Steve Granitz/WireImage; Little, Brown Book Group Tracey Ullman, and the cover for David Sedaris' 'A Carnival of Snackery'
David Sedaris has big plans for his second volume of diaries. The author is notorious for narrating his own work — with his history on radio programs like This American Life and the overwhelming popularity of his book readings, it's a bit of a no-brainer. But it's also a heck of a lot of work and, according to Sedaris, often comes with unsolicited opinions on his narration skills. So he tapped none other than Tracey Ullman to help out with A Carnival of Snackery, the follow-up to his 2017 collection Theft By Finding that will include diary entries from the years 2003 to 2020. Below, Sedaris outlines the story behind the collaboration:
Not long ago I met a high school teacher who'd had his students listen to the audio version of one of my essay collections. They were not impressed. "The one I feel sorry for is the old lady," one student gripped.
"What old lady?" the teacher asked.
"The one who had to read all those stupid stories."
This happens all the time. "I got your audiobook, and was sorry to realize that rather than than reading it yourself, you got some woman to do it," a stranger wrote regarding another of my essay collections.
"That woman was me," I responded.
When I complained about it to a guy at a book signing, he said, "You don't sound like a woman, you sound like Piglet."
I said, "Who?"
"Piglet," he said. "You know, Pooh's friend."
Well, I thought, at least he's a guy.
I knew early on that I wanted someone to read all the U.K. and Irish and Australian entries in this book. So much of what I've heard in those countries is funny specifically because of the way it was said. So I wanted somebody British, who was good at regional accents. Then I thought, Well, since people think it's a woman recording my audiobooks anyway, why not get the real thing? A British woman who's fun and patient and good at accents. Tracey Ullman.
She's me in this book, or at least the me that I am in England and Ireland and Australia. And occasionally France or the U.S. if I'm reflecting back on something that took place in any of the aforementioned countries. That might sound confusing, but it's not, really. Also, just so you know, Tracey Ullman was incredibly warm and charming and told outrageous stories between takes. In half of this book she's me. But I wish I was her.
Ullman, for her part, says in a statement that she has been a fan of Sedaris since The Santa Land Diaries, noting that his observations about the British in Snackery are flawless. "I have had offers to do things in my career that are good, bad, indifferent, and complete crap — but occasionally something comes along that makes you punch the air like an exultant soccer player, and scream 'Yes! Yes! Yes!'" she says. "Being asked to read David Sedaris' diaries was one of those moments. 'He knows who I am!' I thought."
Below, listen to Ullman read from A Carnival of Snackery before it releases on Oct. 5.