By Marijke Rowland
Those who know David Sedaris' work know what it means to laugh hysterically at the static pages of a book, while confused onlookers scoot away from you for fear of your sanity.
The humorist and bestselling author returns to the area Tuesday at the Turlock Community Theatre. The frequent NPR and New Yorker contributor last performed locally at Modesto Junior College in April 2009.
His latest collection of essays and stories called "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls" was released last month. Among his other works are "Me Talk Pretty One Day," "Naked," "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim" and "Holiday on Ice." The final title includes the essay "Santaland Diaries," which helped launch Sedaris into the national spotlight with a recount of his experience working as an elf at Macy's during the holidays.
The 56-year-old's work is made up largely of personal stories from life through the years, ranging from his growing up in North Carolina to working as a house cleaner to make ends meet and living abroad with his longtime boyfriend, Hugh. Much of his writing is culled from his personal journals, which he has been keeping since Sept. 4, 1977.
Last week in an interview with Terry Gross on NPR's "Fresh Air," he spoke about whether the motivation for writing his diaries has changed.
"I don't know that the motivation has changed. I mean, I'm more inclined to get something out of it now to be able to exploit it later for a story than I was at the very beginning," he said. "But a lot of it just has to do, like I said, with compulsion. It's just something that I simply have to do. It's how I start the day, by writing about the day before."
That writing has sold seven million copies and been translated into 25 languages, through his books.
Among the frequent subjects of his writing has been his family. He is one of six children from a Greek family that was raised outside of Raleigh. Many also know his sister, Amy Sedaris, a comic, actress and author who has appeared on "Strangers with Candy," "Sex and the City" and "The Daily Show" among other TV shows.
The siblings also have collaborated over the years, writing several plays together under the moniker "The Talent Family."
Sedaris' collections of essays have covered a variety of topics from his struggle to master French to his often critical father and struggles with alcohol. Sedaris quit drinking in 1999. Though one topic he says he never talks about is sex.
"I don't know even that I'm afraid so much that somebody's going to read it. I just it's not my subject, you know. It's not I mean, I sure think about it a lot, but on paper, it's not my subject," he told Gross on last week. "But, I don't know, even in private I just can't. I would write in my diary that, before I met Hugh, I would write that, like, M came over, and we were romantic twice. But that's as graphic as it gets."
Sedaris has become a favorite on the book tour and lecture circuit. His tour for "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls" will begin two days after his Turlock appearance and take him through 41 cities. Those appearances usually involve a reading from his latest work and then a book signing. His lectures, like his Turlock appearance, include longer readings from a mix of his work as well as other humorous tidbits, as well as a book signing.
Even his interactions with readers while on tour can wind up in his work, like where he got the title for his latest book. It was at a book signing a couple of years ago and one particularly pushy woman wanted a specific inscription in her copy.
"I just picture every book winding up at Goodwill, and I don't have a problem with that. But I imagine someone at Goodwill opening one of my books and then seeing an inscription that says: 'Keep laughing.' Now, I would never write that in someone's book and never read a book in which somebody had inscribed 'keep laughing,' " he told NPR. "So this woman wanted me to write to her daughter: 'Explore your possibilities.' And I said, 'Well, I'll keep the word explore.' And then I wrote: 'Let's explore diabetes' then I thought I'm not done yet 'with owls.' And then I thought, 'That's the title of my book.' "
WHAT: David Sedaris with a book signing
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Turlock Community Theatre, 1574 E. Canal Drive.
CALL: (209) 668-1169
ONLINE: www. turlock theatre. org