinity is feminine. Forced by grammar to take a stand one way or the other, hermaphrodite is male and indecisiveness female.”
“Every day we’re told that we live in the greatest country on earth. And it’s always stated as an undeniable fact: Leos are born between July 23 and August 22, fitted queen-size sheets measure sixty by eighty inches, and America is the greatest country on earth. Having grown up with this in our ears, it’s startling to realize that other countries have nationalistic slogans of their own, none of which are ‘We’re number two!’”
“I am a person who feels guilty for crimes I have not committed, or have not committed in years. The police search the train station for a serial rapist and I cover my face with a newspaper, wondering if maybe I did it in my sleep. The last thing I stole was an eight-track tape, but to this day I’m unable to enter a store without feeling like a shoplifter. It’s all the anxiety with none of the free stuff.”