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When You Are Engulfed in Flames
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Product Description

"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).

Praise for When You Are Engulfed in Flames:

"Older, wiser, smarter and meaner, Sedaris...defies the odds once again by delivering an intelligent take on the banalities of an absurd life." --Kirkus Reviews

This latest collection proves that not only does Sedaris still have it, but he's also getting better....Sedaris's best stuff will still--after all this time--move, surprise, and entertain." --Booklist

Table of Contents:

It's Catching
Keeping Up
The Understudy
This Old House
Buddy, Can You Spare a Tie?
Road Trips
What I Learned
That's Amore
The Monster Mash
In the Waiting Room
Solutions to Saturday's Puzzle
Adult Figures Charging Toward a Concrete Toadstool
Memento Mori
All the Beauty You Will Ever Need
Town and Country
The Man in the Hut
Of Mice and Men
April in Paris
Old Faithful
The Smoking Section

Customer Reviews:

  • If you like Sedaris, you like Sedaris
    David Sedaris is without a doubt the most talented essayist in the country and the fact that he's also the most famous is not so much a validation of American taste as it is a validation of the Gevalia Kaffe/Sunday New York Times/All Things Considered/This American Life Podcast crowd. Good job! They're good at picking humorists and squeezing African-Americans out of Harlem.

    Personally I prefer to read Sedaris than listen to audio tapes. His voice, I think, actual detracts from the situations. As in previous books When You Are Engulfed in Flames creates unbelievable, and in some instances unsympathetic, situations but Sedaris performs the literary magic trick of bringing you along for the ride. His voice, however, is so specific that it detaches me from the opiatic experience of walking in this talented man's shoes.

    Also, as with previous essays, I believe he's at least 70% full of crap. But who cares? It's amusing crap....more info
  • Another funny book by Sedaris
    A very good read. Many funny moments, but I called friends and read "April in Paris" to them. Laugh out loud funny!...more info
  • More, but not really better
    David Sedaris is a talented writer, but his work in this tome is inconsistent. It all goes down smoothly, but never rises to the level of "Dress Your Children in Denim and Corduroy." Each of these short essays was previously published elsewhere and they don't quite come together as an anthology. ...more info
  • Not sufficiently funny nor compelling
    This is the second book I've read by the author, with the other being _Naked_. As with his other work, _When You Are Engulfed in Flames_ is a collection of short vignettes, with each one being fairly independent of the other. Neither book is especially laugh-out-loud funny; rather, the humour is largely dry and somewhat absurd, with the narrator usually being in some surreal predicament (e.g. being the passenger in a big-rig truck where the driver detects his homosexuality and delivers suggestions of a sexual nature). However, unlike _Naked_, none of the stories are very compelling: there is no sense of adolescent growth, confusion, and personal danger. The last story on quitting smoking is unusual and interesting, but come on, who wants to read yet another story about a middle-age man trying to put down cigarettes?

    All in all, the book is a good read if you like mildly-humourous stories....more info
  • Self-Absorption Driven to Laughter
    Laugh at yourself and the whole world laughs with you. It's hard to write humorous essays that stand the test of time. Will Rogers realized that and just read the newspaper to audiences while adding an occasionally wry quip to get huge laughs. Put those messages into a book, and they wouldn't have lasted.

    I haven't heard David Sedaris perform in person (which he does as readings), but I'm told he's marvelous. If you have had that pleasure, you will undoubtedly hear his voice, know his timing, and see his expressions as you read this witty, self-deprecating book. I suspect that such an imagined performance would easily turn this into a five-star book.

    Proust waxed poetic about his memories of a madeleine (a shell-shaped cake in the France of his youth) in stream of consciousness prose. Sedaris does the same thing for a painful boil on his derriere, his horrible inability to learn new languages, and his desire to show a little more plumpness in his derriere. The results are equally memorable . . . but much more amusing in the case of Sedaris.

    Sedaris likes to put together mosaics of seemingly unconnected memories that when combined show a different image and send a different message. It's a little like a Chuck Close portrait.

    Like the best humorists, he takes us into her personal life . . . into the kinds of details that few of us would openly share with the public. In exchange for yielding his privacy, he helps us see ourselves in his experiences. Who hasn't struggled with a foreign language with embarrassing consequences? Who hasn't wanted to be a little more in some aspect of their lives? Who hasn't had trouble getting rid of a bad habit?

    These themes and more are explored in well-written, interesting style that lacks only an overriding sense of meaning (other than that we are all a mess) to be important prose. Some of them are hilarious, breaking into images of burlesque skits in your mind. Others are more poignant than funny, using wry humor. But he mostly doesn't stretch; rather, he expresses who he is and how he sees life.

    As a former smoker, former heavy drinker, former drug user, and current homosexual with a fascination for feeding spiders, some aspect of his life will intersect with yours. But at the same time, he has exotic tastes (spending a lot of time in Normandy, learning not to smoke in Tokyo, and traveling from city to city reading his essays while staying at the finest hotels) that will make his lens different than yours. You'll never see the world the same way, as Proust changed our perceptions of madeleines.

    Is it worth the trip? Yes, but I advise small reading doses. It goes down more smoothly that way.

    ...more info
  • when you are engulfed in flames
    by david sedaris

    i too was influenced by some of the previous reviews and i dont understand how anyone could have possibly found this book even remotely funny. i forced myself to finish it but it was painful....more info
  • Hilarious Endearing and Imaginative
    I found each story very intriguing and funny. It is interesting to see how David's life changes with exposure to fame, some money and a good companion. And yet... David seems to not change at all in his essential self.

    It was particularly amusing to read his view of Japan. I have spent a lot of time there, and found his views both irreverent and gentle at the same time. All I can say is that I hope he finds other excuses to live in other countries sometime soon. ...more info
  • Not his best, but still fantastic
    Once again, Sedaris manages to plumb the depths of his adolescence and later life to turn the minutiae and absurdity of life into comedic genius. It's not as good as some of his earlier stuff, but you'll still walk away happy you read it....more info
  • Tess's Kindle
    AAA+++Don't read this book in church or library!! It is too funny for quiet places. OMG, what a life! He clearly had a strange upbringing and survived that and became his own man somehow. I found his stories to be so interesting and never knew where they were leading. This book was more different than any I had ever read. "The lady on the plane" story was hilarious. Good job altogether. ...more info
  • Amazing
    I just love David Sedaris, plain and simple. Also, because I bought this book the book store owner said I had good taste and let me have half off on my purchases for the day....more info
  • Heartwarming, funny and sometime wince-worthy
    I hadn't read any of David Sedaris' essays or books before so this was my introduction to the author and I was glad to meet him.

    His essays are vignettes from his past that had me laughing, sighing wistfully and sometimes feeling a bit embarrassed for him but in a good way. His brutal honesty about himself, his family and friends was so much fun to read and his wit is as brutal as his honesty at times but always left me laughing.

    His modesty, sense of humor, insight and writing talent led me straight back here to order another of his collections. ...more info
  • Usual brilliance but not as strong as previous books
    Simply put the last story, or set of stories about quitting smoking, seem like filler. The ending feels more like snippets of stories instead of containing a beginning, middle and end. Even given that it is still very enjoyable and a great and quick read. 90% of the book is classic Sedaris hysterical, brilliant laugh out loud stories. If you are a fan you will love it, if you have never read a Sedaris book, check out Barrel Fever or an earlier title before reading this one, then read this one!. ...more info