David Sedaris, “Now We Are Five”

“Now We Are Five” is a short personal essay by the humorist and journalist David Sedaris: Link (https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/10/28/now-we-are-five)This essay develops an idea we’ve been working with in our look at Fables, Chreias and Proverbs. Sedaris writes about his family, including the recent suicide of his sister, from whom David Sedaris was estranged. His own treatment of her, in this memoir, and his management of his still large family, presents him with identity conflicts this essay humorously treats — treats with irony, self-deprecation (if not quite self-recrimination), bracing candor and proverbial good humor.For this discussion, which I think you ought to contribute to at least three times, my questions are:1. What details do you notice in Sedaris’ presentation of his sister’s suicide, his own conflict over his sense of identity, as it is changed by her suicide, as well as his family’s efforts to memorialize her? Are the details that are important/significant to him the same as those which are important to you? What is important to his father’s and his siblings’ memory of her? How does Sedaris shape his readers’ view of his own investments (capital/emotional) in family, as it may be contrasted with the investments (individually) of his family members?2. “That’s not fair, I remember thinking. Because, I mean, what’s a person supposed to do with that?” (26) Here’s Sedaris stopped, in pregnant pause, after a father at one of his book signings has replied to the author’s friendly question of whether the autograph-hound has other family, and the man replies that the family is three children PLUS one who, having been named, died before birth. TMI, right? In other words, the detail overflows. This begins a troping throughout the essay on DETAILS. Later, in a moment of self-recriminatory weakness, Sedaris has buyer’s remorse about the vacation house he buys his family. “I’d wonder if I hadn’t bought the house as a way of saying, See, it’s just that easy. No hemming and hawing. No asking to look at the septic tank. Rather, you make your family happy and iron out the details later.” (my italics 30) Notice that this last sentence is a proverb. Is it wise? Is there even mediocre wisdom in it? Is it just dumb? How does it argue out the conflict Sedaris is having with himself? Is Tiffany [and her suicide] an “ironed out” detail?3. What myths do the Sedarises tell about themselves? How does David contribute to and critique this? how do the other family members see the stories the family tells about itself?4. Finally, do you notice other proverbs in Sedaris’ telling of this story? What kind of wisdom do these proverbs offer? If you locate a proverb, show us, and then offer an interpretation of how the essay argues its case.