NEW YORK – Greek-American author David Sedaris was profiled in the New York Times on June 20, discussing his life during the pandemic “with two books in the works but all plans on hold, the writer is pacing New York City and destroying his Fitbit friends.”
Sedaris told that Times about the pre-pandemic clothing that now hangs in his closet, “I had bought all these outfits, and I was so looking forward to wearing them,” referring to “a lavishly ruffled black Comme de Garçons jacket” as “a cross between when Mammy was in mourning after the baby died in Gone With the Wind, and something that P.T. Barnum would wear.”
Sedaris is known for his wit and and self-deprecating humor as the author of 10 books of autobiographical essays and short stories, and while he jokes about clothing, his life is also on hold like so many others during the global pandemic.
At age 63, he “has two books coming out: The Best of Me, a collection of his favorite essays, in the fall, and Carnival of Snackeries, a second volume of diaries, tentatively scheduled for next year,” the Times reported.
Born in Johnson City, NY to a Greek-American father and Anglo-American mother, Sedaris was the second of the couple’s six children, raised in the Greek Orthodox faith. The family moved to the suburbs of Raleigh, NC when David was young. Middle class family life, his Greek heritage, homosexuality, jobs, and obsessive behaviors were among the topics that offered a well of inspiration for Sedaris. He first garnered national attention in 1992 when National Public Radio broadcast his essay Santaland Diaries. His first collection of essays and short stories, Barrel Fever, was published in 1994. Sedaris won the 2001 Thurber Prize for American Humor for his essay collection Me Talk Pretty One Day. He is also the brother and writing collaborator of actor Amy Sedaris.
Of the pandemic, Sedaris told the Times, “I figured out early on that there’s absolutely nothing I can do about this. That should be obvious, and for some reason it wasn’t. I kept thinking, ‘I should be able to fix this or control it.’ Whenever I feel sorry for myself, I think, ‘Everyone in the world is going through this.’ That makes it much easier.”
During his interview with the Times, he noted that he sounded out of breath “because he has not let the pandemic thwart his efforts to rack up miles on Fitbit, the physical-activity-recording device.”
“I’m walking in my apartment,” he told the Times, adding that “he considers it a competitive sport.”
“I destroy everyone I’m a Fitbit friend of. Like, I might be walking 130 miles a week, and they’re walking 30 miles a week,” Sedaris told the Times, which noted that most of the walking is done in the apartment but “throughout the pandemic Sedaris has also been walking, masked, to the far ends of New York City.”
He said, “The other week I walked all the way to Astoria,” the Times reported.
During his walks, Sedaris told the Times that “he is constantly amazed at the high caliber of New Yorkers’ discourse.”
He said, “You’ll be in the park, and suddenly you’ll hear some very articulate person talking about what a horrible person Donald Trump is. They’re so articulate and thoughtful, and they’re not regurgitating what they’ve already heard. Usually people who come up with that stuff are writing for newspapers, or they’re on TV,” the Times reported.
He also sees the other side of the city as well, and told the Times, “I was at Times Square at 1:30 in the morning and there was a guy in a wheelchair who was pushing himself along and he said, ‘Look at that clown,’ I thought he was talking about me. But then I followed his eyes and there was a clown, with purple hair and a red nose.”
Sedaris also “has walked city streets crowded with people, finding camaraderie and shared humanity in the Black Lives Matter protests,” the Times reported.
Of his contentious relationship with his father, Sedaris wrote in March that they had “made a kind of peace last year, […] as his father lay dying in a hospice,” the Times reported, adding that “in a quintessentially Sedaris move, though, his father did not die,” and “he rallied, left the hospice, and is now in an assisted-living facility, in good health considering that he is 97 and a global pandemic is underway.”
“I’m pretty sure my father wants a crowd at his funeral,” Sedaris told the Times of his father’s recovery, adding that “in a lot of ways I feel fortunate to have had him. I wouldn’t have changed anything, because I needed somebody to sort of push against.”
Of online author events, Sedaris is not embracing the trend, “My goal is to get through this without ever going on Zoom or FaceTime or Skype,” he told the Times.
Humor has also helped Sedaris and his longtime boyfriend Hugh Hamrick get through the lockdown during which other couples seem to be fighting all the time, “in our case, we’ve never gotten along better,” Sedaris told the Times which noted that “both he and Hamrick fell ill with and then recovered from COVID-like symptoms early in the spring, though they have not been tested for the virus.”
“It’s been fantastic, it really has. I was really afraid he’d get tired of me. Like this morning, I got up at 10 and at 10:30 Hugh said to me, ‘I’m tired of you already.’ So I said, ‘OK, can we start over?’ And we just started the day again,” Sedaris told the Times.