Simpsons, Sedaris, and Story Structure

I am one of the thousands of people who enjoys David Sedaris’s essays.  I have followed him since The Santaland Diaries, and think he is a great example of how to be deceptively simple.  He makes writing, particularly funny writing, look so easy.  Also, my students [usually] love it when I assign him.

I was excited to see that today, he (or his personal Facebook assistant) posted an interview from by Jenn McKee of Ann Arbor’s local online magazine, MLive.  I’m familiar with MLive (and McKee) because I went to college in Ann Arbor and later performed in at least one play she reviewed.  Anyway, all of this is to say that I was super excited to stumble upon this quote:

Q. While reading “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls,” I was reminded of the way your essays often start in one experience or memory, but then they end up going someplace completely unexpected. Does that association between seemingly disparate experiences just happen when you sit down to write about a topic?

A. I was listening to “This American Life” over the weekend, and on Ira’s show, they really cut to the chase. The first story was … someone saying, “This guy stabbed me when I was 18.” They get right into it. When I’m sitting down to write a story, it doesn’t occur to me to begin the story like that. For one thing – I like “The Simpsons.” Unlike most sitcoms, where you think, I bet this is the one where wife loses her wedding ring, or the husband loses his job. With “The Simpsons” – you watch the first 4-5 minutes, and you have no idea where the show is going. I like that.

I was excited because I am always using the Simpsons as a teaching example when I cover story structure.  No seriously, every time I teach a class.  But I never heard anyone else allude to its structure this way. Made my week.

 

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