When You Are Engulfed In Flames – David Sedaris

Title: When You Are Engulfed in Flames
Author: David Sedaris
ISBN: 9780316143479
Pages: 336
Release Date: June 3, 2008
Publisher: Little, Brown, and Company
Genre: Essays
Rating: 4 out of 5

From the dust jacket:

It’s early autumn 1964.  Two straight-A students head off to school, and when only one of them returns home Chesney Yelverton is coaxed from retirement and assigned to what proves to be the most difficult – and deadly case of his career.  From the shining homes upon the hill to the back alleys of the notorious East Side, When You Are Engulfed in Flames confirms once again that David Sedaris is a master of mystery and suspense.

Or how about…

When set on fire, most of us fumble for our wallets or waste valuable time feeling sorry for ourselves.  David Sedaris has studied this phenomenon, and his resulting insights may very well save your life.  Author of the national bestsellers Should You Be Attacked By Snakes and If You Are Surrounded By Mean Ghosts, David Sedaris, with When You Are Engulfed in Flames is clearly at the top of his game.

Oh, all right…

David Sedaris has written yet another book of essays (his sixth).  Subjects include a parasitic worm that once lived in his mother-in-law’s leg, an encounter with a dingo, and the recreational use of an external catheter.  Also recounted is the buying of a human skeleton and the author’s attempt to quit smoking.  In Tokyo.

Master of nothing, at the dead center of his game, Sedaris proves that when you play with matches, you sometimes light the whole pack on fire.

When a book jacket description is too long, I usually pare it down or edit out sentences in order to shorten it.  The description above definitely qualifies as “too long,” but I left it intact for two reasons.  First, it made me laugh.  Second, if you haven’t read David Sedaris, it’s a good introduction to him, though this description is a much cleaner version of Sedaris’ humor than usual.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames is only the second David Sedaris book I’ve read, though I’ve listened to one of the discs of the audiobook version of Barrel Fever: Stories and Essays.  I’d heard that When You Are Engulfed in Flames wasn’t quite as funny as the rest of his books, and after reading it, I can see that.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination – I was highly amused throughout the book, and even laughed out loud during one or two stories.  However, generally speaking, usually I laugh out loud during every Sedaris story.  This book is funny, but not amazingly hilarious.

I’ve heard people say that they just don’t find Sedaris that funny.  First of all, you have to appreciate his sense of humor.  If you’re offended by drugs, sex, or foul language, then David Sedaris is definitely not for you.  Also, I found him much funnier once I had listened to his audiobooks.  Imagining him telling these stories out loud was enough to make me laugh more than once.  Since his books are all essays, they’re also perfect for the audiobook format.

My favorite story in When You Are Engulfed in Flames was definitely the last one, about David Sedaris and his boyfriend moving to Japan so David could quit smoking.  When I first heard that, I thought “Japan??  To quit smoking??  Really???”  As the story progressed, I found myself alternating between disbelief and laughter, something that happens often while reading David Sedaris.

I enjoyed When You Are Engulfed in Flames, but I’m glad I read it before tackling Sedaris’ other works.  I’m also looking forward to reading the rest of his books – if nothing else, David Sedaris makes me laugh!

A huge thank you to Miriam at Hachette Book Group for sending me this wonderful book to review!

Comments

  1. I keep saying I have to read something by David Sedaris, and I really do! This one sounds good but I think I’ll start with one that may be funnier so I can get hooked. Maybe an audiobook like you suggest!

  2. I keep saying I have to read something by David Sedaris, and I really do! This one sounds good but I think I’ll start with one that may be funnier so I can get hooked. Maybe an audiobook like you suggest!

  3. I’ve only read Holidays on Ice by Sedaris. I thought some of the stories were funny and some just awful. I have heard that his earlier stuff is funnier–been meaning to read more!

  4. I’ve only read Holidays on Ice by Sedaris. I thought some of the stories were funny and some just awful. I have heard that his earlier stuff is funnier–been meaning to read more!

  5. I haven’t read this yet even though I am meaning to. I have read just one book by Sedaris ‘Dress your family in…’ and I thought it was funny. Will have to read this soon.

  6. I haven’t read this yet even though I am meaning to. I have read just one book by Sedaris ‘Dress your family in…’ and I thought it was funny. Will have to read this soon.

  7. Carl and I listened to this one and really enjoyed it. Our favorite was the one when David was in France and kept saying d’accord to everything and found himself in all kinds of trouble. We laughed so hard we had tears in our eyes.

  8. Carl and I listened to this one and really enjoyed it. Our favorite was the one when David was in France and kept saying d’accord to everything and found himself in all kinds of trouble. We laughed so hard we had tears in our eyes.

  9. I haven’t read any of his books, but I do have an audio of Holidays on Ice. I really need to get to it1

  10. I haven’t read any of his books, but I do have an audio of Holidays on Ice. I really need to get to it1

  11. Doesn’t he have the best speaking voice? Love it! I got this one signed last summer and of course, still haven’t read it!

  12. Doesn’t he have the best speaking voice? Love it! I got this one signed last summer and of course, still haven’t read it!

  13. I get his humor but I find that he isn’t that consistent. Like the other comment, sometimes he is funny…other times not so much.

  14. I get his humor but I find that he isn’t that consistent. Like the other comment, sometimes he is funny…other times not so much.

  15. I haven’t read this Sedaris yet – I’ve liked most of his other books. Holiday on Ice was quite funny!

  16. I haven’t read this Sedaris yet – I’ve liked most of his other books. Holiday on Ice was quite funny!

  17. I love Sedaris and I want to get my hands on a copy of this book. I’ve read two of his books and loved them both. He’s very witty.

  18. I love Sedaris and I want to get my hands on a copy of this book. I’ve read two of his books and loved them both. He’s very witty.

  19. LOL that summary is funny. I’ve only read Naked by him although I plan to read all of his books. I find him very funny but what you said is true about his humour not being for everyone.

  20. LOL that summary is funny. I’ve only read Naked by him although I plan to read all of his books. I find him very funny but what you said is true about his humour not being for everyone.

  21. I read HOLIDAYS ON ICE last winter; I liked it, especially the stories that were more autobiographical instead of fabricated.

    I think I’d love to listen to one of his books; then, like you, I’ll be able to imagine him delivering the stories in his voice.

  22. I read HOLIDAYS ON ICE last winter; I liked it, especially the stories that were more autobiographical instead of fabricated.

    I think I’d love to listen to one of his books; then, like you, I’ll be able to imagine him delivering the stories in his voice.

  23. I love the cover of this book. I’m a fan of Sedaris, so I’m glad you’re enjoying him so far.

  24. I love the cover of this book. I’m a fan of Sedaris, so I’m glad you’re enjoying him so far.

  25. I absolutely love the humor of Sedaris! I have every book except two that are listed only on the inside of the book jacket. Where can I get these, I wonder. Should You be Attacked by Snakes and If you are Surrounded by Mean Ghosts. I can’t find these anywhere. Anyone have ideas? I just love Sedaris–he has opened my eyes and love of the personal essay. Lisa

  26. I absolutely love the humor of Sedaris! I have every book except two that are listed only on the inside of the book jacket. Where can I get these, I wonder. Should You be Attacked by Snakes and If you are Surrounded by Mean Ghosts. I can’t find these anywhere. Anyone have ideas? I just love Sedaris–he has opened my eyes and love of the personal essay. Lisa

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