'Realish' Sedaris Book Skirts Memoir Scrutiny

Genre 'the last place you’d expect to find the truth,' humorist says
By Kate Rockwood,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 8, 2008 10:45 AM CDT
David Sedaris regularly writes seven drafts of his essays, trying out material at readings over several months.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – With his new book of nonfiction essays, Engulfed in Flames, David Sedaris finds himself engulfed in questions of truth and accuracy. In America, the recent explosion of memoirs has been followed with one scandal after another, prompting more scrutiny of the humorist’s work. “I do think Sedaris exaggerates too much for a writer using a nonfiction label," a New Republic writer argued last year.

Sedaris has always said that he exaggerates for effect, particularly dialogue (in one essay, a dead cat even comes back to life and speaks). While some critics derided the (mild) exposé, others agreed that Sedaris should relinquish the nonfiction label. “Memoir is the last place you’d expect to find the truth,” Sedaris tells the New York Times. Still, his latest book includes an author’s note that the stories described are “realish.”