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Staff Picks: Hurricane Season

TowPath entry in New Brunswick after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 (Image credit: J. Ward)

Last semester, I was tasked with finding a short story for Tales We Read, the Fall 2020 semester recreational reading program at Rutgers – New Brunswick. I quickly realized I would like to choose a story by memoirist David Sedaris. Sedaris contributes frequently to The New Yorker, and he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2019. Sedaris is also known for narrating his own work. He rose to fame after narrating his essay “The Santaland Diaries” on NPR’s Morning Edition, and he has been nominated for two Grammy Awards.  

I chose Hurricane Season, for the most part, because the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active on record. Hurricane Season details the very real cost of 2018’s Hurricane Florence, examining how the effects of climate change will not be felt equally. Sedaris lost an unoccupied vacation house, while permanent North Carolina residents lost their only homes and, in some cases, loved ones. 

Meteorology aside, this story also plays with themes of family dynamics and tumultuous relationships. David often vacillates between siding with his sisters and staying loyal to his long-term boyfriend, Hugh, whose temperament shifts as often as the weather. In fact, this is one of the few stories of Sedaris’s that features his relationship with Hugh. The two seem like an odd pair––Hugh is a talented painter, redecorating their home with Picasso replicas, while David feeds gummy worms to ants. Hugh’s temper and desire for propriety often clash with David’s eccentric family (including his sister Amy, a well-known actress and comic in her own right). Sedaris has even admitted in an Irish Times article that he and Hugh are used to spending long amounts of time away from each other, but they have gotten along extremely well during the Covid-19 lockdown. By narrating colorful and seemingly mundane details of his life, Sedaris prods at how relationships work. Who will accept your truest self, and who will hold you when the wind picks up and the floodwaters rise? 

The story was originally published in The New Yorker on November 25, 2019. You can read more about Sedaris’s house, the Sea Section, in his internationally bestselling essay collection Calypso.