Earlier this month, I was doing an on-line connection thing with some creative writing students in a high school in Vermont. One of the students asked me about my favorite writers. The only name I can recall giving her was David Sedaris's, in large part because the young woman responded that she liked him, too. I recommended reading his essays to another student, who also said she was already familiar with him.
Then I started reading his most recent book When You Are Engulfed In Flames while I was on vacation, and I began to wonder if I wanted to be the one to tip the young off to the many wonders of Sedaris. The guy writes about getting high. Regularly. For decades. He writes about getting drunk. Nightly. For decades. He writes about hitchhiking! And, then, of course, what would a David Sedaris anthology be without frequent mentions of demon nicotine?
I eat all this stuff up, myself, but I had some anxious moments while I was reading this latest book. Could I get into trouble for recommending him to the impressionable young?
Then I realized that Sedaris has given up weed, alcohol, and Kools, and he has never cheated on a boyfriend. The guy's a flipping role model!
That being the case, I came up with some David Sedaris writing assignments:
1. David Sedaris writes about his experiences taking foreign language classes in France and Japan. Write an essay about your experience taking foreign language classes in your school. Seriously, do you think your instructor has a clue what s/he's saying to you? Does s/he really know anything about the language s/he's teaching or is s/he just onto a really sweet thing standing in front of a bunch of kids and spouting gibberish?
2. In one of his essays Sedaris writes about a somewhat odd woman who lived next door to him. Write an essay about an odd person who lives next door to you. The neighbor may be male or female. You'll get extra credit for including details about the neighbor's unpleasant health problems.
3. Sedaris wrote an essay about giving his companion a skeleton for Christmas. Write an essay about a really good present you've given someone.
4. Sedaris describes catching flies to feed his spider, April, in one of his pieces. Write an essay about your pet. Does it have any unusual dietary needs?
5. In one essay David Sedaris tells us that while visiting a doctor's office in Paris, he didn't understand a French nurse's instructions about what to do after he disrobed. So, naturally, he ended up sitting in the waiting room in his underwear. Write an essay about something embarrassing that you've done. Not something embarrassing that happened to you. Something embarrassing you've done.