Renowned author and satirist David Sedaris is making his way back to Western North Carolina next week.
It may come as a surprise to some of Sedaris’ followers that he spent a year of his early life in the mountains, as a student at Western Carolina University.
BPR got a hold of him from his home in rural England. The long-distance phone call made for some static-y audio.
“Can you hear me okay?” asks Sedaris.
Sedaris, now in his sixties, says he actually didn’t want to go to college. But his parents insisted, and after high school, he got into Western Carolina at the very last minute.
“I remember my father driving me to school when it was time to go and I hadn’t been so afraid in my life up to that point,” says Sedaris.
The year was 1975.
“I was really isolated there so there weren’t a lot of options. It’s not like I could go to Asheville whenever I wanted to,” says Sedaris.
Hitchhiking features prominently in many of Sedaris’ essays. He says that’s how he got around in the mountains.
“Well you could still do that then. It was no problem. But now I’m 62 and I went hitchhiking just last month,” explains Sedaris.
After awhile, Sedaris says he found his people. He took some good art history classes and met his best friend on campus. But he suffered a major loss during that first year. One of his friends was killed by a car while walking home one night.
“That was my first death. It was the first person that I had truly been close to that had died,” says Sedaris.
Sedaris is known for making light of dark, even morbid themes. In his latest book, “Calypso,” he shares stories of death, suicide and loss.
“That would be the only thing I would say to a young person. Your grief is going to be clumsy but that’s normal,” says Sedaris.
Another challenge he confronted as a college student was navigating his sexuality as a gay man.
“Gosh, I don’t think anyone was out at Western Carolina in 1975. I remember I still laught at that entire year thinking that I was certainly only gay person definitely in North Carolina but possibly in North America,” says Sedaris.
Being gay is something Sedaris writes about often. He’s glad that now it’s okay for kids to be more open. Sedaris dropped out of school at Western after just one year. Next week, he returns to do a reading at the Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center Tuesday evening.
Western Carolina University is a business sponsor of Blue Ridge Public Radio.