Sunday, August 15, 2010
Sedaris vs. Burroughs
I was having a conversation with friends about going to see David Sedaris when he comes to town to speak next year. I casually mentioned that I wasn't sure I wanted to go, and added I much prefer Augusten Burroughs. My friends basically replied to me that Augusten Burroughs wrote one fabulous book and several terrible ones. Au contraire, I said! This got me thinking about the merits and demerits of both authors.
Sedaris: Now I will give Sedaris credit for basically being the first commercial writer in contemporary times to write these confessional essays/ novels. I think, as a society, we've become more confessional, and his books came out just as we made that leap. Sedaris' work is consistently good. While many people hold up Naked or Me Talk Pretty One Day as his best works, pretty much all his work is on par. However, I think his work can be too staid sometimes. He is very mainstream because he is confessional but it doesn't really offend. I don't think Sedaris really pushes the boundaries often.
Burroughs: Okay, everyone knows Running with Scissors was wonderful (However, don't watch the movie!). I will agree with my friends the point that nothing Burroughs wrote so far has stood up to Running. However, I have to disagree that nothing else he wrote was notable. My second favorite by him is Magical Thinking, which is more a collection of essays than a memoir. I also enjoyed Dry but that may have been because I read it first, before Running. I think that is the biggest problem with Burroughs: he released his best book first, so everything pales in comparison.
One thing I do appreciate about Burroughs is his ability to take some horrific events and writes about them in a such a way that shows the humor in them. He can be macabre, but I think for the most part, it works well. Sometimes his quality does fluctuate (I just barely got through Wolf at the Table), but I think overall his genius separates him from Sedaris.
I know I am in the minority on this, so feel free to leave a comment and respond.