Essays About Reality Television

Sedaris says as much when he admits to appropriating the life stories of his partner, Hugh: “His stories have, over time, become my own. There is no spiritual symbiosis; I’m just a petty thief who lifts his memories the same way I’ll take a handful of change left on his dresser.

We didn’t know how dark things were or how much darker things were going to get.

“It belonged to an age when reading—reading almost anything—was the principal entertainment of the educated class,” Larkin argued, an appetite that “called for a plethora of dailies, weeklies, monthlies and quarterlies, all having to be filled.” Now it is television and the movies that cry out for ever more “content,” while the lush Victorian ecosystem has thinned out to half-a-dozen serious magazines, most of which have only slightly more appetite for essays than for that other obsolete form, the short story.

It is strange, then, to look around a quarter-century after Larkin and discover that we are living in a golden age of essays, or of ruminative writings that call themselves essays.

In Me Talk Pretty One Day", which appeared in 2000, Sedaris writes about taking an IQ test and finding that he is “really stupid, practically an idiot. Were my number translated into dollars, it would buy you about three buckets of fried chicken.” Of course, the reader does not believe this for a minute: the cleverness of the prose refutes its own premise.

The effect is to call the whole story into question.

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