“The other week I walked all the way to Astoria,” he said. “I figured out early on that there’s absolutely nothing I can do about this,” he said. When New York went into lockdown, David Sedaris settled into his apartment on the Upper East Side and canceled his 45-city book tour. Sedaris is known to regularly wear a headlamp at night and spend hours removing litter from nearby roads and highways. With two books in the works but all plans on hold, the writer is pacing New York City and destroying his Fitbit friends. “I’m pretty sure my father wants a crowd at his funeral,” Sedaris said, of his father’s ability to hang on until crowded funerals are possible again. England famously loves its eccentrics, which could be why Sedaris, who grew up in North Carolina and lived in France before crossing the channel in 2002, feels so comfortable there. David doesn’t easily express his love for him (“We’re engaged, I guess,” he says) and has even publicly admitted he could imagine living without his boyfriend but never his family. “I was really afraid he’d get tired of me. “You’ve been with someone for 30 years, and it’s great not to see them for a few months.”. But then I followed his eyes and there was a clown, with purple hair and a red nose.”. “I spent a week at the beach with my family, but it wasn’t like anybody got into a car accident or someone broke into the house and stole things. In fact, he said, it was because he has not let the pandemic thwart his efforts to rack up miles on Fitbit, the physical-activity-recording device. Hand sanitizer? Readers confide in Sedaris: about their relationships, about their pet peeves, about strange events that have befallen them. His nerdy bravado slipped away and his voice quavered. department. But Sedaris’s realization that it’s no fun dressing up in semi-satirical garments when there is no one to see you is of course not the only thing he has had to contend with. “The Queen has these garden parties—this was do-gooder day, so there were 8,000 do-gooders there,” he says, sitting in the kitchen of the 16th-century farmhouse he shares with his boyfriend of 26 years, Hugh Hamrick. litter. ), “It’s been fantastic, it really has,” Sedaris went on, in an unexpected burst of straight-up emotional enthusiasm. “I said, ‘Are you paid to do that?’ And he said, ‘No, I’m doing it because it drives me crazy.’ And I thought, ‘Gosh, I can do that too.’ He changed my life, really.”. “The thing is,” Sedaris added, “I mean, I’ve talked to people who said, ‘We’ve been home trapped together and we’re at each other’s throats.’ But in our case, we’ve never gotten along better. (His record is 10 ½ hours, in Chicago.). “How old do you think you are going to be when you die?” Mr. Sedaris asked. For someone else it would have seemed like a high-wire act; for Mr. Sedaris it was business as usual. “For the past 20 years I’ve been gone every fall and every spring, and people said, ‘It must be horrible to be away from Hugh for so long,’ and I’ve always thought, ‘No, it’s actually kind of great,’” Sedaris said. Along came a young woman who, like most people in line, had her first name (Chelsea) written on a card that she handed to Mr. Sedaris, for book-signing purposes. As of 2019 , Sedaris lives in Rackham, West Sussex, England, with his longtime partner, painter and set designer Hugh Hamrick. Nothing seems to faze Hugh. Along came a person named Katie, all tattoos and piercings and brightly dyed streaks of hair, barely out of her teens and shyly holding a book. “Your mother looks like a predatory older lesbian,” he said, to the younger one, who did not seem to mind at all. “People ask me what I felt when I saw her, but I felt nothing.”. The author of 10 books of autobiographical essays and short fictional pieces, Sedaris, 63, is a keen anatomist of the skewed intricacies of human behavior, and there has been a lot of behavior to sort through at the moment. But it wasn’t because he’s sold 11 million copies of his books and is a master comic storyteller. You know, how life feels like a story.”. “He’s fine.”. WASHINGTON — David Sedaris was taking questions from the audience after his reading at the Kennedy Center last month, when suddenly the evening took an alarming turn. “I’m not against it,” he said, “but everything changes once you start doing that — you can’t stop.”. “I destroy everyone I’m a Fitbit friend of,” Sedaris said. “I was the last person on Earth to get it,” he said. Mr. Sedaris is an atypical author, and not just because of his singular worldview or because his books sell so well or because he spends so much of his free time striding through the English countryside, where he and Hugh now live, picking up trash (“I don’t know what it is about England; people are such slobs,” he said). “You can’t make fun of other people and then make yourself look like an angel,” he explains of revealing that moment. “Right now.”. “My goal is to get through this without ever going on Zoom or FaceTime or Skype,” he said. ‘I’ll just take this BLM down to 23rd,’ I’d tell myself. His record for ground covered in a day? For more from the Sedaris interview, check out the current issue of PEOPLE, on stands now. Follow New York Times Books on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, sign up for our newsletter or our literary calendar. “Like, I might be walking 130 miles a week, and they’re walking 30 miles a week.” But recently he has made a new Fitbit friend, someone whose determination to see and raise him mile for mile has forced Sedaris to increase his own efforts. Photos courtesy of Lisa Sedaris Evans ), He flashed a sunny grin. The only perk I can see is that, with luck, you’ll acquire a guest room.”) And his stories are a family affair. He shrugs. Would you like a radio show? But just then Mr. Sedaris paused, looked stricken. He may highlight their foibles, but he adores his family. David Sedaris recently had tea with the Queen at Buckingham Palace. Throughout the pandemic, David Sedaris has been walking, masked, around New York City. “In a lot of ways I feel fortunate to have had him. Over time I came to think of the marches the way I think of buses and subways. First, his own. Tara Derby, Credit: I kept thinking, ‘I should be able to fix this or control it.’ Whenever I feel sorry for myself, I think, ‘Everyone in the world is going through this.’ That makes it much easier.”. Credit: Lately his family tales have taken a darker turn— inevitably, he says. “I had bought all these outfits, and I was so looking forward to wearing them,” he said, mentioning with particular wistfulness a lavishly ruffled black Comme de Garçons jacket — “a cross between when Mammy was in mourning after the baby died in ‘Gone With the Wind,’ and something that P.T. As a child, Sedaris admits, “my room was a shrine of cleanliness.” It’s all part of the anxiety and compulsions he lives with, which were never officially diagnosed as OCD. But his life, like everyone else’s, is more or less on hold. If you would like to opt out of browser push notifications, please refer to the following instructions specific to your device and browser: Humorist David Sedaris Was Invited to Buckingham Palace by the Queen for 'Picking Up Rubbish'. “I could be doing any number of things—I could be in a room obsessively thinking, counting the fly legs on the floor. We wouldn’t not be home on Saturday because that’s when the scary movies were on TV, and that’s when I made pizza. Usually people who come up with that stuff are writing for newspapers, or they’re on TV.”. “I destroy everyone I’m a Fitbit friend of,” he said. You'll get the latest updates on this topic in your browser notifications. Slightly shy, Hugh is the grounding constant and solid fall guy to David’s comic commentary. At home, this involves pacing the floor like Gus, the neurotic polar bear who compulsively trudged back and forth in his enclosure at the Central Park Zoo. Soiled underpants. I thought we’d spend a lot of time watching things, but Hugh” — that would be his boyfriend, Hugh Hamrick, an artist and a familiar character in the Sedaris oeuvre — “falls asleep, so you can’t watch anything with him.”. By now people in the audience were practically weeping, and Mr. Sedaris was for real. After he appears, he signs books and chats to people late into the night, even if that means all night long. What could be more important?”, Idris Elba Is PEOPLE’s Sexiest Man Alive 2018: It’s ‘an Ego Boost for Sure’. Appalled by how much the Brits litter, he now spends his days toggling between writing and litter picking, the latter often after dark (“Because this is a true crazy person,” he jokes), much to the concern of his boyfriend. It was breakfast in New York, a few days earlier. “That should be obvious, and for some reason it wasn’t. Some days he walks nearly 20 miles. Even when there is no new work to promote, he spends much of his time on extended tours in the United States and abroad. Someone named Christine said she worked in her firm’s H.R. Mr. Sedaris got that glint in his eye that for some reason puts people at their ease. “It’s very nice to meet you because your books really helped me come out in a homophobic world,” she said. “Everywhere I go it smells the same, and it smells like my breath.” He generally has two outdoor shifts, the second after midnight, so that he (or Fitbit) can apply those miles to the next day’s tally. But a man has to do what a man has to do. He is 61 now, and life has crept up on him. Nor did anyone mind when he asked a (nonpregnant) woman if she might have an abortion this summer and then advised her to “do it while you still can, because you may not be able to have one in the future”; or when he wrote “you’re using that cane as a crutch” to a reader with a limp; or when he said, “What happened to your mother — is she dead?” to a man named Richard, who wanted a book signed for his father. Sedaris’s conversational gambits cover the sort of topics (abortion, religion, sexuality) that people are advised to avoid in potentially non-safe spaces. Introducing ... PEOPLE's Products Worth the Hype. Released from conversational convention, readers confided in him: about their relationships, about their co-workers, about their pet peeves, about their sexual arrangements, about strange events that had befallen them. . Writer David Sedaris has been with his partner Hugh Hamrick for well over two decades, but he admits, “Hugh does not sound like anything I wanted my fantasy boyfriend to sound like.” In Do I … Any family that names its seaside cottage “the Sea Section” and seriously considers “The Amniotic Shack” as an alternative is not exactly normal. “I’m walking in my apartment,” he said into the phone. “They’re so articulate and thoughtful, and they’re not regurgitating what they’ve already heard. Second row: Paul, Amy, Mom (Sharon), and Gretchen. Also, he keeps a very tidy house, if the singleminded way he’s currently picking up bread crumbs from the kitchen counter is any indication. But “Calypso” reveals the later-day Mr. Sedaris to be more ruminative, more serious, and a little less inclined to play everything for laughs. Not Mr. Sedaris. “If you’re writing about your life, and you’re getting older, there’s going to be more illness and death.” He writes in Calypso about his mother’s alcoholism (she died in 1991, when he was 34), his 95-year-old father’s rapid aging and, heartbreakingly, his sister Tiffany’s 2013 suicide.

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