When David Roche goes anywhere in public, the one thing he can’t do is disappear into the crowd. “I am facially disfigured,” he explains in his astoundingly intimate, eloquent, irresistible memoir The Church of 80% Sincerity. “Woven through the left side of my face, head, and neck, extending into my soft palate and airway, is a benign congenital tumor consisting of my own engorged and tangled veins and capillaries,” writes the author, who will be at Cody’s on Monday, February 11. His left cheek is tuberous, his chin undeveloped; he has few teeth. “In early 1945, when I was fifteen months old, my lower lip was removed because it looked like a bunch of small Concord grapes and would not stop growing.” Roche, a noted public speaker who counts Anne Lamott among his avid fans, writes with disarming frankness of his relationships, his political activism, his surgeries, his work as a massage therapist for the terminally ill, and his rides through San Francisco on public transit. During all of these, the focus is always, inescapably, on his face.
Roche’s one-man show, from which this book draws its title, opens with him asking audiences to shout in unison at the count of three, “What happened to your face?” Then he answers that question. And then he goes farther, explaining that while the rest of us have the luxury of hiding all and sundry behind our smiles, “my face is a gift, because my shadow side — my difficulty and challenge — is on the outside, where I have been forced to deal with it.” And he muses about God. While “I can fantasize about being a 63-year-old, five-foot-five-inch-tall professional basketball player” and “I can fantasize about having a relationship with Hillary Clinton,” Roche says he can’t visualize God: “You’d think that he would stay in better contact. He hasn’t written in almost two thousand years.” Even so, he insists, “Faith is a life work, a choice made daily. Faith eats fear for lunch but someone has to kill the fear and cook it.” 7 p.m. CodysBooks.com