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The Librarian Is In

"Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002” by David Sedaris




Literatures and cultures librarian Katrina Spencer is liaison to the Anderson Freeman Center, the Arabic department, the French department, the Gender Sexuality & Feminist Studies (GSFS Program), the Language Schools, Linguistics and the Spanish & Portuguese departments. These affiliations are reflected in her reading choices. “While I am a very slow reader, I’m a very critical reader,” she says. 

Rating: 3/5 cardigans


Humorist David Sedaris chronicles and shares 25 years of his life in his diaries. His adventures in apple-picking, exploring his sexual identity and drug use in his early 20s are all recorded in his entries and reveal the fodder that has inspired his 10 tomes of stories, encounters, (mis)adventures and the narratives he has shared via National Public Radio’s “This American Life” for years. Entries from his later years cover his experience as an expatriate in France and the challenges of foreign language learning, the mundanity of his tour circuits as a best-selling author and the comfort of his long-term, romantic partnership with Hugh.


I first heard Sedaris sharing his writings on the radio in the late 2000s. They were quirky and wry, both leading factors in their appeal. He talked about the Bible Belt of the South, a world that was foreign to me, and what it was like growing up there sensitive, male and queer. As a member of an oppressed minority group, he was obliged to conceal parts of his identity for his own protection; his story immediately inspired my compassion and I have been keeping loose track of his career ever since. I went to see him read in Columbia, Missouri once and have followed his essays whenever possible, such as “Now We Are Five,” which tells of his sister Tiffany’s 2013 suicide.

“Theft,” readers will see, does some presaging of events to follow. Another of Sedaris’s sisters, Amy Sedaris, has, like her brother, been successful in entertainment, and is featured as a regular on “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and voices the anthropomorphic Princess Carolyn on the animated Netflix series “Bojack Horseman.” The two are a pair of comedic talents and the diaries reveal that the two cut their teeth on public displays of humor together on the New York theater scene before making it big.

While David Sedaris retains my undying admiration, here I wish he would have given us less. At over 500 pages, this is the longest book I’ve ever read and it took me months of visits and revisits to make the necessary progress to write this review. Another edit for length would make the text more potent, but, of course, less thorough. I think this memoir could still span the same length of time in 300 pages. When I laughed, it was genuine, but it wasn’t as frequent as I would have expected. As a lover of language, I especially enjoyed Sedaris’s language-based foibles in French. I also loved the way the author so effortlessly puts U.S. society’s hypocrisies and shortcomings on display while generally eschewing judgment of the flawed characters he encounters. Sedaris realizes quite readily that he, too, is as odd and imperfect as the people he meets and the rest of us in between.

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The Librarian Is In