Monday, February 25, 2019

When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris

When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris
Read by David Sedaris
Published June 2008 by Little, Brown, and Company
Source: audiobook checked out from my local library

Publisher's Summary:
“David Sedaris’s ability to transform the mortification of everyday life into wildly entertaining art,” (The Christian Science Monitor) is elevated to wilder and more entertaining heights than ever in this remarkable new book.

Trying to make coffee when the water is shut off, David considers using the water in a vase of flowers and his chain of associations takes him from the French countryside to a hilariously uncomfortable memory of buying drugs in a mobile home in rural North Carolina. In essay after essay, Sedaris proceeds from bizarre conundrums of daily life-having a lozenge fall from your mouth into the lap of a fellow passenger on a plane or armoring the windows with LP covers to protect the house from neurotic songbirds-to the most deeply resonant human truths. Culminating in a brilliant account of his venture to Tokyo in order to quit smoking, David Sedaris’s sixth essay collection is a new masterpiece of comic writing from “a writer worth treasuring” (Seattle Times).

My Thoughts: 
I have loved listening to David Sedaris on the radio for years but for some reason, I have never picked up one of his books. But Miss H and I were headed off on a road trip and I thought Sedaris would be someone we would both enjoy.

But we ended up with the Big Guy with us and only got a couple of hours of the book "read" as we drove. Much of it, while humorous, was not the laugh-out-loud funny I was expecting, the kind of the thing that would make the miles speed by. Still, I love Sedaris' stories about life, which are often as poignant as they are funny.

The other day I was driving home from work on treacherously dangerous roads. Traffic was creeping along, the kind of thing that normally ratchets my stress level up to 11(Spinal Tap reference there). But, thanks to not finishing this book on the road trip, I was listening to David Sedaris reading some of the funniest parts of this book. I was literally laughing out loud as I drove. I was fine with creeping along. I was fine with the idea that my commute was going to take longer because I was thoroughly enjoying myself.

This is Sedaris reaching middle age, looking back at how he got where he is at, coming to terms with life as he lives it now, and exploring death. This could all be pretty heavy stuff, maybe even maudlin; but Sedaris always manages to find the humor in situations. For example, when he was growing up, his parents often went away for a week, leaving their children in the (usually) capable hands of a babysitter. Except the time Mrs. Peacock came to stay with them. This is the stuff that could scar children and, in a way, I suppose it has. But listening to Sedaris talk about being required to use Mrs. Peacock's back scratcher on her as she lay on her stomach on his parents' bed is hilarious. Think of your reaction to watching a companion stumble and fall to their knees - your first reaction is to make sure that your friend is fine. Once that's confirmed, you are welcome to laugh at hilarious way your friend's arms waved about as they hit the ground. We know that Sedaris has survived all that life has thrown at him and now it's perfectly acceptable to laugh at his stories about trying to quit smoking even as he ties that into the story of his mother dying of lung cancer.


  1. I have only read one Sedaris book and that was a Christmas book, also very funny. I like his sense of humor and timing. He came to my campus on a speaking series and it was sold out very quickly so he's pretty popular with the college crowd too.

  2. Love David Sedaris - this one was fun but, I loved Calypso even more - the audio is read by Sedaris and it's so funny.