When You Are Engulfed in Flames

Most often when I’m reading, I’m alone in the room if not the entire house. I usually don’t laugh out loud while reading unless there’s someone nearby I can share the humor with. I don’t know why that is, it just is. Most books make me smile at one point or another, most humorous books make me smile a lot, some all the way through. Every once in a while I’ll come across a passage and laugh out loud – yep – even when I’m all alone.

Woody Allen (Side Effects) and Drew Carey (Dirty Jokes and Beer) have done it, and if you count comic books, so has Gary Larson (Far Side) and Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes).

David Sedaris also first made the list with Me Talk Pretty One Day. His latest, When You Are Engulfed in Flames also hits the funny nerve. His writing feels like stream of consciousness at times, and at others I’d swear I’m peeking into his diary. He takes on mundane circumstances and twists them to the David Sedaris charm. He covers a myriad of subjects from coming out of the closet . . . to the crazy lady across the hall . . . to moving to Paris . . . I could go on and on. But the last hundred pages or so, he pretty much dedicates to smoking . . .

It seems crazy to cut smoking mothers out of textbooks, but within a few years they won’t be allowed in movies either. A Woman can throw her newborn child from the roof of a high-rise building. She can retrieve the body and stomp on it while shooting into the windows of a day care center, but to celebrate these murders by lighting a cigarette is to send a harmful message. There are, after all, young people watching, and we wouldn’t want them to get the wrong idea.” p.251

. . . and then to quitting smoking. Some people will try to make major changes in their life in hopes of breaking the cigarette habit. David Sedaris moved to Japan.

If you’ve got a warped sense of humor, or even a semi-warped sense of humor there’s a lot of this book you’re going to like. I don’t think that When You Are Engulfed in Flames is as good as Me Talk Pretty One Day (I haven’t read any of his others) probably because that had been my first taste of Sedaris. But still “Flames” is a fun book with plenty of passages to make you smile, and a few that might even make you laugh out loud.

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  1. Tim 17.Aug.09 at 9:31 am

    “Dress Your Family in Corduroy” is my favorite. I just got “Engulfed in Flames” a few weeks ago, and it just doesn’t seem to have the same sizzle that the other Sedaris collections offer. Granted, I haven’t finished it yet, but I should before the end of the month. And it’s still enjoyable, but there have been fewer laugh out loud moments.

  2. david 17.Aug.09 at 9:47 am

    I haven’t read that one – I’ll put it on my list. Thanks.

  3. Marie 17.Aug.09 at 6:18 pm

    ME TALK PRETTY is my favorite Sedaris but ENGULFED had some good stuff too. Agreed that it’s not his best but it’s still pretty good! 🙂

  4. david 17.Aug.09 at 6:26 pm

    I’ll have to put that one on my list, too. Thanks.

  5. david 17.Aug.09 at 6:30 pm

    Brain lapse – sorry.

  6. david 18.Aug.09 at 5:04 pm

    Thank you so much.


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