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Arts and Entertainment

LAist goes Literary

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LAist caught David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell last night in Royce Hall on the UCLA campus, and was happy to renew our stock of wry, witty, and cynical humor.

Both are favorites of the NPR scene, frequent contributors to "This American Life" (although Sedaris got his start on "Morning Edition"), and authors as well - Sedaris with several books out already, and Vowell with her fourth book just published, "Assassination Vacation". Vowell also provided the voice of wallflower Violet in Disney/Pixar's recent "The Incredibles". Neither of them embrace the term "humorist" (that word always seems to apply to older Southern writers who used to write for Harper's or what have you), and if pressed would rather be called "essayists" or simply "writers".

Their styles are very similar, while at the same time being very different from one another. They both revel at taking pleasure in pointing out the oddities of the human condition, though Sedaris concerns himself for the most part with things that irritate him, while Vowell is fascinated with strange subjects (the focus of her new book is presidential assassinations) and backs her stories up with prodigious amounts of research.

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They both took turns at the podium, with Sedaris reading his recently published story about visiting the Taronga Zoo in Sydney with his boyfriend Hugh, and several unpublished stories. Vowell read from her new book and also capped off the evening with a musically accompanied history of the song "Battle Hymn of the Republic". Who knew that this song sung at funerals and wartime events began life as a slandering song about radical pro-Abolishinist John Brown? And yes, she even covered the "Our School is Burning Down" version.

Afterwards both signed copies of their books and plugged a new book,
"Children Playing Before a Statue of Hercules" - edited by Sedaris who provides the foreword, and with an epilogue written by Vowell. All proceeds from the sale of this book, which is filled with wonderful short stories, go to benefit 826NYC, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing creative writing tutoring and workshops to children aged 6 to 18. Founded by Dave Eggers in San Francisco, they have expanded to New York City, and Southern California now boasts their very own 826LA, which you can check out at

Sedaris and Vowell will also be appearing in San Diego this Friday, so beg, borrow, or steal a ticket.

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