David Sedaris, When You Are Engulfed in Flames

Ah, David Sedaris: he almost made me forget just how SICK I'd been for much of the previous weeks before the book club met to talk about his newest book, When You Are Engulfed in Flames (a title borrowed from an especially helpful hotel information sign he saw in Japan). I actually read this back in January, for a meeting two weeks ago today, but, well, you know. Life. Work. Stuff. On the positive side, my life isn't as chaotic as the one Sedaris represents as his own throughout his writing.

If you've read Sedaris, all you need to know is that this is more of what you've already read. Liked it? Then this one's for you. Not so much? This one neither.

If you haven't yet had what I think of as the pleasure of reading David Sedaris, this is a decent place to start (since all his books are basically the same, though with a different organizing principle). It's got the usual style of jokes, the usual excursions and travels, the usual cast of wildly idiosyncratic characters you're not sure would be unbearable or fun fun fun. One of my students said yesterday (when we talked about his essay "This Old House") that he's kind of like Stuart McLean, a reference which doesn't help my American readers even a little, but more apparently realistic. However, I loathe Stuart McLean's delivery in person, so I'm unable to appreciate his writing. Sedaris, now, there's a distinctly funny guy!


David L. said…
Welcome back, Richard! Good to hear you're feeling better.

As for your student's comparison, I'd say that David Sedaris is to Stuart McLean as a warm bubble bath at the end of a long day is to poking your eyes with a fork.... but that's just one humble analogist's opinion.

I can't imagine Stuart Mclean ever writing as wickedly wise and out of bounds and sly as "Possession", Sedaris's confessions of "house lust" while visiting Anne Frank's apartment.
richard said…
Well, yeah - Mclean drives me batty. I keep meaning to read him, because surely not ALL those listeners and readers are wrong about him, but his delivery pains me so much that I can't do it.

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