Many experts agree that the jerk David Sedaris is some kind of notable writer with worth and contribution and cleverness. But he makes me sad, gentle reader, because I also have been a gentle reader and his work is representative of the ugly ungentling the published world is trying to sell us as the new style. Don't get me wrong, I am a fan of bitterness and of humor amidst squalor and all that but seriously David Sedaris, we should fight someday in my Fight Club Ladies Auxiliary that I am not talking about.
I have a similar antipathy for Six Feet Under. I don't care how prettily it is directed or how cleverly it's written (which honestly? really? is clever the word we're using?) or what the scene means, it is just shy of nauseating for me to watch people sit around being jerks for whatever reason. And Augusten Burroughs' Running with Scissors memoir! What a jerk! I mean, this is embarrassing, the level of assiness that has to go into feeding the exrement of one's life to people. There's nothing in these stories to nourish or inspire or even amuse, really, beyond that kind of horrified amusement you get when people make dead baby jokes (though this would maybe be more along the lines of people making dead baby jokes about their own dead babies), which of course isn't even really amusement, just shock-laughter.
That kind of laughter isn't a genuine measure of appreciation so much as it's a defense mechanism. And defense against what? Against the total absence of goodness. The talent or art or fun or quality that comes from stories/shows/jokes like these is never good. Things that seem good are really just awfulness twisted into a surprising shape. It's absence. I think we've had enough absence. I think it's gross, that people should stop trying to tell me that deliberate ugliness is the same thing as awesomeness. I don't want to see cripples in gruesome fights with each other. I think we are past that and I think that in this time of all times that kind of baloney passing as potable is really really bad for the world. I was born far away from the colosseums, and this is not entertainment.
Per the terms of my man Augustine, the absence of good is evil. I for one have had enough of the Devil. Now I'm not saying we should burn David Sedaris' books any more than we should pretend that the Devil won't pee in the pool, nor am I saying that all our books should be all Whos and no Grinches, or that there shouldn't be stories where the bad guy wins or where life is dark and cruel. I'm just saying David Sedaris writes books are variations on the theme of an ugly nothing, and his books were designed to scoop us out like melons. And I do not need that business on my morning commute, so, you know...
Get thee behind me, Sedaris.
Edit: After reflection and minus the gut-reaction haze, I've decided that I might have been overly vehement. Sedaris' endgame is a touching and tender theme. I just choke on the gross every single time, way too much to enjoy things. And there's an insidiousness to that, too - like, does one start to wonder if this is what tenderness is about? That all the value in life comes down to the unspoken or the subtextual or the brief in a series of foulnesses? It's a backwards sort of definition to me, and I refuse to find it attractive. I can see, though, that there could be an appeal. If your life is already filled with jerks. Also, I have to admit that I have never ever in my life been into stories of survival against all odds. Because while the story is thematically about survival, it is actually about the odds, which are oppressive. (Like, I've never gotten anything but redundant misery from a book about immigrant Holocaust survivors, though that's partly because I find they blur out and undermine the individuals involved even as they attempt to do the opposite, but that's a subject for later wide review.)