David Sedaris

American author
David Sedaris

David Sedaris (born December 26, 1956) is an American essayist and radio contributor.


  • "I love things made out of animals," Sedaris says, holding a knife with a hoof for a handle. "It's just so funny to think of someone saying, 'I need a letter opener. I guess I'll have to kill a deer.'"
  • I read "Revolutionary Road" once a year. Aside from its word-by-word construction, I love how his characters deceive themselves.
    • from the Praise for Revolutionary Road section at the front of the Vintage 2007 paperback edition of that 1961 novel.

Naked (1997)Edit

  • "You kids think you invented sex," my mother was fond of saying. But hadn't we? With no instruction manual or federally enforced training period, didn't we all come away feeling we'd discovered something unspeakably modern? What produced in others a feeling of exhilaration left Jason and me with a mortifying sense of guilt. We fled the room as if, in our fumblings, we had uncapped some virus we still might escape if we ran fast enough. Had one of the counselors not caught me scaling the fence, I felt certain I could have made it back to Raleigh by morning, skittering across the surface of the ocean like one of those lizards often featured on television wildlife programs.
    • Essay: "I like guys". (p.106-107) [Page numbers per the 2006 Abacus paperback edition.]
  • It occurred to me that everything we buy has been poked or packaged by some unfortunate nitwit with a hairnet and a wad of cotton stuffed into his ears. Every ear of corn, every chocolate-coated raisin or shoelace. Every barbeque tong, paper hat, and store-bought mitten arrives with a history of abject misery. Vegetarians look at a pork roast thinking about the animal. I'd now look at them wondering whose job it was to package the shallow Styrofoam trays.
    • Essay: "C.O.G." (p.199)
that's the beauty of an art school: as long as you can pay the tuition, they will never, even in the gentlest way, suggest that you have no talent.
  • Because I was lazy, I'd adopted the philosophy that things just happen.
    • Essay: "C.O.G." (p.222)
  • that's the beauty of an art school: as long as you can pay the tuition, they will never, even in the gentlest way, suggest that you have no talent.
    • Essay: "Something for everyone". (p.238)
  • My hands tend to be full enough dealing with people who hate me for who I am. Concentrate too hard on the millions of people who hate you for what you are and you're likely to turn into one of those unkempt, sloppy dressers who sag beneath the weight of the two hundred political buttons they wear pinned to their coats and knapsacks. I haven't got the slightest idea how to change people, but still I keep a long list of prospective candidates just in case I should ever figure it out.
    • Essay: "Something for everyone". (p.251)
  • 'If I had one wish, I'd wish for an unlimited amount of wishes,' I said.
    She shook her head in a way that suggested she had heard this answer countless times before. 'Don't get greedy on me, Dave, you only get one wish.'
    • Essay: "Naked". (p.317)
  • 'It is ironic that nudists are just about the last people you'd ever want to see naked.
    • Essay: "Naked". (p.339)

Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000)Edit

  • They were nothing like the French people I had imagined. If anything, they were too kind, too generous and too knowledgeable in the fields of plumbing and electricity.
  • on genders of nouns: Why refer to Lady Crack Pipe or Good Sir Dishrag when these things could never live up to all that their sex implied?
  • After a few months in my parents' basement, I took an apartment near the state university, where I discovered both crystal methamphetamine and conceptual art. Either one of the these things are dangerous, but in combination they have the potential to destroy entire civilizations.
  • For the first twenty years of my life I rocked myself to sleep. It was a harmless enough hobby, but eventually I had to give it up. Throughout the next twenty-two years I lay still and discovered that after a few minutes I could drop off with no problem. Follow seven beers with a couple of scotches and a thimble of good marijuana, and it's funny how sleep just sort of comes on its own. Often I never even make it to bed. I'd squat down to pet the cat and wake up on the floor eight hours later, having lost a perfectly good excuse to change my clothes. I'm now told that this is not called "going to sleep" but rather "passing out," a phrase that carries a distinct hint of judgment.
  • Like all of my friends, she's a lousy judge of character.
  • In other parts of the country people tried to stay together for the sake of the children. In New York they tried to work things out for the sake of the apartment.
  • If cooking is an art, I think we're in our Dada phase.
  • Because I'm both a glutton and a masochist, my standard complaint, "That was so bad", is always followed by "And there was so little of it!"
  • Friends always say, "How can you eat those? I read in the paper that they're made from hog's lips."
    "And hearts and eyelids."
  • The word phobic has its place when properly used, but lately it's been declawed by the pompous insistence that most animosity is based upon fear rather than loathing. No credit is given for distinguishing between these two very different emotions.
Quoting his brother Paul
  • You can't kill the Rooster. You might can fuck him up a little sometimes, but you can't kill him.
  • I ain't seen pussy in so long I'd throw stones at it.[1][2]
    • from "You Can't Kill The Rooster"

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (2004)Edit

  • If finding an apartment is like falling in love, buying one is like proposing on your first date and agreeing not to see each other until the wedding.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames (2008)Edit

  • ... name association was big, as were my presumed interests in vaudeville and politics. In St. Louis the Bow tie was characterized as "very Charlie McCarthy", while in Chicago a young man defined it as "the pierced eyebrow of the Republican party".
    • On stereotypes of bowtie wearers, Sedaris, David (2008). "Buddy, Can You Spare a Tie?". When You Are Engulfed in Flames. Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 0316143472. 

Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls (2013)Edit

Our artwork did not hang on the refrigerator
  • Our artwork did not hang on the refrigerator or anywhere near it, because our parents recognised it for what it was: crap.
    • Essay, "Attaboy". p.14 [page numbers per the Abacus paperback edition 2014]
My dad was like the Marine Corps
  • My dad was like the Marine Corps, only instead of tearing you to pieces and then putting you back together, he just did the first part and called it a day.
    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."
    • Essay, "Memory laps". p.38
I laid my hand over hers on the desktop and then looked down at it, thinking what a great poster this would make. "Togetherness," it might read.
  • I laid my hand over hers on the desktop and then looked down at it, thinking what a great poster this would make. "Togetherness," it might read. I'd expected electricity to pass mutually between us, but all I really felt was self-conscious, and disappointed that more people weren't looking on.
    • Essay, "A friend in the ghetto". p.52-53
  • People had their places, and to not understand that, to act in violation of it, demoted you from a nature nut to something even lower, a complete untouchable, basically.
    • Essay, "Loggerheads". p.68
  • In the beginning, I was put off by the harshness of German. Someone would order a piece of cake, and it sounded as if it were an actual order, like, "Cut the cake and lie facedown in that ditch between the cobbler and the little girl." I'm guessing this comes from having watched too many Second World War movies.
    • Essay, "Easy, tiger". p.80
Still I don't get it. Why take chances with money?
  • Gambling to me is what a telephone pole might be to a groundhog. He sees that it's there but doesn't for the life of him understand why. Friends have tried to explain the appeal, but still I don't get it. Why take chances with money?
    • Essay, "A guy walks into a bar car." p.127
  • "Look at us," he said, and he let out a long sigh. "A couple of first-class fucking losers."
    I wanted to defend myself, to at least point out that we were in second class.
    • Essay, "A guy walks into a bar car." p.132 [conversation is on a train]
Priority signing
  • In 2004, I offered priority signing to smokers, the reason being that, because they didn't have as long to live, their time was more valuable. Four years later my special treatment was reserved for men who stood five-foot-six and under. "That's right, my little friends," I announced. "There'll be no waiting in line for you." It seemed unfair to restrict myself to men, so I included any woman with braces on her teeth.
    "What about us?" asked the pregnant and the lame. And because it was my show, I told them to wait their fucking turn.
    • Essay, "Author, author." p.146
  • But then my focus shifts and I find myself staring. I should be used to the way Americans dress when traveling, yet it still manages to amaze me. It's as if the person next to you had been washing shoe polish off a pig, then suddenly threw down his sponge saying, "Fuck this. I'm going to Los Angeles!"
    • Essay, "Standing by." p.158
  • Then again, even if I were informed, what's the likelihood of changing anyone's opinion, especially a couple of strangers? If my own little mind is nailed shut, why wouldn't theirs be?
    • Essay, "Standing by." p.165
  • A person doesn't consciously choose what he focuses on. Those things choose you, and, once they do, nothing, it seems, can shake them.
    • Essay, "Understanding understanding owls." p.186
  • My trip reminded me that we are all just animals, that stuff comes out of every hole we have, no matter where we live or how much money we've got. On some level we all know this and manage, quite pleasantly, to shove it towards the back of our minds.
    • Essay, "#2 to go." p.192
  • While talking, Mrs Dunston rummaged through her tremendous purse. Her wallet was eventually located, but then it seemed that the register was locked, so the best solution was to put the coffees on her bill. That's how I discovered her name and her room number: 302.
    My only question then was what time I should arrange her wake-up call for. Let's see how chatty you feel at four a.m., I thought.
    • Essay, "Now hiring friendly people." p.209
It doesn't take many people to muck up a roadside.
  • It doesn't take many people to muck up a roadside. A devoted handful can do the trick. One of the things I find repeatedly is a plastic Diet Coke bottle containing a meticulously folded Mars bar wrapper. I imagine this is someone's after-work snack and that by putting the wrapper inside the empty bottle, the person feels he's done his bit. And though he has turned two pieces of trash into one, until he learns to keep it in his car, I don't think he's entitled to pat himself on the back.
    • Essay, "Rubbish." p.222
  • It's not lost on me that I'm so busy recording life, I don't have time to really live it.
    • Essay, "Day in, day out." p.233 [on keeping diaries and journals]

Calypso (2018)Edit

  • Honestly, though, does choice ever come into it? Is it my fault that the good times fade to nothing while the bad ones burn forever bright? Memory aside, the negative just makes for a better story: the plane was delayed, an infection set in, outlaws arrived and reduced the schoolhouse to ashes. Happiness is harder to put into words. It's also harder to source, much more mysterious than anger or sorrow, which come to me promptly, whenever I summon them, and remain long after I've begged them to leave.
    • Essay, "Leviathan." p.90 [page numbers per the Abacus paperback edition 2018]
In fact, there are only two kinds of flights: ones in which you die and ones in which you do not.
  • Increasingly at Southern airports, instead of a "good-bye" or "thank-you," cashiers are apt to say, "Have a blessed day." This can make you feel like you've been sprayed against your will with God cologne. "Get off me!" I always want to scream. "Quick, before I start wearing ties with short-sleeved shirts!"
    As a business traveller, you'll likely be met at your destination by someone who asks, "So, how was your flight?" This, as if there are interesting variations and you might answer, "The live orchestra was a nice touch," or "The first half was great, but then they let a baby take over the controls and it got all bumpy." In fact, there are only two kinds of flights: ones in which you die and ones in which you do not.
    • Essay, "Your English is so good." p.96
  • After the desk clerk hands you your key, the bellman will grab your suitcase and ask, "So where are you coming in from today?" Like everyone else at the hotel, he doesn't really listen to your answer. His words are just a hook to hang a tip on. You could say you're from a town ten miles down the road or from another dimension. Either way, you get the same response: "You're a long way from home, aren't you?"
    • Essay, "Your English is so good." p.97
  • The following morning you'll wander to the hotel breakfast room and tell the hostess that there is only one in your party. She'll pick up a menu and lead you to your table, asking, "And how is your day going so far?"
    "You mean the last twelve minutes?" you'll ask. "OK, I guess."
    And she'll say, "Awesome."
    • Essay, "Your English is so good." p.98-99
  • Should you wander into a shop during your visit to the United States, you can expect a clerk to ask, "So what are we up to today?" "We," as if the two of you had made plans you forgot about.
    "Oh," I usually say, already sorry I walked in, "I'm just looking around."
    If you purchase something, you'll be asked at the register what you're going to do with the rest of your afternoon.
    "Umm, I don't know. Buy more shit?"
    • Essay, "Your English is so good." p.100
  • "Stay safe," a Starbucks employee said to me one morning. I was in a hurry to get to my gate, so didn't stop to ask, "Safe from what?"
    • Essay, "Calypso." p.106
  • Whenever I see a young woman boarding a plane in her pyjamas, or a guy in a T-shirt that reads your hole is my goal, I always wonder what Mom would think.
    • Essay, "Why aren't you laughing?" p.200

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