The fine writing of David Sedaris

Reading time: Just over 1 minute

A great way to improve your writing skills is to emulate the work of others. Here is a sentence by David Sedaris I read recently that I’d happily imitate.

I used to host a book club and I’ll never forget the meeting about eight years ago at which one of our members proposed we read the book Naked, by David Sedaris. “It’s a riot,” she said. “My daughter was reading it on a plane and she was laughing so hard everyone in her row wanted to know the title.” Maybe she oversold it, but I didn’t find it nearly as funny. In fact, for a time following, I was predisposed to dislike anything David Sedaris produced.

I have now seen the error of my ways. He IS a riot and his periodic features in the New Yorker predictably leave me collapsed in  laughter. But, in addition to being funny, he’s also able to woo me with just the right metaphor or the perfect phrase. Here is a sentence from his piece headlined “Understanding Owls,” published in the New Yorker, Oct. 22. (The link, above, will allow you to read the whole thing. Do it!)

The man who owned the shop was so much taller than me that in order to look at him in the eye I had to throw my head back, the way I do at the dentist’s office. 

I love the specificity of this sentence. Sedaris doesn’t just throw his head back — he has to throw it all the way back, just as he does at the dentist’s office. Doesn’t that give you a better sense of the awesome height of his shopkeeper?

I think this is enough to make me want to read Naked again.

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