Book Review: When You Are Engulfed In Flames

David Sedaris is the sort of author many in my fantasy-centric audience may not be familiar with, but he is an internationally renowned speaker and essayist. He’s a humorist of a particular bent – more likely found in a lounge with wine and a nice jacket than on your favorite YouTube channel. I’m all for some cultural and generational cross-pollination. When You Are Engulfed In Flames dissects love, relationships, age, and addiction with a keen wit.

The Basics:

Title: When You Are Engulfed In Flames
Author: David Sedaris
Genre: Humor, Comedy, Non-Fiction, Memoir
Publisher: Little Brown and Co, 2008

Spoiler-Free Summary:

How to summarize a collection of creative non-fiction without a true unifying theme? The title pulls from the back quarter of the collection – the longest continuous story: the author’s 3-month sabbatical in Japan to shock himself into quitting smoking through an overturned routine. It seems a small thing – at his age, the damage to his health may already be done, what’s the harm if he fails? – but in Sedaris’ hands, small problems become grand. He holds up a mirror to life, and makes the reader pause and think yes, that’s exactly how the world is.

“It’s the things you don’t buy that stick with you the longest.”

Momento Mori, When You Are Engulfed In Flames

That’s his brand. His stories are equal parts self-deprecating and poignant. You see your neighbor; your family; then, ultimately, yourself in his unassumingly clever prose. What would you do if you found yourself in your underwear in the waiting room of a foreign doctor’s office? Barraged by a crudely braggadocios taxi driver? What would David do?

Read, and find out.

“‘Did you tell my mother to crawl on her hands and knees across the living room floor?’
‘Not Exactly. I just suggested that if she was going to dust the baseboards, that would be the best way to do it.'”

It’s Catching, When You Are Engulfed in Flames


Why This Book Is For You?

Do you enjoy British humor? Not farcical kind like Monty Python, A Bit of Fry and Laurie, or Taskmaster. No, I mean the subtle joy of The Last of the Summer Wine or Keeping Up Appearances. Do you unironically shop at thrift shops and listen to NPR? Do people call you an ‘old soul’? If dry situational wit stirs your tea, you will enjoy David Sedaris’ writing.

Where Can You Find More?

Check out his website, or his contributor page over at a little rag called The New Yorker.

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