David Sedaris is going to be giving a reading and signing at my place of employment this weekend. He's so popular that there's no way we can fit all his fans into our events area without breaking a slew of fire code regulations, so we'll pipe his talk through our intercom system so people throughout the store can at least hear, if not see, his reading.
This afternoon my boss asked me to help her test the store's sound system. She and Patrick, our webmaster, went downstairs to check the volume level and left me in the event space to jabber into the microphone. I'm not really into improv, so I grabbed a copy of Sedaris' new book, opened it at random, and started reading.
I was painfully aware that my voice was being broadcast all over the store, including the children's department, and I was nervous because I didn't know what was coming next in the passages I picked to read. David Sedaris is hilarious and hardly an offensive writer, and I certainly enjoy both reading and listening to him read his prose, but it's different when I am the one doing a cold read-aloud. The word "faggy" appeared out of nowhere and I mumbled it softly into the microphone. I skipped down a couple of paragraphs and soon became trapped in a list of prison slang terms. I stopped reading, and when Patrick came over the intercom and told me to keep going, I chose a completely new section of the book and found myself broadcasting the tale of Jackie, Sedaris' neighbor and a convicted child molester. Fortunately, I was told that I could stop just as I was getting going on the author's account of a marijuana deal.
None of what I read would have fazed me in the least if I heard David Sedaris himself read it, nor would it if I were reading the book silently to myself. But hearing his unexpected words tumble from my mouth seemed so wrong.