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When You Are Engulfed in Flames [Paperback]

David Sedaris
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 2 2009
"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 Catching
Keeping Up
The Understudy
This Old House
Buddy, Can You Spare a Tie?
Road Trips
What I Learned
That's Amore
The Monster Mash
In the Waiting Room
Solutions to Saturday's Puzzle
Adult Figures Charging Toward a Concrete Toadstool
Memento Mori
All the Beauty You Will Ever Need
Town and Country
The Man in the Hut
Of Mice and Men
April in Paris
Old Faithful
The Smoking Section

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Sedaris's sparkling essays always shimmer more brightly when read aloud by the author. And his expert timing, mimicry and droll asides are never more polished than during live performances in front of an audience. Happily, four of the 22 pieces are live recordings, and listeners can hear Sedaris's energy increase from the roaring, rolling laughter of the appreciative audience. Sedaris's studio recording of his 10-page Of Mice and Men runs 16 minutes, while the live recording of Town and Country, which runs the same length in print, expands to 22 minutes thanks to an audience that often doesn't let him finish a sentence without making him pause for laughter to subside. The studio recordings usually begin with an acoustic bass and brief sound effect (a buzzing fly, the lighting of a cigarette, the clinking of ice in a drink, etc.). Sedaris's brilliant magnum opus, The Smoking Section (about his successful trip to Tokyo is quit smoking) stretches across the final two CDs. A Little, Brown hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 28). (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.


"It's not just that Sedaris's crisp prose is humorous. What makes his work a consistent joy to read is his deliciously skewed vision of the world, and his deadpan delivery."—Christopher Muther, Boston Globe

"The Sedaris genius is to be incredibly particular, not to mention peculiar, and yet take fantastic and rapid leaps to the universal. . . . He'll be telling some weird story, and all of a sudden, just at the end, it turns out not only to be about him, but also about you. He's a master at evoking fellow feeling."—Nancy Dalva, New York Observer

"David Sedaris is horribly observant. He sees things as they are.... He'll be telling some weird story, and all of a sudden, just at the end, it turns out not only to be about him, but also about you."—Nancy Dalva, New York Observer

"What makes Sedaris's work transcendent is its humanity: He adores some truly awful people, yet he invests them with dignity and even grace.... He's the best there is."—Judith Newman, People

"The preeminent humorist of his generation...His reluctant charm and talent for observing every inch of the human condition remain intact." —Whitney Pastorek, Entertainment Weekly

"Sedaris is certainly worthy of hero worship-he so breezily translates the landscape through his bent, prismatic view that he makes you forget what a skillful narrator he is."—Mark Washburn, Charlotte Observer

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny and thought provoking July 3 2008
David Sedaris' managed to write a stream of consciousness set of reminiscences which were hilarious, sometimes upsetting, brave and often thought provoking. He talked about the kind of embarassing or uncomfortable moments that most of us try to forget right after they've occured with both humour and honesty. His section on how he quit smoking was brilliant and really very insightful about the whole subject of addiction. I think what I liked so much about this book apart from just how funny it was is that it was filled with insight without ever becoming pompous. All in all, a really good book that makes you laugh out loud, think about difficult topics, and read far later in the night than you meant to because it's so hard to put down.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Self-Absorption Driven to Laughter Nov. 18 2008
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Laugh at yourself and the whole world laughs with you. It's hard to write humorous essays that stand the test of time. Will Rogers realized that and just read the newspaper to audiences while adding an occasionally wry quip to get huge laughs. Put those messages into a book, and they wouldn't have lasted.

I haven't heard David Sedaris perform in person (which he does as readings), but I'm told he's marvelous. If you have had that pleasure, you will undoubtedly hear his voice, know his timing, and see his expressions as you read this witty, self-deprecating book. I suspect that such an imagined performance would easily turn this into a five-star book.

Proust waxed poetic about his memories of a madeleine (a shell-shaped cake in the France of his youth) in stream of consciousness prose. Sedaris does the same thing for a painful boil on his derriere, his horrible inability to learn new languages, and his desire to show a little more plumpness in his derriere. The results are equally memorable . . . but much more amusing in the case of Sedaris.

Sedaris likes to put together mosaics of seemingly unconnected memories that when combined show a different image and send a different message. It's a little like a Chuck Close portrait.

Like the best humorists, he takes us into her personal life . . . into the kinds of details that few of us would openly share with the public. In exchange for yielding his privacy, he helps us see ourselves in his experiences. Who hasn't struggled with a foreign language with embarrassing consequences? Who hasn't wanted to be a little more in some aspect of their lives? Who hasn't had trouble getting rid of a bad habit?
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I've been a fan of David Sedaris for a few years now, and have read and re-read his books many times, often for the novel experience (for me) of laughing out loud while reading; few writers are as honest and funny.

This book didn't make me laugh out loud, but I enjoyed it hugely nonetheless, it is a bit deeper, a bit darker, and perhaps more thoughtful and personal than his previous writing.

I look forward to more writing from this author, and I congratulate him on his accomplishment with this latest book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Very Entertaining Oct. 24 2013
By Bookie
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I love David Sedaris. He is a master of his craft. This book made me laugh until I cried.
I highly recommend it.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read July 23 2013
By Tara
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Very funny, he writes what I sometimes think. And is not ashamed! The last story is the best, I too no longer smoke.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable March 16 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the first David Sedaris book I have read so I cannot compare it his other works, but having read it I will definitely seek out other books he has written. I found this an enjoyable meditation on the foibles of the the author's life, family and loves. It was like peeking behind the curtain of someone's private life and feeling okay with laughing about what you find there. Irreverent and very funny with moments of seriousness and even slight tinges of sadness. I book I would recommend to friends.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What to do When... Aug. 14 2008
What to do when you are engulfed in flames?? This funny set of personal anecdotes from David Sedaris is clever, witty and downright hilarious. This is my first David Sedaris book and it certainly won't be my last.

Among some of the best "Sedaris moments" include: the long arduous yet funny attempts to stop smoking, his obsessions with his parents, what to do when your neighbor is a sex offender, and hilarious attempts to buy a human skeleton.

The book is universally funny and is meant to be read aloud for maximum humor effect. One of the better books I've read this year.
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