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Pop-up philosophy. Stop, sit down and just think. That’s what I wrote on a whiteboard – then I took it outside and propped it next to a small folding chair near the entrance to my office at City, University of London.
For a week, I had been travelling around London with two folding deckchairs and a whiteboard. My quarry was stupidity-intensive spots. I had set up outside the London Stock Exchange, a large bank that had been bailed out by the taxpayer, the Houses of Parliament, Oxford Street, St Paul’s Cathedral and the BBC. Now it was time to reflect on the stupidities closest to home. So I set up my deckchairs outside my own university.
Students and faculty came and went, saw the deckchairs, looked at me, read my sign. Some seemed surprised. Others took a photo with their smartphones. Many laughed. A few sat down and joined me in a few minutes of quiet contemplation.
Horowitz says if he's done the job right, you won't be able to figure out who the murderers are until the very end of the book. "It has to have that big smile that comes with the surprise 'Oh, it was him!' or 'Oh, it was her! I should have seen that.' And if you can manage that, if you can pull it off, then I think you've written a successful whodunit."
So often Sedaris’s phrasing is beautiful in its piquancy and minimalism. If you’ve listened to him on NPR or Radio 4, you’ll no doubt hear his voice in your head, indignant and amused, delivering each sentence with perfect comic timing. His life is extraordinary in so many ways – the drug addiction, the eccentric family, the crazy jobs, the fame, the globetrotting – but one of the more unlikely achievements here is in making it all seem quite ordinary. Ultimately, his masterstroke is in acting as a bystander in his own story. It’s other people’s lives that Sedaris finds most fascinating and, by extension, so do we.