This American Life and New Yorker humorist Sedaris (Naked) displays the raw material for his celebrated essays with these scintillating excerpts from his personal journals. Sedaris collects entries stretching back to his penniless salad days working odd jobs (apple picker, construction worker, house cleaner, a now-famous stint as a Christmas elf), hanging out at the International House of Pancakes and wrestling half-heartedly with drink and drugs. He moves on to his breakthrough as a memoirist and playwright and then to later embroilments and obsessions, including a fixation on feeding flies to pet spiders. Here as elsewhere, Sedaris is a latter-day Charlie Chaplin: droll, put-upon but not innocent, and besieged by all sorts of obstreperous or menacing folks. The frequent appearance of colorful weirdos spouting pithy dialogue may strike some readers as unlikely to be entirely true. But Sedaris’s storytelling, even in diary jottings, is so consistently well-crafted and hilarious that few will care whether it’s embroidered. (May)
For decades, Sedaris has engaged readers with artfully constructed essays of his and his family's experiences. His diaries have served as source material for those pieces, and this collection of selected diary entries provides new stories, vulgar jokes, and social commentary that have not previously appeared in his writing. While his essays are crafted to present a particular persona and possess a wry tone, reading the same situation in the diaries fills in the edges and makes Sedaris (and his family) more fully rounded people as we see the trajectory of their lives unfold over time. Of particular interest are details of his collaborations with his sister Amy. Here Sedaris is still a keen observer of the world, but he's also a man who must get to work, navigate sexual relationships, and consider the price of chicken. VERDICT For Sedaris fans, this is a primary source not to miss, but even the more casual reader will be drawn in, as the author comes into his own as a writer and a person.—Margaret Heller, Loyola Univ. Chicago Libs.
Raw glimpses of the humorist's personal life as he clambered from starving artist to household name.For years, Sedaris (Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls, 2013, etc.) has peppered his public readings with samples from his diaries, usually comic vignettes with a gently skewed view of humanity. Those are in abundance here. "Jews in concentration camps had shaved heads and tattoos," he writes after learning about a Chicago skinhead's arrest. "You'd think the anti-Semites would go for a different look." Forced to trim his toenails with poultry shears for lack of clippers, he writes, "that is exactly why you don't want people staying in your apartment when you're not there, or even when you are, really." The diaries also provide Ur-texts for some of the author's most famous stories, like his stint as a Macy's Christmas elf that led to his breakthrough radio piece, "The SantaLand Diaries," or the short-tempered, chalk-throwing French teacher in Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000). But though the mood is usually light, the book is also a more serious look into his travails as an artist and person: Sedaris is candid about his early ambitions to succeed as a writer, his imposter syndrome as a teacher, his squabbles with his never-satisfied dad and mentally ill sister, Tiffany, and his alcoholism. Even that last challenge, though, is framed as comic, or at least the stuff of non sequitur: "Today I saw a one-armed dwarf carrying a skateboard. It's been ninety days since I've had a drink." While Sedaris' career took flight during the period this book captures, success didn't change him much; it just introduced him to a broader swath of the world to observe and satirize. He can hardly believe his good luck, so he's charmed by the woman who, upon escorting him to a packed bookstore reading, exclaims, "goodness, they must be having a sale." A surprisingly poignant portrait of the artist as a young to middle-aged man.
PRAISE FOR THEFT BY FINDING:
"Starve and Struggle. Feast. Bloat. These are the three stages that all artists - with some variation - go through in their careers...So it's encouraging to read 25 years of David Sedaris's diaries, and not just because he manages to defeat Bloat. It's helpful to see that a voice as original, hilarious and sometimes as infuriating as his was put through the same Struggle and Starve meat grinder that most of us go through...No one escapes Bloat, but many survive it. Maybe not with the grace, whining, hilarity and eye-rolling that Sedaris does. But through all 25 years of "Theft by Finding" - of soap opera addictions and spider feeding, family kookiness and language lessons - Sedaris's developing voice is the lifeline that pulls him through the murk."
Patton Oswalt, New York Times Book Review
"If it's hard to be funny, it's an astounding feat to stay funny--wildly, wickedly, ingeniously so--for more than twenty years. Yet
David Sedaris has somehow pulled it off, in exhilarating essays that zero in on the absurd and the poignant with eviscerating wit and radiant humanity....Fans will no doubt delight in the entries that will turn into Sedaris's most beloved essays...We're treated to a portrait of the artist as a young man, albeit one with an old and singular soul."
Fiona Maazel, O, The Oprah Magazine
"A standout... Whether he's in an IHOP in Raleigh or his apartment in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, his eye for the absurd and the vulgar is infallible and his deadpan prose style inimitable...Here, the relatively artless diary entries, short and long, sequenced and non sequitur, add up to something we've never gotten before--a big, juicy narrative arc. It comprises 25 years of an essentially heartwarming success story, any potential ickiness kept in check by Sedaris's judicious minimalism."
Marion Winik, Newsday
"Mesmerizing... Delightful... Sedaris describes the world around him...
the vast and splendid array of human life that can be observed at IHOP,
or the vagaries of fruit picking... Reading Theft by Finding is like watching a favorite play from behind the scenes, in the company of a friend who can identify what is absurd and heartbreaking and human about every person on stage."
Annalisa Quinn, NPR
"Sedaris, a master of incisive and comic cultural criticism, is about to get more personal than ever...Theft by Finding reveals intimate details of this literary luminary's life and mind--all told with his singular sense of humor."
"Sedaris fans will thrill to this opportunity to poke around in the writer's personal diaries, which he has faithfully kept for four decades and used as raw material for his hilarious nonfiction as well as his performances."
Paul S. Makishima, Boston Globe
"If you've had the good fortune of seeing Sedaris on tour, you've probably heard him read from one of his snarky and hilariously solipsistic diary entries. Finally, they're collected in one place for the first time."
"Randomly open to any page of Theft by Finding and you'll find a gem... Sedaris's gift is to make you stop and think one moment and laugh out loud the next."Rob Merrill, Associated Press
"Here, in these as-it-happened accounts and jottings, is a rich chunk of the mother lode from which David Sedaris has mined his personal essays and performances. The extracts in Theft by Finding cover what may be called the disconsolate IHOP years, when he was a college dropout, rootless casual worker and aspiring artist, and those during which he became a celebrity.... The appeal of these diary entries lies in their spareness and in Sedaris's boundless relish for the absurdity of life.... The Sedaris of these diaries is, above all, a connoisseur of annoying things and of bothersome and downright dreadful people."
Katherine A. Powers, Washington Post
"This is Sedaris, who can be wickedly funny as well as deliciously insightful about modern mores - so the nuggets are big and shiny and well worth panning for... His eccentric existence is eminently enthralling."David Holahan, USA Today
"The thrill of Sedaris's nonfiction lies in the absurd details of his memories, burnished with...polish and comic timing...Now we'll finally have access to the raw material -- fragments of the writer's personal diaries that you might recognize from the banter in his prolific and hilarious live readings."
Boris Kachka, New York
"Of course you're going to buy, read, laugh, ponder, read. He is one of our best comic writers, one of our most thought-provoking, and--who knew?--a dedicated diarist."
John Timpane, Philadelphia Inquirer
"Sedaris's diaries are the wellspring for his cuttingly funny autobiographical essays, and he now presents a mesmerizing volume of deftly edited passages...Sedaris is caustically witty about his bad habits and artistic floundering...A candid, socially incisive, and sharply amusing chronicle of the evolution of an arresting comedic artist."
Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)
"Raw glimpses of the humorist's personal life as he clambered from starving artist to household name...Though the mood is usually light, the book is also a more serious look into his travails as an artist and person...A surprisingly poignant portrait of the artist as a young to middle-aged man."
Kirkus (Starred Review)
"A David Sedaris book is always a welcome addition to any personal library - his hilarity, his self-deprecation, his compassion for (and amusement with) the human condition, and his clear joy at making his readers laugh out loud are all what make a David Sedaris book great."E. Ce Miller, Bustle
"Peak Sedaris...A real journey, and catnip for his most loyal fans."
Jinnie Lee and Maura M. Lynch, WMagazine.com
"For those curious about the mind of a comic genius, this is a great place to start."
Melissa Kravitz, amNewYork
"Filled with rich and unfailingly sharp observations...There are moments of sadness...but this is not a sad book; instead, it's a gloriously weird one...This is a diary that shows us how Sedaris's powers of observation and his intense investment in his own perspective have enriched his life and, by extension, ours."Kelly Blewett, BookPage
"Scintillating... Sedaris is a latter-day Charlie Chaplin: droll, put-upon but not innocent, and besieged by all sorts of obstreperous or menacing folks... Sedaris's storytelling, even in diary jottings, is consistently well-crafted and hilarious."Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Wildly entertaining....This book is flat-out memerizing."
Laurie Hertzel, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"A summer in which there is a new Sedaris book is the very definition of a good summer."Ann Patchett, author of Commonwealth
"Diary entries shouldn't be this good, but considering Sedaris's output, it's not surprising that this collection is a worthy addition to his name...Like much of Sedaris's deceivingly simple prose, the enjoyment comes not from its very basic conceit but its sharp observations and bone-dry humor."Caitlin PenzeyMoog, A.V. Club
"The Sedaris diaries are laced with snark, wit and trenchant observations, personal and public."Jim Higgins, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
"As brilliant and hilarious as anything Sedaris has previously published."
Zack Ruskin, SF Weekly