Theft by Finding: Diaries Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 89 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Theft by Finding.
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Theft by Finding: Diaries Summary & Study Guide Description

Theft by Finding: Diaries Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on Theft by Finding: Diaries by David Sedaris.

The following version of this book was used to create this study guide: Sedaris, David. Theft by Finding: Diaries (1977-2002). Little, Brown and Company, 2017. Kindle Edition.

From the start of the book, readers are welcomed into Sedaris’ private thoughts chronicled in his personal diaries beginning in the year 1977 and continuing until 2002. Although the entries have been edited and curated by the author, the candid and sincere nature of his diary remains throughout. The heart of the book follows Sedaris’s complex journey to becoming an established author. Coupled with seemingly random observations, from the overheard secrets of strangers to soap opera plot lines, Sedaris offers an honest and introspective account of the true stories that would ultimately become the source material for many of his future works.

Beginning in the year 1977, the book depicts a young Sedaris who is far from the author he is known to be at present. Without a consistent job, Sedaris traveled the continental US, often hitchhiking from location to location working as a day laborer. Financial concerns and the lack of a steady paycheck dominate the early entries of his journal, underscoring his monetary struggles and inability to plan ahead. His youthful naivety is further echoed by the frequent drug use Sedaris and his group of friends partakes in. These early entries add to overarching theme of rags to riches that seems to define Sedaris’ life. Despite being broke, drugged, working maintenance jobs for his parent’s rental properties, or hitchhiking across the country picking fruit and living off of pancakes from IHOP, Sedaris’s distinctive observations of the world around him still shines through, illustrating the author’s unique style of writing from an early age.

The book itself is composed as a series of journal entries of varying length. While some include personal accounts and reflective content, others are merely short observations the author felt compelled to document. The range of subjects initially offers a challenge to readers, who may be unfamiliar with Sedaris' tendency to find hilarity in what would otherwise be considered no more than the average daily life event. However, as the book continues, it becomes evident that Sedaris’s life is in fact one that is highly relatable to the average reader. His youth is spent realizing what kind person he is, accepting his sexual preferences while living in a conservative town, and often partaking in harmful habits including frequent drug and alcohol abuse. His immaturity and general carelessness seeps through the pages, evoking the portrait of a struggling artist lacking any sense of direction.

After reaching Chicago, the diaries begin to emit a different tone. While previously they appeared more as a space for Sedaris to vent his everyday stresses, once in Chicago, he becomes an increasingly more stable and driven individual. He finishes his degree, accepts a teaching position, and makes a concrete plan to move to New York City. He ultimately makes it to NYC in the fall of 1990 where he is stunned by his new surroundings, writing, “I took a cab from Penn Station, and Rusty was waiting at the apartment when I arrived. It’s much bigger than I’d imagined. The neighborhood is too beautiful for me. I don’t deserve it. Or, O.K., my block I deserve. It’s more industrial than the ones around it, and we look out at a parking lot for trucks. Two short blocks away, though, it’s perfect. Tree-lined winding streets, restaurants and coffee shops. It’s enchanting. I can’t picture myself in any of those places, but still. How did I get to live here? Rusty says that some of the apartments in the area are going for a million dollars. I’m not sure about that, but I do know that a ginger ale costs three dollars. Three dollars!” (244). Though he gradually begins to gain fame for his writing and work as a playwright, the author’s modesty prevails. He continues to pick up a number of odd jobs to pay rent, including working as one of Santa’s elves at Macy’s in Herald Square. These offbeat jobs and odd experiences eventually become the source material for his future essays, including “SantaLand Diary,” a short essay that became the author’s first big break.

In the late 1990s, Sedaris moves to Paris with his partner, Hugh, and begins to learn French. The challenges he faces of having to adapt to a new language and culture are later chronicled in his book, “Me Talk Pretty One Day,” though, readers are welcomed into his personal reflections of his struggle to acclimate through comical entries within the book. Overall, “Theft by Finding” provides readers with hidden truths behind the scenarios and experiences that provided the inspiration for the books that allowed Sedaris to become household name. The diaries are honest about his struggles, success and adapting to a life of fame, all while creating a captivating story that embodies the unique characteristics Sedaris has become known for.

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