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Read When You Are Engulfed In Flames (2008)

When You Are Engulfed in Flames (2008)

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4.02 of 5 Votes: 5
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0316143472 (ISBN13: 9780316143479)
little brown and company

When You Are Engulfed In Flames (2008) - Plot & Excerpts

Here's my take on Sedaris, or maybe my take on Sedaris before I listened to this book: Naked is easily his best work because it's his most thorough, his most unencumbered by his own fame. If we were to compare his oeuvre to MTV's The Real World, Naked is the original New York season (despite not being Sedaris's first book). In New York, the cast members were people already living in the city (with the Alabama exception) and trying to make a living; the whole "be on TV" part of it was something they dealt with in the name of free housing. Now, of course, teens run at the chance to go live in some other city just to "have their lives taped," just for the fame it might bring, and what they actually do on the show is dull as a result. Naked is the masterpiece because the essays therein are longer and more satisfying; the whole thing is memoir in its finest form of sifting through the past to let someone understand how life (or maybe just a life) gets lived.Then he got wildly famous and was able to publish any old essay in any old magazine. This, I recognize, is a factor of his talent both as a writer and a humorist, not a factor of his name. Still, even as "far back" as Me Talk Pretty One Day, I left much of the essays with a sense of incompletion. "Picka Pocketoni"? Why wasn't this narrator doing anything? It wasn't enough just to stand there and report, I felt.A lot of WYAEiF is about how wealthy and glamorous Sedaris's life is, and how wealthy he was growing up, which is something I'd never really sensed before. He talks about the cork-lined dining room at his parents' house with the (at the time) contemporary Danish modern furniture. He talks about the $20K he spent to quit smoking by moving to Tokyo for three months. He mentions an $8K first-class ticket he bought. He mentions a lot of airplane rides; I think at least three of the essays have their roots in something that happened to D.S. while flying across the Atlantic. This smacks to me of a writer who's run out of things to write about; and yet there are essays about old neighbors ("That's Amore", one of the collection's best), so it seems Sedaris still has enough memories to last a few more books.I heard that in some interview somewhere, Sedaris confessed that he was getting to the point in his life where he'd act in a scene explicitly for the purposes of creating something to write about. Maybe Sedaris has a history of this (I can't imagine he just wanted to up and go to a nudist colony on his own; clearly, he saw great material in the exercise) but something about the heft of those earlier essays ("Santaland Diaries", too) makes them seem more honest. In the interview, Sedaris was talking specifically about the decision to cough so hard on a plane that his throat lozenge would be expelled from his mouth. He thought, Let's see what happens, and coughed. This action begins one of the essays in this book, and it's never revealed as constructed.I'm not aligning myself with that camp of Memoir Exposers For The Truth. My complaint isn't that Sedaris makes things up. It's that at one time, behind the essays, was this guy David Sedaris, or as close to the guy as we could get, and now it seems that behind all these essays lies "The Writer David Sedaris". I'm not making myself clear.(Which, incidentally, is one thing I can't fault Sedaris for. His timing in writing is impeccable and his descriptions apt and lovely in places. Oh and funny. The book in just incredibly, unendingly funny. In short: get the audiobook.)

While I certainly won't call this the best David Sedaris collection that you can purchase for yourself, I will say that any David Sedaris is worth reading -- and thus, my star rating. It would probably be more like three and a half if Goodreads did half stars the way LibraryThing does, but ah well.The observation I have for this collection is that with Mr. Sedaris giving up drinking, drugs, and smoking... his stories seem to be a bit more tame. Much more focus on his boyfriend Hugh or stories tinged with a bit of melancholy. The NY Times mentioned the story about his parents' art collection, which is perhaps one of the better crafted stories. My favorite, however, is called "Keeping Up" -- which talks about couples arguing on vacation and features Mr. Sedaris rehearsing his "I'm leaving you" speech to his boyfriend after Hugh's fast walking leaves Sedaris lost and alone in a zoo in Sydney. In general, it's nice to see Hugh making more of an appearance in Sedaris' stories. Sedaris' previous volumes have focused so much on his siblings that when you realize how long he and Hugh have been together, you're a bit surprised that it's taken Sedaris this long to mine his significant other for material. In the past, he's popped up every now and then, but he's a much more substantial figure in this collection. As with Sedaris' other works, though, one can't help but wonder how his friends and relatives deal with having details of their lives published and sold. Unlike his parents and sisters, though, Sedaris consistently paints Hugh in a good light and one can't help but wonder how Sedaris can function without Hugh at times in this collection.In any case, while you might want to wait to purchase a paperback version, this collection does have several good chuckles. I might not have been struggling for breath as I have once or twice in the past ("Six to Eight Black Men" comes to mind), but I still think that anyone who enjoys Sedaris should not miss this most recent offering.

What do You think about When You Are Engulfed In Flames (2008)?

You know, Montambo is right, this is Sedaris' best book. While earlier in his career the author seemed to go for easy laughs (Look at my brother! What an ass!) or convenient self-loathing something seems to have clicked this time around that transforms the work from magazine article quality to literature. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Sedaris sounds like a real writer in this book; the essays flow unforced and genuine insight accompanies the punch lines. Sedaris doesn't seem to be writing for performance here as much as writing for the page; that's a welcome change, in my eyes. I enjoyed When You Are Engulfed in Flames and heck, I'd read it again.

I think David Sedaris is extremely funny, and also a very deep thinker. He has a way of writing that both entertains and makes you think. He has absolutely no compunction, which I like, but sometimes he gets a little rank, and for me at least, crosses that line of what is in good taste and what just shouldn't be said. I forgave him of his imperfections a long time ago, not that it is my place or job to do that, but in my mind at least, I just accept him for what he is. And what he is is brilliant with human frailties, not so different from me. Minus the brilliant part. His books are not for everyone so be advised if you are easily offended. But if you want some side-splitting laughs coupled with some very deep and meaningful writing, perhaps like me, you can look past the human aspect and into the heart of a great writer. There you will see much to be learned.

I don't quite get the people who say this isn't as funny as his other books- I thought it was plenty funny. The comment about having a 400 dollar sweater that looked like it had been thrown to a tiger and thus was already ruined and incapable of being further ruined.. that made me laugh. And saying a cracker tasted like penis. And lots of little one-liners. But what's really awesome about his stuff is that it's MORE than just a bunch of one-liners. He really is a very observant, intelligent, hilarious writer. I think.Admittedly a few times he seemed to kind of go.. off track, and there were all these little asides that didn't seem to be related to the main theme, or whatever. So, I guess, some of the essays were a bit less cohesive than usual. But, he can pull it off. I could listen to him ramble about anything.Also I LOVE his descriptions of his relationship with Hugh. It's so awesome that he can complain so much about his partner and yet do so in a way that indicates clearly that he is deeply in love with him. It's adorable.Oh, and speaking of adorable. I listened to the audio-book version of this, too. If you haven't heard Sedaris read his work, you're missing out. He's excellent..Also: Because I'm a spaz for Chip Kidd I have to say this: he designed the cover ISN'T IT AWESOME? I think it's really apt for this book, because, besides several literal references to skeletons and smoking in this book.. I think it captures the overall mood.. there is a lot of reference to death, but it's all relatively lighthearted and humorous.. as is an image of a skeleton smoking a cigarette. Kind of awesomely dark and a bit morbid, I think.

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