“Theft by Finding” by David Sedaris (Little, Brown and Co., $28, 528 pages)
Long before Facebook was a gleam in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye or the president of the United States became the world’s most powerful tweeter, David Sedaris was recording his day-to-day life the old-school way – in diaries.
Randomly open to any page of “Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002)” and you’ll find a gem:
“April 16, 1979, Raleigh: Dad on friendship: ‘Sure, some people are nice. Real nice. Nice like carpets so you can walk all over them.’
“Nov. 4, 1987, Chicago: I saw a bumper sticker the other day that read, ‘I LOVE KILLING COMMUNISTS.’ The word love was replaced by a heart shape I’m guessing they’ll put on the typewriter keyboard any day now, right beside the exclamation point.”
Sedaris has been reading his diary entries aloud for decades now at meet-the-author events, but “Theft by Finding” marks the first time he’s curated his favorites and bound them up for the masses. It’s a little like a memoir, except all the holes aren’t filled in. It helps to know that he has five siblings (Lisa, Gretchen, Amy, Paul and his late sister Tiffany), was raised in a suburb of Raleigh, N.C., and has a partner named Hugh.
The rest you can piece together from the entries – restless in Raleigh at the age of 21, he sets out each fall to pick fruit in places like Odell, Ore., and Ithaca, N.Y., where he lets his eye for the absurd wander and writes it all down. Eventually he ends up at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, envisioning a future in visual and performance art. National Public Radio (NPR) host Ira Glass hears him reading from his diaries one night and the rest, as the cliche goes, is history. A regular NPR feature follows as do a series of New York Times best-sellers.
Now 60, Sedaris hasn’t published anything since his 2013 essay collection, “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls,” so this diary dump may give fans hope that another collection isn’t far behind.
But if all we get is “Diaries (2003-2016)” instead, we’ll still be better off. Sedaris’ gift is to make you stop and think one moment and laugh out loud the next.
For more, purchase or download the rest. If you happen to find a copy of “Theft by Finding” lying around, the title is probably all the legal cover you need to take it, read it and pay it forward when you’re done.