The Significant Author

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By Elise Petracca


Let’s explore loyalty with authors.  Have you ever thought about “author loyalty”?  Is there one author you read again and again, an author who never fails to make you laugh or think, “Yes! Someone actually gets me!” ?  I have read every single one of David Sedaris’ books, and I have long awaited the chance to read his most recent collection of essays, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.  Upon starting this new book, I quickly realized how much I have missed his outlandish anecdotes, conversational style, and quirky habits.  I have hardly put it down since I pressed “purchase” on my Kindle.  I feel like I’m catching up with an old friend.

9780316154697_custom-9c47976cfb5d17b29023c72778d0409f83ba4601-s6-c30  I had never considered the concept of “author loyalty” until I began Sedaris’s most recent book.  As I picked it up, it occurred to me that I am likely not the only person who does this.  I asked my friends if they have one particular author whose books they read habitually, and they all responded immediately with their go-to author. Their answers included Andrew Clements, Pat Conroy, Ken Kesey, and Tom Wolfe.  It doesn’t matter who it is, a favorite author is as cherished as a childhood friendship.

I realize that I have had these loyalties all of my life.  When I was in elementary school, it was Kate DiCamillo. In middle school, it was Lurlene McDaniel. By high school, I had convinced myself I didn’t have time to read books for fun, until I was given Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, and then it became David Sedaris.  His style is colloquial but his stories are far from typical.  He brings freshness to storytelling by humor and self-deprecation that entices his readers, making us want to know more.  When reading Sedaris’s stories, I find myself next to him, strolling the streets of Paris or visiting his childhood home in North Carolina.  His vivid descriptions and realistic dialogue take me wherever he goes.  Not only do I feel like I know him personally, but also his family, his friends, and his longtime partner, Hugh.

Sedaris is the second of six children, and I am the youngest of five.  I have to wonder if our shared experience of having a large, dysfunctional family is what allows me to relate to him. His writing inspires my own; my stories, whether fiction or fact, are often based on my own family.  Even when my siblings bring me to the end of my wits, I wouldn’t give them up for anything.  Plus, they make for pretty entertaining characters, as Sedaris has realized.

I continue to read his books for thepain I get in my side from laughing so hard.  I remember reading Me Talk Pretty One Day on a plane to Florida.  I was sitting in an aisle seat and two men gave me looks to suggest they didn’t appreciate my audible snickering.  The emotions his writings evoke are so real that they’re impossible to stifle, even when it’s discourteous to those around you.

What drew you to your favorite author in the first place?  And what makes you continue to go back?  Is it the alternate reality he or she creates for you, or the ab workout you get from laughing so hard?  What do you look for in a significant author?  I urge you, dedicated readers, to revisit your favorite writers.  Read a book by him or her you haven’t read yet, or if you’ve read them all, reread one.  There’s a comfort in the words of a favorite author, even if you already know what is going to be said.

About Laura Berry

Laura Berry is a senior English major and Poverty Studies minor at Washington and Lee. She is from Madison County, VA, where she spends most of her time with her dog, Russ.

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3 Responses to The Significant Author

  1. Rod Smith says:

    It was Poe who introduced me to author loyalty, I read it all, understood little but felt plenty. If there’s a book by Sedaris which a jaded reader of Rough South and Whacky Dixie might begin to get hooked? It’s time I at least sampled him.

  2. Annie says:

    Laura–first of all, I love David Sedaris too. In terms of novels that I can’t stop coming back too, I doubt that I will ever tire of reading the Harry Potter series. This is due mainly to the masterful world that Rowling has crafted, and the fact that I began reading them as a small child–I grew up with Harry. I think that something that has a huge impact on how you respond to a book has to do with where you are in life when you read it. When I first read Jane Eyre in high school, I liked it, but wasn’t engrossed. However, re reading it during the summer after my freshman year of college, I was enamored by Jane’s journey and Bronte’s narrative style. I’ve re read it every summer since.

  3. Laura Berry says:

    Can’t take credit for this post, actually! Fellow intern Elise Petracca is the author, and at her gentle prompting(s) I recently edited this to include her name. I kind of fell in love with Sedaris when I read “The Santaland Diaries.” I mean, holy cow! The portrayal of the mall Santa was almost too much to handle. I’d have to say my significant author has recently become Zadie Smith. I read On Beauty last year, and luckily got to read NW for a class last term. Everyone should check her out!

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