What to expect when you’re expecting David Sedaris

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Author David Sedaris returns to Chicago Saturday at the Auditorium Theatre for a reading of his latest book “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls.” | Getty Images

By Selena FragassiIf you’ve never been to a reading or book signing by humorist author David Sedaris, you have been warned: Anything you do or say this Saturday at the Auditorium Theatre can be used by him. That’s not to say it isn’t always fun to know there’s a chance you might become the latest fodder in his long collection of no-holds-barred autobiographical works (take “Johnny Ryan,” for example, the pot smoking charmer Sedaris met on an Amtrak train departing Union Station in 1991; he’s brilliantly profiled in a recent short story, “A Guy Walks Into a Bar Car.”)

I had this hope once. Sedaris sent me a postcard—it was from some ancient city overseas and it simply read something about his urine smelling like Orange Julius. In return, I sent him a Christmas package of plastic animal figurines to help inspire his then in-progress book Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modern Bestiary. Our modern pen palling didn’t go much further than that, but I had assumed from his interchange that our interview at Café Descartes on Michigan Avenue a few years back left its mark.

In our conversation, Sedaris divulged some secrets of his “lock and key” collection of diaries (dating back to the ’70s) and espoused on how much he hates the annual Santaland Diaries play, derived from his most famous work about a former career as an elf at Macy’s (it’s actually very funny; see it at Theater Wit starting November 22).

During our chat, I couldn’t help but seem him taking notes in his moleskin journal that he pulled from his shirt’s pocket protector and pretended to pat myself on the back for a job well done in giving the 7 million copy man and Grammy Award nominee some inspiration. Maybe it came up during a reading in Hong Kong where he told the wall-to-wall visitors about the girl who sent him the best gift ever, but was translated into something about a crooked dollhouse. A girl can hope.

Lately, Sedaris’ material (his eighth book Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls was released in April and follows the success of earlier works Me Talk Pretty One Day and Naked) has pretty harsh commentary on his father and his strict Greek upbringing in North Carolina and the usual domestic gripes about life in Europe with his partner Hugh. But in the live setting, anything goes.

Dabbled in between straightforward readings of his latest published works (a live This American Life if you will), there are hints of new material, an audience Q&A and yes those random quips, like the time he told of the woman he met who got her ass cheek cut off in a freak lawn mower incident. Since Chicago is no stranger to Sedaris (he lived here for a bit while attending the School of the Art Institute), expect memorabilia from that time in his life too, like the adventures of living next to a halfway house in Uptown.

After you wipe away the tears (of laughter), the book signing line—always long and treacherous—is worth it. He won’t take pictures with you, but Sedaris will gladly talk to you (did we mention the line is long?). So go ahead and tell him about that time you drunk dialed your mom. You might become a non-fiction star.

Selena Fragassi is a local free-lance writer

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