Speaker of the House



The Danish say “boo” like this: “bah.”

David Sedaris told that little-known fact to me and a sold-out crowd at Clowes Memorial Hall last Wednesday night. If I had read it as you just did, it wouldn't have been nearly as funny as hearing it from the writer. Exuding a large presence for such a petite man, Sedaris stood on a small stool behind the podium to be tall enough to enter the microphone zone.

Along with some insightful findings about Danes, Brits and the French, Sedaris also told two really -- really -- dirty jokes. (I'm blushing just thinking about them.) He then read a handful of stories and took questions from the audience. It was an evening of social commentary, good laughs, and the witnessing of a man looking downright comfortable and happy in his Japanese culottes and signature button-down with a skinny tie.

I had seen him read his work twice before -- once for free, when the author appeared at the campus' Visiting Writers Series years ago, and the other time at the Murat. And while reading anything Sedaris writes is a joy, listening to him reading his work, like that of the bah-scaring ghosts ... well, that is something altogether different.

You feel as if you are lounging on the couch with him, swapping stories and sipping on a Cabernet you were saving for just this very special occasion: “Tell me the one about your house on the coast, David. You know ... it starts out with its name.... 'The Sea-Section.'”

I could listen to his sardonic wit every day.

Ordinarily though, I reside in the “I read” camp. To me, sitting down and delving into a good book is like meditation: my breathing slows and becomes more weighted with each word my eyes ingest. And I suppose I prefer reading to listening because of the same reason many more people now prefer listening over reading -- the ability to multitask.

This wasn't Sedaris' first stop in Indy. Check out editor Jami Stall's take on his 2014 visit. - HUGH HAMRICK © / COURTESY STEVEN BARCLAY AGENCY

My whole life is a task in multiples. I can call someone while driving. I can clean my house while listening to NPR and microwaving dinner. Check, check and many more checks. The list is long, so if I can tackle three things at once, bring it.

But with reading, that's all, folks. You have to hold the book and look down at the words. Short of rigging your treadmill for your lower half to log some miles, there's not much else the body can do while digging into a New Yorker or bestseller. And I like reading exactly for that reason.

Over the summer, my dear friend (let's call her LB), a voracious reader, high school English teacher and a mother of four (!), decided that in all her free time she would start a book club. But she put a spin on it. You see, LB had fallen in love with audio books. She said that she found herself walking her dog, headphones on and wishing she had someone to turn to and say, “Wasn't that awesome?” As a result, her audio book club was born.

Our group was dubbed “The Tequila Mockingbirds” tipping our hat to an American Classic. Coincidentally, it is also is the name of a food and cocktail cookbook that churns out other American classics, such as Huckleberry Sin and Are You There God? It's Me, Margarita.

Women who were almost as busy as LB were invited to listen, multitask and convene monthly for cocktails and book chats. It has become a monthly highlight for many of us where we slow down for a couple hours, visit, engage in five minutes of high-brow literary conversation and ... visit. Oh, and we drink too.

I've given it my all. Each month, I go online and request through IMCPL the selected audio book, but I request something else too: the same title in print, the book version. At first I thought the book would serve as my fall back, but instead, it is my go-to.

I tried, LB, I really did. But there are too many variables -- will the reader's voice narrating the audio book irritate the hell out of me? Will there be downright mutiny waged by my kids if I take over the car's CD player?

Ultimately it comes down to this: Plunking down in my chair with a good book just works for me. It's what I know. It's my old shoe.

But Sedaris is the exception to my “I read” rule. His voice adds to his satire.

During Sedaris' Q & A with the audience, he talked about his love of walking. For him though, it is more along the lines of traversing the lands of Sussex, England. By now, it's common knowledge among Sedaris fans that the author tracks his 17- to 20-mile walks. On his right wrist he wears his Fitbit. On his left is the Apple watch. And to demonstrate the power of his gadgets, he raised his arms and crossed them like a superhero for us.

Many also know about his penchant for picking up trash while walking. In fact, last summer he was invited to Buckingham Palace in recognition for his efforts, and his community named a garbage truck in his honor.

But Sedaris revealed something else. During his walks and litter cleanups, he also listens. He adds two more pieces of technology -- ear buds and a phone -- to his superhero ensemble and listens to podcasts and books.

The author said there is no reason not to continue learning no matter what you are doing. This is multitasking at its best. Exercise -- check. Learning by listening -- check. Serving Queen and country while picking up trash -- check.

Along with Sedaris, a few of my fellow Mockingbirds have mentioned the podcasts they enjoy listening to in addition to the audio books we choose as a group. There's Serial and Lore and Women of The Hour. There's so much in addition to those three and many more voices besides Sedaris' that may appeal to your literary ear.

Do you have favorites? Please share with me and other Sky Blue Window readers so we can all get busy listening, learning and enjoying fine stories and interesting topics as we cross off our to-do lists.

Like Sedaris, maybe we can work toward having a garbage truck named after us while strolling along a well-traveled street somewhere in Indy, ticking off our steps, picking up debris and being transported through a voice that speaks to us.

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