A Soggy Night Out in Montclair with Humorist David Sedaris

The bestselling author appeared at Watchung Booksellers to interact with fans and discuss his new collection of personal essays, "Happy-Go-Lucky."

Humor writer David Sedaris holding a pipe.
David Sedaris just published "Happy-Go-Lucky," his latest collection of essays. Photo by Anne Fishbein

Humor writer David Sedaris appeared at Watchung Booksellers in Montclair on Wednesday night to tout his new book, Happy-Go-Lucky, and it was a rain-soaked affair.

Audience members sat in rows of chairs in the parking lot behind the bookstore, umbrellas and hats at the ready, watching the skies as they waited for Sedaris to begin his talk with writer Cindy House, author of the new memoir Mother Noise and a former student of Sedaris’s who is accompanying him on his book tour. “She was the only talented one in my class,” Sedaris joked.

It was about 20 minutes before the rain started. “You look wet out there,” observed Sedaris, donning a white, button-down oxford shirt and horn-rimmed glasses.

Cover of David Sedaris's new memoir, "Happy-Go-Lucky."

Happy-Go-Lucky is out now.

Everyone was getting significantly wetter, but the audience was game. Many had been waiting months to hear Sedaris, who is widely considered one of the country’s pre-eminent humor writers. He has authored 13 books, including Naked and Me Talk Pretty One Day. His wry, observational essays can often be found in the New Yorker, and he appears regularly on NPR and CBS Mornings.

As attendees held umbrellas to ward off the rain, Sedaris read from his sardonic essay “A Better Place” about his father’s funeral: At the dinner after any funeral, Sedaris says, “…[T]here will remain one constant, which is you, having to hear things like ‘Well, I know that your father did his best.’

“People love saying this when a parent dies. It’s the first thing they reach for. A man can beat his wife with car antennas, can trade his children for drugs or motorcycles, but still, when he finally, mercifully dies, his survivors will have to hear from some know-nothing at the post-funeral dinner that he did his best. This, I’m guessing, is based on the premise that we all give a hundred and ten percent all the time, in regard to everything: our careers, our relationships, the attention we pay to our appearance, etc.

“’Look around,’” I want to say. “Very few people are actually doing the best that they can. That’s why they get fired from their jobs. That’s why they get arrested and divorced. It’s why their teeth fall out. Do you think the ‘chef’ responsible for this waterlogged spanakopita is giving it his all? Is sitting across from me, spouting clichés and platitudes, honestly the best that you can do?”

Audience members laughed appreciatively. Their affection for Sedaris was obvious—after all, they were willing to get soaked to the bone for the chance to hear him speak. But when thunder could be heard in the distance, he announced it was time for the book signing. This is the part of his book tour that Sedaris is known to love best—he’ll spend hours signing books and chatting with fans. He has said that it is where he gets some of his best material.

Seated at a table in the back of the bookstore, next to House, Sedaris had colored markers on hand for the witty little pictograms he frequently draws for fans in his books, with such funny sayings as: “The last day you wear cargo shorts.”

In one book, Sedaris drew a picture of a hamburger next to his name. In another, he inscribed the book to “my damp friend.” For a woman who missed the show due to a bad back, he wrote, “You missed nothing tonight.”

For others who missed his Jersey talk, Sedaris is set to appear at the Kings Theater in Brooklyn on Thursday, June 2. Be sure to bring your umbrella.

For more info, visit Sedaris’s website.

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