When You Are Engulfed in Flames
By: David Sedaris
Little, Brown and Company, 323 pp, $25.99
If any of you are familiar with my book reviews, you know David Sedaris is my favorite author. It’s been a while since we’ve heard anything from him and it’s been worth the wait.
Those of you that are used to every one of Sedaris’ short stories making you laugh out loud are in for a slight change with this one. Something has changed in Sedaris’ writing and I think it’s for the better. Some of the stories in this collection seem more like social commentaries (albeit laced with humor). Sedaris is a comic writing genius and even finds the comedy in death, which seems to be an underlying theme in this set of short stories. These stories pan from Sedaris’ childhood, college years, post-college and most recently his time in Europe – especially living in Normandy, France.
Some of the more memorable moments occur in “That’s Amore” – where Sedaris tells the story of his turbulent relationship with his old cantankerous neighbor in New York. In one of the laugh out loud moments of the collection, “Old Faithful”, he tells the story of a boil that develops on his ass and how he talks his boyfriend Hugh into lancing it. In “Solution to Saturday’s Puzzle” he describes something everyone has experienced – sitting next to someone obnoxious on a plane. Probably the funniest is “The Smoking Section” where Sedaris describes his successful attempt at quitting smoking. During the months following quitting, he and Hugh take a trip to Tokyo and he describes being the worst student in a Japanese language class and trying to keep smoke free. This story alone is worth the whole book!
David Sedaris work appears in The New Yorker and often appears on public radio’s This American Life. My favorite way to enjoy his stories is through his audio books. His awkward voice combined with his comic timing make his stories even more hysterical. When You Are Engulfed in Flames is available online, at the library and in local bookstores.