Read Me Talk Pretty One Day Online

Authors: David Sedaris

Me Talk Pretty One Day

BOOK: Me Talk Pretty One Day

Copyright © 2000 by David Sedaris

All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced,
distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written
permission of the publisher.

Back Bay Books / Little, Brown and Company

Hachette Book Group

237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017

Visit our Web site at

First eBook Edition: May 2009

Back Bay Books is an imprint of Little, Brown and Company. The Back Bay Books name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book
Group, Inc.

Acknowledgment is made to the following, in which various forms of this book’s pieces first appeared: New Yorker: “Genetic
Engineering” • Esquire: “You Can’t Kill the Rooster,” “The Youth in Asia,” “A Shiner Like a Diamond,” “Big Boy,” “Me Talk
Pretty One Day,” “Jesus Shaves,” “I’ll Eat What He’s Wearing,” “Smart Guy” • “This American Life”: “Giant Dreams, Midget Abilities,”
“Twelve Moments in the Life of the Artist” • BBC Radio 4: “The Great Leap Forward,” “Today’s Special,” “City of Angels,” “The
Tapeworm Is In.”

ISBN: 978-0-316-07365-3


Copyright Page


Go Carolina

Giant Dreams, Midget Abilities

Genetic Engineering

Twelve Moments in the Life of the Artist

You Can’t Kill the Rooster

The Youth in Asia

The Learning Curve

Big Boy

The Great Leap Forward

Today’s Special

City of Angels

A Shiner Like a Diamond


See You Again Yesterday

Me Talk Pretty One Day

Jesus Shaves

The Tapeworm Is In

Make That a Double

Remembering My Childhood on the Continent of Africa

21 Down

The City of Light in the Dark

I Pledge Allegiance to the Bag

Picka Pocketoni

I Almost Saw This Girl Get Killed

Smart Guy

The Late Show

I’ll Eat What He’s Wearing

Also by David Sedaris

Acclaim for David Sedaris’s

Me Talk Pretty One Day

“Blisteringly funny.”

— David Cobb Craig,

“His most sidesplitting work to date. The stories chronicling Sedaris’s time in Paris are painfully funny fish-out-of-water
tales about the difficulty of learning the language and the near-impossibility of translating the culture.… The simple, effortless
comic build of these stories had me howling in the airport, my hands shaking, my eyes glistening with tears.”

— Sarah Hepola,
Austin Chronicle

“Mercy, mercy! David Sedaris is dangerously funny.”

— Susan Salter Reynolds,
Los Angeles Times Book Review

“Hilarious and insightful.… Mr. Sedaris may not talk pretty, but he does write funny.”

— Robert J. Hughes,
Wall Street Journal

“Arguably one of the funniest writers working today.… Sedaris’s humor is based on a writer’s best friend: droll, descriptive

— Anne Stephenson,
USA Today

“Pure pleasure.… The pieces that deal with Sedaris’s fumbling efforts to learn French in Paris as a newly installed ‘ex-pat’
are among his funniest ever.”

— Zoe Rosenfeld,

“Sedaris’s best vignettes are completely engaging.… He makes you laugh out loud.”

— Jonathan Reynolds,
New York Times Book Review

“Hilarious.… Sedaris has the ability to seem constantly surrounded by surreal events and situations.… The book is laugh-out-loud
funny, witty, trenchant, and over far too soon.”

— Chris Barsanti,

“David Sedaris has one of the most shameless, acid, vaulting wits on planet earth.… Each essay is a delight.”

— Adam F. Kay,
Boston Book Review

“A student of American letters and literature would probably herald Sedaris as a modern-day Mark Twain.… Each chapter is an
essay that will put a grin on your face.”

— Lisa Neff,
Chicago Free Press

“Mr. Sedaris’s peculiar genius lies in his ability to transform the mortification of everyday life into wildly entertaining

— Daphne Evistar, Christian Science Monitor

“Sedaris is funny, smart, and wickedly observant.… Take
Me Talk Pretty One Day
somewhere where you can laugh unabashed, or better, where you can read your favorite parts out loud.”

— Susan Warmbrunn,
Colorado Springs Gazette

“What a wonderful storyteller Sedaris is.… His writing embodies the softened bite of Dorothy Parker, the highbrow sarcasm
of Fran Lebowitz, and the social commentary of Oscar Wilde.”

— James Reed,
Columbia Missourian

“There is no contemporary writer as reliably funny as David Sedaris. His best humor seems to come from the same place as —
dare I think it? — Mark Twain’s. It’s dark and suffering, extremely caustic, skillfully exaggerated, but recognizably true.”

— Marilyn Bailey,
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“Sedaris’s genius lies in transforming strangeness, obsessive voyeurism, and endearingly snotty observations into wildly entertaining

— Rob Stout,
Providence Journal

“David Sedaris is our generation’s James Thurber, Dorothy Parker, Fran Lebowitz, Woody Allen, and Mark Twain wrapped in a
compact package with a pixie’s voice. He’s a treasure to behold.”

— Seth Flicker,

“Sedaris is a master at turning his life experiences into witty vignettes that both entertain and comment on the human condition.”

— Gloria Maxwell,
Library Journal

“Sedaris catalogs his foibles in a way that, while wildly funny, is also moving.”

— Henry Alford,
LA Weekly

“David Sedaris is seriously funny. In
Me Talk Pretty One Day
he again accomplishes the cliché: He makes you laugh and he makes you cry. Sometimes both at once.”

— Diana D. Powell,
Memphis Commercial Appeal

“Sedaris’s irresistibly funny travel essays, reminiscences, and diary entries hit with an almost physical wallop.… With a
sharpshooter’s eye for detail, he writes about his experiences in a way that inspires a shock of recognition. … It may take
Sedaris more practice to talk pretty, but he writes gorgeous.”

— Colin Covert,
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A writer who is capable of being not only funny, but touching, even tender, too.… David Sedaris is part Walter Mitty, part
Garry Shandling, part Andy Rooney, with a little bit of Oscar Wilde thrown in for good measure; a campy commentator on the
absurdities of contemporary life.”

— Michiko Kakutani,
New York Times

“The poignancy is palpable here… so that we are curled up laughing while we read but also deeply affected by all that hides
between the lines.… It’s classic Sedaris, making us laugh, making us care. Making us more human through his humor.”

— Beth Kephart,
Philadelphia Inquirer

“Sedaris is Garrison Keillor’s evil twin: like the Minnesota humorist, Sedaris focuses on the icy patches that mar life’s
sidewalk, though the ice in his work is much more slippery and the falls much more spectacularly funny.”

Publishers Weekly
(starred review)

Me Talk Pretty One Day
fits loosely into the tradition pioneered by those literary wags of an earlier era, like S. J. Perelman and Robert Benchley,
who spun their random observations into epically loopy fantasias.… Sedaris, too, examines the ridiculousness of those around
him, but he does it with affectionate curiosity and not a jot of shame about his own mischievous weirdness.”

— Greg Villepique,

“David Sedaris has gone to the well of pain and come back repeatedly with heart-tugging tales that would have readers in tears
if they weren’t so busy laughing.”

— Glenda Winders,
San Diego Union-Tribune

“Razor-sharp funny.”

— Hal Jacobs,
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

“Hilarious.… These stories are gems of wit and intimacy.… Whether you listen to a Sedaris story or read one, the effect is
blissfully, elegantly funny.… Sedaris uncovers what makes everyday life amusing enough to keep us living it.”

— Chris Watson,
Santa Cruz Sentinel

“It’s all hilarious.… Listen to me: you have
to read David Sedaris. He just might be the funniest writer in North America.”

(Edmonton, Canada)

David Sedaris

Barrel Fever


Holidays on Ice

For my father, Lou


Go Carolina

amount of TV is familiar with the scene: An agent knocks on the door of some seemingly ordinary home or office. The door
opens, and the person holding the knob is asked to identify himself. The agent then says, “I’m going to ask you to come with

They’re always remarkably calm, these agents. If asked “Why do I need to go anywhere with you?” they’ll straighten their shirt
cuffs or idly brush stray hairs from the sleeves of their sport coats and say, “Oh, I think we both know why.”

The suspect then chooses between doing things the hard way and doing things the easy way, and the scene ends with either gunfire
or the gentlemanly application of handcuffs. Occasionally it’s a case of mistaken identity, but most often the suspect knows
exactly why he’s being taken. It seems he’s been expecting this to happen. The anticipation has ruled his life, and now, finally,
the wait is over. You’re sometimes led to believe that this person is actually relieved, but I’ve never bought it. Though
it probably has its moments, the average day spent in hiding is bound to beat the average day spent in prison. When it comes
time to decide who gets the bottom bunk, I think anyone would agree that there’s a lot to be said for doing things the hard

The agent came for me during a geography lesson. She entered the room and nodded at my fifth-grade teacher, who stood frowning
at a map of Europe. What would needle me later was the realization that this had all been prearranged. My capture had been
scheduled to go down at exactly 2:30 on a Thursday afternoon. The agent would be wearing a dung-colored blazer over a red
knit turtleneck, her heels sensibly low in case the suspect should attempt a quick getaway.

“David,” the teacher said, “this is Miss Samson, and she’d like you to go with her now.”

No one else had been called, so why me? I ran down a list of recent crimes, looking for a conviction that might stick. Setting
fire to a reportedly flameproof Halloween costume, stealing a set of barbecue tongs from an unguarded patio, altering the
word hit on a list of rules posted on the gymnasium door; never did it occur to me that I might be innocent.

“You might want to take your books with you,” the teacher said. “And your jacket. You probably won’t be back before the bell

Though she seemed old at the time, the agent was most likely fresh out of college. She walked beside me and asked what appeared
to be an innocent and unrelated question: “So, which do you like better, State or Carolina?”

She was referring to the athletic rivalry between the Triangle area’s two largest universities. Those who cared about such
things tended to express their allegiance by wearing either Tar Heel powder blue, or Wolf Pack red, two colors that managed
to look good on no one. The question of team preference was common in our part of North Carolina, and the answer supposedly
spoke volumes about the kind of person you either were or hoped to become. I had no interest in football or basketball but
had learned it was best to pretend otherwise. If a boy didn’t care for barbecued chicken or potato chips, people would accept
it as a matter of personal taste, saying, “Oh well, I guess it takes all kinds.” You could turn up your nose at the president
or Coke or even God, but there were names for boys who didn’t like sports. When the subject came up, I found it best to ask
which team my questioner preferred. Then I’d say, “Really? Me, too!”

Asked by the agent which team I supported, I took my cue from her red turtleneck and told her that I was for State. “Definitely
State. State all the way.”

It was an answer I would regret for years to come.

“State, did you say?” the agent asked.

“Yes, State. They’re the greatest.”

“I see.” She led me through an unmarked door near the principal’s office, into a small, windowless room furnished with two
facing desks. It was the kind of room where you’d grill someone until they snapped, the kind frequently painted so as to cover
the bloodstains. She gestured toward what was to become my regular seat, then continued her line of questioning.

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