On a literary kick, David Sedaris: “When You Are Engulfed in Flames”

I know, I know, I just wrote a literary post on an author a week ago so to really shake things up …  I´ll do Sedaris in English. He might get a kick out of what that expression amounts to in innuendos – if he weren’t openly gay. And how wonderful that he is, since he gives us insight into what a monogamic, well educated couple, who sticks together through thick and thin, is like. One story in particular, goes deep into the subject of boredom vs faithfulness and what really counts in the end. Oh, I would love to have David and Hugh as close friends. They would be great candidates to visit Buenos Aires.

How I came across Sedaris is a long story, but to make it short I’ll just mention that I inherited two of his books. The previous owner had read them and needed to travel light so they became mine. Not bad. So I guess it’s fair to say we met half way.

Why did I like this book of essays so much? First and foremost because Sedaris is very funny in an intelligent way. After reading a few essays I smelled New Yorker magazine and I hit the nail on the head. Most of the essays in this book were published in that magazine first. What else? Polished, unpretentious, every day language.

Sedaris’ persona is that of the underdog. He is constantly underperforming in a world of alpha achievers.  In his nerdy, sometimes dark way he has what could be called “Seinfeldian” worries and is a bit self absorbed.  He has a very urban, sensitive, world citizen point of view which I find extremely appealing. He is always deeper than what you read on the surface.

My favorite stories include the essay called “Solution to Saturday’s puzzle” – a delight worth reading over – and “That’s Amore” from when Sedaris lived in New York. The last and longest essay, “The Smoking Section”,  is a gem to read for anyone who has quit smoking (as is the case of yours truly).  The first part is much better than the other two, with Sedaris still the nicotine addict. He breaks down smokers into categories depending on the brand they light up and delivers memorable sentences such as ” One should never loan money to a Marlboro menthol smoker, though you could usually count on a regular Marlboro person to pay you back”.

What a delicious experience to be engulfed in David Sedaris.


Fabian Casas, to thine own self be true. La Voz Extraña.

El otro día estuve presente en una charla que dio Fabián Casas. Quisiera resumir todo lo que dijo en una frase que, aclaro, él no dijo, es lo que a mí me quedó de ese encuentro. En resumen: “to thine own self be true”.

Se nota en “Breves apuntes de autoayuda”, que elige los autores y los temas que de verdad le interesan. Más allá de lo que se supone que le tiene que interesar. Eso, para mí, es ser auténtico. Él es consciente de que algunos temas o autores son “políticamente incorrectos” o no lo suficientemente “literarios” pero le importa un pimiento.  Y ahí es donde brilla una voz que suena verdadera. Me encantan los escritores (y las personas) que son anti-cliché y Casas es uno de ellos.

También me impactó un concepto que Casas recrea y convierte en propio: “la Voz Extraña”. Cuando leí un reportaje donde decía que había que salir de la voz personal y encontrar la voz extraña se me iluminó algo que no pude precisar del todo. Mejor así. Casas tampoco quiso sobre explicar ni analizar de más. Me dijo que me quedara con esa apertura que me produjo la noción de la voz extraña. Qué sabio.

Dejo dos pequeños fragmentos de La Voz Extraña, los que más me gustan, pero vale la pena leer todo el texto de Fabián Casas, cuya voz me atrapó desde el primer relato que leí.

“A esto, que voy a llamar la Voz Extraña, no se lo puede definir, pero se lo reconoce. Tiene las características de la poesía. Y a veces se la puede aislar del cuchicheo incesante de nuestro ego.”

“… encontrarse con la Voz Extraña no es como respirar sino como ser respirado. No la podemos llamar, pero si podemos propiciarla vaciando nuestro canal.”