- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (June 2 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316154687
- ISBN-13: 978-0316154680
- Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.2 x 21 cm
- Shipping Weight: 295 g
- Average Customer Review: 21 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #27,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
When You Are Engulfed in Flames Paperback – Jun 2 2009
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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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"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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Top customer reviews
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?
These themes and more are explored in well-written, interesting style that lacks only an overriding sense of meaning (other than that we are all a mess) to be important prose. Some of them are hilarious, breaking into images of burlesque skits in your mind. Others are more poignant than funny, using wry humor. But he mostly doesn't stretch; rather, he expresses who he is and how he sees life.
As a former smoker, former heavy drinker, former drug user, and current homosexual with a fascination for feeding spiders, some aspect of his life will intersect with yours. But at the same time, he has exotic tastes (spending a lot of time in Normandy, learning not to smoke in Tokyo, and traveling from city to city reading his essays while staying at the finest hotels) that will make his lens different than yours. You'll never see the world the same way, as Proust changed our perceptions of madeleines.
Is it worth the trip? Yes, but I advise small reading doses. It goes down more smoothly that way.
A personal thing - I can't read an entire Sedaris book in one go - his quirks and life decisions, while humourous, can get irritating after a while. Sometimes you just want to yell at him, "If you just didn't do X, then you'd have no problem!", but then there woulnd't be a story to write about. So, I guess, in small sittings, this book can be very entertaining.
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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I highly recommend it.
A truly embarrassing book to read.Read more
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