Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Favorite Reads: When You Are Engulfed in Flames

My Favorite Reads
Each week I am featuring one of my favorite reads from the past. April is National Humor Month and this week's funny book is:
When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

Summary (from the publisher):
"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).

Why I chose this book:
As always, David is hilarious, poignant, and occasionally makes me squirm. I didn't read this right away as I was pretty certain (and it turns out, correct) in thinking most of the essays in this collection I'd either heard David read in concert, or read in The New Yorker. But they're still always funny. I laughed and laughed when he said Normandy, France is just like West Virginia but without the possums. The title story I hadn't read before, and his trip to Japan was of course ridiculous and honest and also reminiscent of Me Talk Pretty One Day (more foreign language classes, yay!) I am very glad Mr. Sedaris was able to quit smoking, and hope that means he will be around for ages to come, to continue to amuse with sharp sticks and irony. While I did read this one in print, David Sedaris is an author who I strongly recommend people listen to on audio. He's much, much funnier reading the essays himself. I've seen him in person three times, too. Always worth it!


Whitney said...

I love David Sedaris, he so ridiculously funny and his high-pitched voice adds a lot. My favorite story in this novel is of him buying a skeleton for Hugh. Persons around me must have thought that there was something wrong, as I was crying I was laughing so hard.

Alyce said...

The only book of David Sedaris' that I have attempted to read was Holidays on Ice. It just wasn't my cup of tea, which makes me feel like the odd one out because everyone seems to like his writing. I don't know if it was that particular book, or if it really does indicate that I wouldn't like his other writing too. I guess I'll just have to give one of his other books a try at some point.

Carin Siegfried said...

Alyce, try him on audio. You probably can find his Christmas elf story online for free. He's a bazillion times funnier when he's reading the essays. If you still don't like him then yeah, give up. As much as I love him, no one is liked by everyone, nor should they be. That would be boring if everyone liked the same things!

Laurel-Rain Snow said...

I've had my eye on this book for some time...now I'm going to have to check it out!

Here's mine:


Gilion at Rose City Reader said...

I second the recommendation to listen to the audio. I went from lukewarm fan after reading Holidays on Ice with my eyes to raving lunatic fan after listening to Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim.

I was a somewhat disappointed in When You Are Engulfed in Flames. It never made me laugh so heard I cried, like some of the earlier ones I listened to.