David Sedaris on the Dangerous Business of Naming a Cat

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. So even giving anything a name would invite judgment that I didn’t want. And that made it hard to write sometimes. It’s like the chipmunk and the chipmunk sister. I could see a reader saying, “Which goddamn chipmunk is talking!” But I worked my best, my hardest. You get into that kind of writing that is math. You don’t want to repeat the word too often, but you don’t want to substitute. Instead of saying chipmunk, you don’t want to say spotted rodent. You just can’t do that.

David Sedaris, in a 2010 Vulture interview with Aileen Gallagher.

Read the interview

Photo: ncbrian, Flickr