In the latest issue of the New Republic, Alex Heard looks into the verifiability of David Sedaris’s personal essays under the clever if a bit harsh title “This American Lie.” The verdict? Some of the man’s work is spot-on, but a good deal is vastly exaggerated. Sedaris himself does not deny this, regularly stating in interviews he is more interested in telling a good story than being something more like a journalist. A quote:
In interviews, he's groaned about the time Esquire sent him to cover life at a morgue in Phoenix. The problem: He had to restrict himself to what actually happened. "I couldn't exaggerate at all," he told an interviewer. "It gave me a whole new appreciation for people who can honestly tell the truth, because people just didn't always say what I wanted them to." For Sedaris, it's all about telling "good stories." During our conversation, he told me he wouldn't care a bit if he found out that Frank McCourt's Angela's Ashes was written by "some guy in Montana who made the whole thing up," because the tale he spins is so beautiful.
It’s something of a bittersweet article: I found it really thought-provoking - what is, after all, the meaning of a label like “nonfiction” if fictionalizing things is allowed? - but it takes away some bit of the fun that Sedaris so wonderfully provides with his stories. It’s a good read though. Definitely pick up the issue and take a look.