Review of When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris

Review of When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David SedarisWhen You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
on June 3rd 2008
Genres: Humor, Form, Essays
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy on Amazon
ISBN: 9780316032513

"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 CatchingKeeping UpThe UnderstudyThis Old HouseBuddy, Can You Spare a Tie?Road TripsWhat I LearnedThat's AmoreThe Monster MashIn the Waiting RoomSolutions to Saturday's PuzzleAdult Figures Charging Toward a Concrete ToadstoolMemento MoriAll the Beauty You Will Ever NeedTown and CountryAerialThe Man in the HutOf Mice and MenApril in ParisCrybabyOld FaithfulThe Smoking Section

Let me preface this by saying I love David Sedaris so much, I cannot read him in public. If you didn’t already know, Sedaris writes memoirs, and his memoirs are hilarious anecdotes about his life. Whenever I flipped the page when reading Me Talk Pretty One Day, I would double over in laughter. The effect was repeated with his other books, Naked, Dress Your Family In Corderoy and Denim, and Holidays On Ice. I still haven’t read Barrel Fever.

In terms of When You Are Engulfed In Flames, I felt it was funny, however it wasn’t quite as gut-busting as his other books. Some of his anecdotes seemed to just drag on and on, especially his story about moving to Tokyo to quit smoking. However, there were a few gems. For example, his story about Helen — his crazy neighbor. I think the story of Helen works so well because we all know someone like Helen, we all know someone who is nutty and happy with being nutty. Whereas not very many people can relate to moving halfway around the world just to quit smoking.

When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris contained more stories about Hugh, Sedaris’s partner. Hugh is awesome to read about, and I can relate because my boyfriend keeps me functioning as well. My one wish pertaining to When You Are Engulfed In Flames is that I would have liked it if it contained more stories about his crazy childhood and mother. In his other writings, I find those to be his most touching and funny stories, perhaps it is because I can connect to them more than I can connect to his upper class lifestyle.

While reading When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris, I recommend you sip on a margarita, perhaps it will make the Tokyo section funnier.

Other Reviews of When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris:

I Wish I Lived In A Library – “there were a number of times where I literally burst out laughing

Sophisticated Dorkiness – “it felt more like a reading out of obligation

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About April (Books&Wine)

April is in her 30s and created Good Books And Good Wine. She works for a non-profit. April always has a book on hand. In her free time she can be found binge watching The Office with her husband and toddler, spending way too much time on Pinterest or exploring her neighborhood.


  1. I have trouble with Dave Sedaris. Everyone always just finds him so funny, and I've never understood it. I guess I will have to pass on this one, as it seems less funny.

    Although I think I would actually love the tokyo story that you didn't like so much.

  2. Preferably, I enjoy a crisp, refreshing white wine. So if you're looking for something along those lines, I’d go with JM Fonseca Twin Vines. Crisp, refreshing and light, this brand of wine goes down smoothly with just about everything. If you’d like to compare it, compare it to a Pinot Grigio, just more refreshing. I will leave the link for the wine below in case you seem interested. Hope you enjoy:

  3. I'm so hesitant to pick this one up. I keep hearing that it's not as good as the other ones…so I just keep putting it off.

  4. Definitely not Sedaris' best work. But any Sedaris is better than almost anyone else.

  5. Hi April, thanks for the review.
    Vicky recently posted..E Cigarette Battery MaintenanceMy Profile

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