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?'
"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?'"
PUBLISHED: April 13, 2013
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3265 words)
A writer visits the home of Bryan Saunders, an artist known for his self-portraits created under the influence of a variety of drugs:
"We turn to the next one. 'Whoa,' I say. This one could not be less Xanax-like. The drawing is spindly and paranoid, and the page is patterned with real-life bullet holes. They pepper Bryan's stomach and neck. I ask Bryan how they got there and he explains that he used a gun borrowed from a friend. He propped up the page from the sketchbook and repeatedly shot it. 'I remember bouncing into the walls like a fly going bong, bong, bong,' he says. The drug that elicited this reaction was called Geodon.
"'Geodon?' I say.
"Bryan Googles it. 'It's for symptoms of schizophrenia,' he reads, 'so it's an anti-psychotic agent, I guess.'
"'Did you get it from somebody with schizophrenia?' I ask.
"'No, I got it from a doctor,' Bryan says. And this is when Bryan tells me the other way he acquires many of his drugs. He sometimes visits psychiatrists, tells them about the art project, and asks them for 'samples of some pain pill or sedative I've never tried. I say, 'Can you write me a prescription for just one so I can do my drawing?' And I take my book with me and show them my art project. And they always give me some crazy, crazy anti-psychotic pill instead.'"
PUBLISHED: Nov. 30, 2012
LENGTH: 11 minutes (2942 words)
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."
PUBLISHED: Nov. 24, 2012
LENGTH: 7 minutes (1965 words)
[Fiction] From Munro's collection Dear Life
: A young girl develops a special bond with her housekeeper:
"I suppose all this was making me ready for Sadie when she came to work for us. My mother had shrunk to whatever territory she had with the babies. With her not around so much, I could think about what was true and what wasn't. I knew enough not to speak about this to anybody.
"The most unusual thing about Sadie – though it was not a thing stressed in our house – was that she was a celebrity. Our town had a radio station where she played her guitar and sang the opening welcome song which was her own composition.
"'Hello, hello, hello, everybody – '"
PUBLISHED: Nov. 7, 2012
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4160 words)
A brief history of the political cartoonist, whose job is endangered in the digital age:
"Martin Rowson in particular seems to revel in mixing allusions to obscure literary texts with lashings of excrement. A cartoon he drew last month for the Morning Star features a 'fivearsed pig', shitting turds emblazoned with the logos of London 2012 sponsors through sphincters coloured like the Olympic rings.
"Occasionally, the digestive obsession becomes a bit too much even for left-wing papers. Rowson tells me that his fellow Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell always files as late as possible to make the staff grateful that the picture has arrived at all. 'There’s a wonderful story about Georgina Henry, when she was deputy editor, going past the comment desk at about eight o’clock one evening and Steve’s cartoon had just come in,' he says. 'It was a wonderful one of [George W] Bush as a monkey, squatting on the side of a broken toilet, wiping his arse with the UN Charter. And there’s all this shit splattered on the wall behind it, and she looks and says, "Oh God, no." [Alan] Rusbridger had put down this edict saying less shit in the cartoons, please – you know, the editor’s prerogative – and she and Steve had this eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation.' What happened? 'He finally caved in. In one of the greatest betrayals of freedom of speech since Galileo, he tippexed out three of the turds.'"
PUBLISHED: Aug. 23, 2012
LENGTH: 24 minutes (6057 words)
How a collective of women in ski masks captured the attention of the world—and now face possible prison time for their stand against Putin:
"At 9 p.m. on Thursday night, I'm at a rally of a couple of thousand anti-government protesters, hearing Pussy Riot's name being chanted in the crowd, and I think I have a grasp of the story. It's an astonishing tale of how three young women have brought Putin his biggest political headache yet. A story about art versus power. Of civil society versus church and state. Or as one film-maker who's documenting it says, 'punks versus Putin'. (He goes on to say, 'It's Crime and Punishment, basically, but there's also a band in jail so it's a bit like The Monkees. Or a really warped Beatles film.')
"I think I have it sort-of clear, and then three hours later, I'm led into a basement in an industrial art space and the story untangles. It becomes not just astonishing but absurd. Because here are Pussy Riot: in their balaclavas and brightly coloured dresses and tights, sitting cross-legged on the floor of a tiny, hot, brightly lit rehearsal room."
PUBLISHED: July 28, 2012
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4259 words)
Inside the groundbreaking investigation by Columbia professor James Liebman, on the case of Carlos DeLuna, who was executed in 1989 for a crime he didn't commit:
"At the trial, DeLuna's defence team told the jury that Carlos Hernandez, not DeLuna, was the murderer. But the prosecutors ridiculed that suggestion. They told the jury that police had looked for a 'Carlos Hernandez' after his name had been passed to them by DeLuna's lawyers, without success. They had concluded that Hernandez was a fabrication, a 'phantom' who simply did not exist. The chief prosecutor said in summing up that Hernandez was a 'figment of DeLuna's imagination.'
"Four years after DeLuna was executed, Liebman decided to look into the DeLuna case as part of a project he was undertaking into the fallibility of the death penalty. He asked a private investigator to spend one day – just one day – looking for signs of the elusive Carlos Hernandez."
PUBLISHED: May 14, 2012
LENGTH: 7 minutes (1832 words)
Shin In Geun was born into Camp 14, a prison for political enemies of North Korea. His first memories were of executions, and he had come to hate the parents that gave birth to him knowing that their son would also remain a prisoner:
"The guards taught the children they were prisoners because of the 'sins' of their parents but that they could 'wash away' their inherent sinfulness by working hard, obeying the guards and informing on their parents.
"One day, Shin joined his mother at work, planting rice. When she fell behind, a guard made her kneel in the hot sun with her arms in the air until she passed out. Shin did not know what to say to her, so he said nothing."
PUBLISHED: March 16, 2012
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5117 words)
The art of writing romance novels:
"The romance heroine, though possessed of heart, intelligence and beauty, is at the mercy of her own self-criticism most of the time. As the story begins, she is scared and isolated, poor, or abandoned, or lonely. Not infrequently, the book opens with her having just suffered some terrible loss; her husband has just died in a plane crash, or her parents or beloved guardians have died, and now she is forced to work as a paid companion to a rich and disagreeable widow, maybe, or she's just come to Australia from England to live with her grandfather, who is mean as a snake. Then she runs into an unusual and interesting man who openly demonstrates his dislike for her, or else pretty much ignores her entirely.
"Difficulties will multiply. And almost always, as the tension builds, the heroine is beset with doubts about her own competence, attractiveness and worth.
"That's just how I feel! the reader cries inwardly."
PUBLISHED: Feb. 15, 2012
LENGTH: 16 minutes (4043 words)