Theft by Finding: a book review

The wonderful, hilarious, perfect human that is David Sedaris decided to release his diaries in book format. The first half spans the years 1977-2002 and was released on May 30th of this year. It is without a doubt, everything that I could have hoped for. As a long time admirer of Sedaris, I was particularly looking forward to this book, and am glad to say that it did not disappoint. The book is unflinchingly honest, inspiring, and of course, hysterical. But could we ever expect anything else from dear ol’ Dave?While it is not surprising that the book is presented to readers in a witty but honest and true to life style that is Sedaris’ signature, you will perhaps be a little surprised by the early years of the diary. If you’re like me, all of a the authors you admire occupy a neat, tidy space in your mind in which they have always existed as fully-formed, self-actualized, competent geniuses. Sedaris shows us that at least as far as he is concerned, this wasn’t the case. He started out just as clueless as anyone, and didn’t shy away from making his share of mistakes. Sedaris begins writing his extensive diary collection in 1977 as he is hitchhiking across the country with a friend. These early years reveal a heretofore unknown (or to me at least,) portrait of Sedaris. Sedaris is not bashful about presenting his readers with an accurate depiction of what his life was like at that time. He was addicted to drugs, he was unable to hold down an hourly job and resorted instead to odd jobs, he lived in poverty and he did not live well. He lived in low-rent apartments that were falling apart in violent neighborhoods. He spent hours each day observing people in the IHOP (a question that goes unanswered is how? As he was not able to hold steady employment,) and he was a slave to his addiction. 

The book also takes us through Sedaris’ art school days in Chicago, through his time spent as a teacher, and through his life in New York writing and producing plays with his sister, the equally hilarious Amy Sedaris. We are there with him when he meets Hugh for the first time, and throughout the formative years of their relationship. He takes the reader through the emotional journey of losing his mom to cancer, through the evolution of his strained relationship with his father, and through the sometimes challenging relationships he has with his siblings. The diary reminds (or shows, depending upon how old you are/where you lived) us of the days immediately following 9/11. The diaries also narrate his move to Paris, and his time spent painstakingly learning to speak French.

Through all of this, the book is filled with pithy observations relayed in painstaking detail about the world Sedaris inhabits. This includes, but is not limited to, 2 AM fights overheard and then recorded verbatim through his apartment walls, minor traffic incidents, and customers trying to skimp out at IHOP, Sedaris records it all. And every word is hilarious. Each story makes the reader feel as if they are there with him. The book will make you laugh, it might make you slightly nostalgic while somehow making you still feel glad that the 80s are over. But more than anything, I think the book will make you respect David Sedaris even more than you probably already do. Both as a writer, and as a person. He has such a resilient spirit, and manages to maintain his humor even when faced with adversity and obstacles that for many are insurmountable. I cannot emphasize how much I loved this book. The only part I find disappointing, is that I have to wait to read the rest of it.


Author: Lee Ann Fryman

Lee Ann is a poet, fiction writer, and blogger located in Lexington, Kentucky. She received an MA in English from Northern Kentucky University, and has BAs in Theatre and English from Morehead State University.

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