Subscribe to The Atlantic and get 2 free issues

Now We Are Five

David Sedaris and his family gather at a beach house in North Carolina, for the first time since his sister’s suicide:

“Even if you weren’t getting along with Tiffany at the time, you couldn’t deny the show she put on—the dramatic entrances, the non-stop, professional-grade insults, the chaos she’d inevitably leave in her wake. One day she’d throw a dish at you and the next she’d create a stunning mosaic made of the shards. When allegiances with one brother or sister flamed out, she’d take up with someone else. At no time did she get along with everybody, but there was always someone she was in contact with. Toward the end, it was Lisa, but before that we’d all had our turn.”

PUBLISHED: Oct. 21, 2013
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4277 words)

Getting Stuffed: A Tale of Love and Taxidermy

The writer visits a taxidermy shop to purchase a Valentines's Day gift. This essay will be included in David Sedaris's new book, Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls:

"The taxidermist and I discussed the owls, and when my eyes cut to a glass-doored cabinet with several weather-beaten skulls inside it, he asked if I was a doctor.

"'Me?' For some reason I looked at my hands. 'Oh, goodness no.'

"'Then your interest in those skulls is non-professional?'

"'Exactly.'

"The taxidermist's eyes brightened, and he led me to a human skeleton half hidden in the back of the room. 'Who do you think this was?' he asked.

"Being a layman, all I had to go by was the height – between four and a half and five feet tall. 'Is it an adolescent?'"
SOURCE:Guardian
PUBLISHED: April 13, 2013
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3265 words)

The Works That Made the Artists

An excerpt from My Ideal Bookshelf, a book where 100 "leading cultural figures" like Judd Apatow, David Sedaris, and Stephenie Meyer discuss the books that have meant the most to them. Here's Apatow:

"In eighth grade, I read Ladies and Gentlemen – Lenny Bruce!! [by Albert Goldman and Lawrence Schiller] I cut out the photos and made an elaborate book report for extra credit. It was gorgeous. My English teacher, Mr Board, claimed to have lost it, but I know he stole it and cherishes it to this day.

"Part of what inspired me to read more was a road trip I took with Owen Wilson in 1997. Owen was so well read – he even knew what The New Yorker was! I was embarrassed that the last book I had probably read was Stephen King's Firestarter, when I was 13. He recommended Frederick Exley's A Fan's Notes, which I loved so much that I went on a reading tear for a few years. I remember Owen's saying to me: 'I'm jealous that you get to read it for the first time.' I didn't understand what he meant then, but I do now."
SOURCE:Guardian
PUBLISHED: Nov. 24, 2012
LENGTH: 7 minutes (1965 words)

The Vulture Transcript: David Sedaris

So about seven years ago I wrote a story about a cat in a bad mood. And then the next fall another one. So I tried to write a few every year, but for every one that worked, there were two that didn’t. And then, obviously, I stepped it up over the past year and a half, once I got the actual deadline. I set up a few rules for myself. I didn’t want any animal to have a name. If you say that a rabbit’s name was, oh I don’t know, sometimes someone will have a cat, and you ask, “What’s your cat’s name?” And they say, “Critter!” And you think, Oh, I hate your cat. And they say, “Diane.” And you think, I like your cat.
PUBLISHED: Sept. 29, 2010
LENGTH: 23 minutes (5772 words)

Six to Eight Black Men

In Holland the children receive presents on December 5, in celebration of Saint Nicholas Day. It sounded sort of quaint until I spoke to a man named Oscar, who filled me in on a few of the details as we walked from my hotel to the Amsterdam train station. ... The words silly and unrealistic were redefined when I learned that Saint Nicholas travels with what was consistently described as "six to eight black men." I asked several Dutch people to narrow it down, but none of them could give me an exact number. It was always "six to eight," which seems strange, seeing as they've had hundreds of years to get a decent count.
SOURCE:Esquire
PUBLISHED: Dec. 1, 2002
LENGTH: 7 minutes (1893 words)

Three by Sedaris

In the early sixties, during what my mother referred to as the "tail end of the Lassie years," my parents were given two collies they named Rastus and Duchess. We were living in upstate New York, out in the country, and the dogs were free to race through the forest. They napped in meadows and stood knee-deep in frigid streams, costars in their own private dog-food commercial. According to our father, anyone could tell that the two of them were in love.
SOURCE:Esquire
PUBLISHED: March 1, 2000
LENGTH: 33 minutes (8486 words)

My Elf Self

A writer recalls his time working as a Macy's elf during the holiday season:

"Today was the official opening day of SantaLand and I worked as a Magic Window Elf, a Santa Elf and an Usher Elf. The Magic Window is located in the adult 'Quick Peep' queue. My job was to say, 'Step on the Magic Star and look through the window, and you can see Santa!' I was at the Magic Window for 15 minutes before a man approached me and said, 'You look so fucking stupid.'

"I have to admit that he had a point. But still, I wanted to say that at least I get paid to look stupid, that he gives it away for free. But I can't say things like that because I'm supposed to be merry.

"So instead I said, 'Thank you!'"
PUBLISHED: Dec. 9, 1995
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2921 words)