Greg Barila

Journalist. Editor. Social Media specialist.

David Sedaris Live at the Strand

As the folks who work there like to say, New York's The Strand is "the 84-year-old home of 18 miles of new, used and rare books". It is also, we have happily discovered, the home of some wonderfully intimate events and lectures featuring some of the best and biggest names in books and literature.

We live, literally, a stone's throw away from this wonderful store of books and so wandering across the street after a day's work to enjoy an hour of stimulating intellectual argument and discussion from this famous writer and that has become a regular fixture of our social calendar.

To date we have listened to celebrity chefs Mario Batali and Michael White discuss the state of Italian cuisine in America and The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik eloquently discuss the true meaning of food in our lives.

Last night's lecture, by the American writer, broadcaster and humorist David Sedaris, was the first we have seen not strictly relating to food, but it was a discussion to savor, none-the-less.

Sedaris read from his book of funny animal stories Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, rejected magazine columns and short stories and extracts from his diary during a 43 city book tour of the US.

After the talk, Sedaris sat down at a small table next to the podium as dozens of fans formed a queue to get a book signed and just say "hi".  Sedaris looked relaxed as he chit chatted casually, signing his name and scribbling funny little pictures based on the person standing in front of him. A woman's head on a turtle body, that kind of thing.

More than once I saw him outline a serrated knife in black pen, before choosing gold and grey pens from a container on the table and filling the knife in. Just before he began the signing, a little blonde girl walked up coyly and Sedaris asked "Who are you here with?". The girl pointed to her mother standing a short distance away.

The line for the book signing was long and some the people looked impatient but Sedaris was unperturbed, spending a long couple of minutes talking to the girl, who was visiting from Spain and spoke three languages.

"I've got something for you," Sedaris said as he pulled out a calico bag and fished around inside.
He pulled out a small box which he opened and retrieved a couple of colored bangles, a small toy monkey and a pair of plastic children's sunglasses with clusters of sparkles on the front.

Which one would she like? Why didn't she take all three with her? She could give one of the items to a friend as a gift from New York. It was a lovely moment. Sedaris was thoughtful and sweet with his young fan. Shly, the girl looked towards her mother who instructed her to choose just one thing.

For some reason I didn't see what she finally chose, but as we were leaving, I saw the girl in the lobby. She was wearing those sparkly sunglasses. She was smiling.

Below is an audio recording of the lecture in full.