“David Sedaris Diaries: A Visual Compendium” by David Sedaris, edited by Jeffrey Jenkins (Little, Brown and Company, 256 pages, $50)
When I think of David Sedaris, I think of words – extraordinary, insightful, hilarious words, best delivered in audio with the author’s trademark elfin voice.
I’ve listened to his book narrations. I’ve heard him on NPR. I’ve attended readings at local bookstores and, most recently, onstage at Wichita’s Orpheum Theatre, during which much of Sedaris’ material is pulled directly from his stash of personal diaries. And I recently read “Theft by Finding,” a 500-page volume of his private observations made public for the masses.
The words are a treasure.
But not until I cracked open “David Sedaris Diaries: A Visual Compendium” did I realize the multifaceted masterpieces the author’s diaries truly are.
Since 1977, Sedaris has kept elaborate, three-dimensional, collage-style journals – 153 books and counting – that reflect his unique view of the world. Along with the words – handwritten or typed on an old-school typewriter – are sketches, photos, postage stamps, advertisements and bits of ephemera that reveal Sedaris’ talent as a visual artist.
In this volume, which has the heft and appeal of a coffee-table art book, longtime friend Jeffrey Jenkins opens Sedaris’ “cabinet of curiosity” and shares it with the world.
“For David, perhaps, it is the hunt for or discovery of the discarded treasure that has the most meaning,” Jenkins writes in the forward.
“Finding the overlooked visual poem is its own reward, but if it has a grammatically challenged note on it, or is an obscure news photo from a long out-of-business newspaper, it experiences a kind of rebirth when it is plucked from obscurity.”
Sedaris’ penchant for the bizarre shines throughout the book. On one page, there’s a juror pass from the New York court system. On another, a Polaroid snapshot of a rotting jack-o-lantern.
Much of the book is devoted to the covers of Sedaris’ spiral-bound diaries, which range from record album covers and flea market art to original paintings by his boyfriend, Hugh Hamrick. A beautifully illustrated index allows readers to sift through the diaries one by one, starting with “Loose Papers Collected in a Box,” viewing each cover and a sample inside page.
Best of all is a little vellum envelope attached to inside of the back cover, which holds a collection of Sedaris-style ephemera-to-go – wacky calling cards, a bookmark and postcards that readers can keep for themselves or share with others.
“David Sedaris Diaries” is a must-have for the true Sedaris fan. It would make a great gift, particularly if coupled with “Theft by Finding” or any of the author’s best-selling books.