David Sedaris’ self-deprecating humor has a poignant bent, especially when he’s talking about family: his long-time partner, Hugh; his younger brother, the Rooster; growing up in a large family in North Carolina. In May 2013, his younger sister Tiffany killed herself, and later that year, Sedaris published an essay in The New Yorker called “Now We Are Five,” addressing Tiffany’s bipolar disorder, their childhood together, and how, in many ways, he barely knew her.
Now, Sedaris has given an interview to Blake Bailey of Vice, who wrote a memoir featuring his own brother, Scott, who also killed himself. (That book, The Splendid Things We Planned, came out last March.) The two authors speak candidly about what it’s like to grow up with a sibling who has mental illness and what it means to write about deceased family members.
In Tiffany’s will, she stipulated that her family could not have her remains or come to her memorial service. Sedaris says:
Tiffany left all her belongings to a woman she once worked for who lives in New York State. Lisa called about maybe getting a cupful of ashes, and the woman said no. She was furious about this Dutch interview I gave. A couple months after Tiffany died, this Dutch film crew came to Sussex. They followed me around for several days, and toward the end of it, the interviewer kind of pulled up very close to me and said, “I know your sister recently committed suicide. So if you could say one thing to her, if she was here right now, what question would you ask?” And I said, “Can I have back that $6,000 that I loaned you?” I said it because the moment felt so cheesy: the lowered voice, the closeness. Certain people got bent out of shape over it, but come on. Tiffany was nothing if not funny. She would have been the first one to say something like that.
You can read the full interview at Vice.