Title: When You Are Engulfed in Flames
Author: David Sedaris
Release Date: June 3, 2008
Publisher: Little, Brown, and Company
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!