There goes my hero

I bought David Sedaris’ first book Barrel Fever when it was published in 1994. Prior to its publication I was in a writing workshop with him and the stuff he read in class was far superior to what everyone else was doing, so I knew the book would be great. And it is.

In his story Parade, he imagines a series of loving relationship with a bevy of clearly heterosexual celebrities. During his fling with Mike Tyson, he and Tyson buy a Persian/Himalayan blend kitten and Mike insists on naming it “Pitty Ting.” For some reason, this struck me as being deeply funny. I laughed about it for weeks and weeks. I’d be walking down 6th Avenue, think about the absurdity of Mike Tyson calling a kitten “Pitty Ting” and laugh out loud. It’s 18 years later and I still remember that one line! So clever.
I just finished a book of short stories by Southern writer Flannery O’Connor. I’ve heard about O’Connor for years and I know she’s influenced a lot of writers so I thought it was high time to look into her work. I thought she would be a demure lady author telling grand old tales of the sweet life in the South. It turns out that her stories are full of murders and darkness and horrible hillbillies who will cut your throat and steal your artificial leg.
In her short story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” (as horrific an ending as you’re ever likely to read), there’s a chatty old grandmother who has A CAT NAMED PITTY SING. What the fuck! Sedaris stole that, right?! There’s no way that’s a coincidence.
It’s really not that big a deal. Hardly worth a blog post. But I kinda wish I’d never known.

15 thoughts on “There goes my hero

  1. ‘Pitty Ting’ is funny because you can imagine Tyson saying it in that funny voice of his. I’ve often thought about promoting a fight between Tyson and an alpha male chimpanzee. Tyson might win on points, but he’d leave the ring a eunuch.

  2. you cannot for ONE second convince me that you are ONLY playing with the dog in order to make a cutesy video for your blog. i hear the laughter of little girls in the background… you are falling for that little hairball, aren’t you?

  3. Rest assured, Mr. Sedaris didn’t “steal” anything. He may have given a nod to Gilbert & Sullivan, as did Flan O’Connor.In “The Mikado” the 3 little maids are named Peep-bo, Yum-yum and Pitti-sing.The idea of brutish Tyson lithping to a kitten named Pitty Ting makes me laugh, too.And I think Daisyfae is right.Oooh, yeeeah.

  4. Love the Flannery O’Connor. Our first dog as a couple was named Flannery. I wanted to name our daughter that, but I couldn’t name my daughter after my dog. That would be horrible. Instead I named her after the state she was born in and has lived her entire life. She would have much rather been named after the dog. I wish I had been in that class with you and David Sedaris because hearing him read his work doubles the fun.And yes Central park is absolutely amazing. I’ve seen that exact spot. I can walk ten minutes from my suburban home and see something similar. What makes CP amazing is I cannot walk ten minutes in the other direction and almost be run over by a hansom cab, and really, isn’t that what you want out of nature.

  5. dinah: Jesus! Isn’t ANYONE doing anything original? If you haven’t read Barrel Fever you should. It’s quite funny, despite the “tributes” to other authors Cat: O’Connor’s work took me completely by surprise. Some of it was really dark and tough to read. You could have warned me. A few of the things Sedaris read in class wound up in his first book.

  6. Love Flannery and now I need to dig out my copy of those short stories. I remember reading “A Good Man…” while I was floating on a raft in a lake in Arkansas and being horrified at the end.

  7. I’m inpressed with Dinahmow taking the source of Pitty Ting (Sing) back to G&S. Well done–I like all this literary archeaology.Still a borrowing though, which always takes the shine off a writer.Oh how I sympathise with the sleeper–just look at that office–more somnolent a place you can hardly imagine.

  8. HIF: If I had read that story while floating on an Arkansas river, I’d have run for the Maxon-Dixon line as fast as my feet could carry me. looby: Borrowing has gone on for eons but I agree that it costs some originality/respect points. The office is as suffocating as it looks.TSB: Tyson is gay only in the mind of Sedaris’. In the story, he also has an affair with Charlton Heston and Bruce Springsteen. It’s really funny stuff. Give it a read.

  9. I had to come to your blog after reading your comment on Past Imperfect about the Olympic Games and the answer to your comment from “angry parsnip” a blogger from Arizona I think – was she angry at you! But you are right, it is hard for small countries to compete with such a large country as the US. I said on my comment that California is almost as large as Morocco and 90% of Italy, so it should go as a separate state to the games. If all the separate countries of Europe would go as “Europe” or as the “Common Market” against the US, that would give them more medals! I see you live in the East – lucky you. How I wish I was that close to New York, but we can only fly there about once a year or so.

  10. Er, excuse me, but I think I’ve solved the problem of getting on to your blog. It’s a question of who’s ahead of you in the blogging queue. Right now it’s Savannah and when I go to read her blog I have to leave entirely and log back on to get to yours !!!!!! If however I skip over her’s, then I can log onto you instanter.I smell a rat, don’t you?? Or do you??

  11. Hello, Vagabonde. I’m glad the Olympics were such a tremendous success but it was hardly a level playing field. Major League Baseball has the same problem. Like the U.S. in the Olympics, the New York Yankees have all the cash. Hence, an unfair advantage. Ellie: I love McCullers. “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” is in my top 10. I try to get everyone to read it. She had an interesting/ tragic life.paulo: I’m thrilled you have solved this conundrum. I need all the readers I can get. My ego is most frail.

  12. Cat:my BIL named his first son after his bro – my husband.My naughty husband – before my time – named his dog after his bro.UB: what erudite readers you have.Well spotted dinahmow.

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