Why Sedaris is wrong

April 21, 2008 at 8:14 pm (1)

In March a journalist called Alex Heard took the humour-writer David Sedaris to task in The New Republic for embellishing tales of his past to make them funnier. With the painstaking dedication of a Seymour Hirsch probing the neo-cons, he delved into the recesses of the evil Sedaris’s prose, researching people and places mentioned in his ‘real-life’ stories to cast doubt on their authenticity. The reaction among bloggers — Sedaris fans and non-fans alike — was largely in the author’s favour.

Ask me, however, and I think they are wrong. There is no reason to exaggerate your past. When I was 13 my dad would peep into the window of my maths class, knowing me to be mathematicaly impaired, and whisper the answers to equations in my ear. One day, however, Reuben Bennett, a bigger boy, sat in my place – and stayed there for the whole term. My father helped him pass his end-of-term exams with flying colours.

Our teacher, Mr Vaughan, became used to the man who appeared at our classroom window every day. It was only when I failed my exams that dad decided to stop teaching Reuben. I went on to study in a chicken shed in Wales, which owing to a change in UK law, was granted university status and, in time, issued me a degree. My thesis, The Futility Of Algebra, won the National Union of Students’ Most Incoherent Essay prize in 1993.

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