NEWS

Sedaris Book Signing Not Dampened by Rain

by | Jun 1, 2018 | News, Top Right Black Box

A frequent guest on late night television shows, the famous author and humorist, David Sedaris, brought his sharp wit and penetrating insight to the town of Davidson. The line started forming at 4:00 p.m. for his book signing at Main Street Books on Thursday, May 31. Copies of “Calypso” in hand, the excited crowd talked and laughed while waiting, despite the torrential rain that came and went throughout the afternoon.

Because many more people purchased books than were able to be seated inside the store, owner Adah Fitzgerald and the book store event coordinator, Eleanor Merrell, planned a block party in partnership with neighboring businesses – Kindred, Mandolino’s, Flatiron Kitchen, AR Workshop, and the Tutor Doctor.

The words on the umbrella summed it all up: “You Can’t Rain on My Parade.” With the store at Fire Marshal capacity, hundreds of David Sedaris fans listed outside as he read from his books and essays.

Though the CalypsOlympics – with its friendly, Sedaris-themed competitions – were rained out, the stormy weather did not dampen the spirits of those who were seated under tents and umbrellas in the Ben and Jerry’s parking lot, listening to audio of Sedaris’ reading. Gales of laughter could be heard along the street.

Robert Klein, a Davidson resident who dodged the rain under an umbrella to hear Sedaris, said, “While I didn’t get to meet David Sedaris, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there was an event happening outside to allow us to hear him speak. It was nice to see folks coming together, enjoying one another’s company, having some laughs together. The true Davidson spirit.”

Attendees could still support the local nonprofits – Davidson Housing Coalition, Ada Jenkins Center, Davidson Lifeline, and News of Davidson –  that were to take part in the Benefit CalypsOlympics.

Inside the book store, Sedaris gave a friendly greeting to every person in the book signing line, engaging them in conversation and personalizing their books. Helped by Maggie Robe, Sedaris’ media escort from Carrboro, North Carolina, the line moved efficiently but without feeling rushed.

One person in line, called Sedaris “unsurprisingly friendly.”

Some of the hardworking staff of Main Street Books, dressed for CalypsOlympics. L-R: Jan Blodgett, Jennifer Coleman, Adah Fitzgerald, Eleanor Merrell, Catherine Hamilton-Genson.

At 6:00 p.m., after being introduced by Adah Fitzgerald, Eleanor Merrell provided her own witty introduction to Sedaris. She spoke for the assembled crowd when she said, “Of course, there are many ingredients that must be combined in proper proportions to create a delectable essay. David’s witty humor, smooth prose, disarmingly odd life experiences, and outrageous perspective have always kept me turning pages. But I think what makes me return to his books year after year is his keen interest in people. Even as he’s entertaining readers with his cockatiels and his tumors and his dirty beach house names, he’s unobtrusively chipping away at the idiosyncrasies of individuals, the dynamics of families, and the wonder of human connection.”

A rainy signing line.

Sedaris read a chapter from “Calypso,” entitled, “A House Divided.” He said that he chose this chapter because he was in a North Carolina town and this chapter is about a house at a North Carolina beach. But it is about so much more, beginning with events on a flight from Atlanta to Raleigh, followed by a drive from Raleigh to Emerald Isle and his beach house named The Sea Section. Hilarity ensued, of course, but as is Sedaris’ way, it was mixed with pathos and the, sometimes, overwhelming sadness of the human condition, such as a sister’s suicide.

Perhaps best summing up the way Sedaris has for engaging people, another local resident, Heather McKee, met him in line at Summit before the signing, as the first rain began to fall. They exchanged pleasant greetings. She introduced herself and commented on his essay entitled “Memory Laps – Summers on the Swim Team” (from the “New Yorker”), which detailed his foray into age-group country club swimming in Raleigh in the late ’60s. McKee had searched and found a 5×7 black and white photo of her 1970s country club swim team in Monroe. McKee, who went on to be a four-sport varsity athlete at Davidson, thinks it was her first of many “athlete photos.”

Sedaris responded with, “Can I have it?”

Taken by surprise, McKee gave him the photo. Hours later, he told her that he would tuck it into his diary and that it would be in the Yale Library, as a part of the Sedaris archives!

Sedaris’ insight into people and his ability to describe their lives and feelings and eccentricities are born, in part, from his openness and honesty in responding to them, wherever he finds them, even at a coffee shop or a cozy book store in Davidson, North Carolina.

Marguerite Williams

Marguerite (Margo) Williams is a novelist ("Madame President"), editor, and business owner of A Way With Words. She has lived in Davidson since 1977. Visit her at her website.

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