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When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David…
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When You Are Engulfed in Flames (original 2008; edition 2008)

by David Sedaris

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6,350203615 (3.89)198
Member:miss_read
Title:When You Are Engulfed in Flames
Authors:David Sedaris
Info:Little, Brown (2008), Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library, To read
Rating:
Tags:fiction, humour, US, memoir, essays, collection, short stories, 2000s

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When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris (2008)

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Showing 1-5 of 201 (next | show all)
A really lovely book to take along on a trip. We listened to the audiobook, and I was definitely entertained. Sedaris' ability to mine his life for comic gold is really remarkable. ( )
  jscape2000 | Jul 8, 2014 |
When sitting down to consider the overall experience that I had when reading a writer like David Sedaris, never would it have occurred to me that I would get to show off my knowledge of Eric Havelock or the Parry-Lord thesis. I’ll spare you the details, but I promise the central idea is important: people used to saying things do so much differently than people used to writing things, even when those two sets of things are exactly the same. The example that Parry, Lord, and Havelock were most to cite was Homer, arguably the best-known western writer of pre-literacy. They say that Homer communicates things in such a way that would be very different, and even unnecessary in a literate society, because he simply didn’t have this thing we call “writing.”

Of course, the Parry-Lord thesis can quickly grow to be much more technically difficult than what I’ve said here, but the basic idea holds. When you’re reading something, the way you experience it is drastically different than from when you hear a raconteur “tell” it (especially a raconteur on the order of Homer). For about a decade, I’ve heard the occasional David Sedaris piece on NPR’s “This American Life” with host Ira Glass, who I imagine to be every bit as painfully awkward and borderline sociopathic as Sedaris is. I’ve never found Glass funny. He is what Philip Roth would have become had he taken up comedy, and one of the words that doesn’t come to mind when I think of Philip Roth is “comedian.” Sedaris, however, got the occasional chuckle out of me. I appreciate a sense of humor that’s off the beaten path, and his reflections on this or that – I somehow never seem to quite remember the content of his stories – did the trick.

So, I found this in a used bookstore the other day for three dollars (yes, yes, I know it’s a hardback, but even at Goodwill hardbacks are going for three dollars these days), thinking that I would make up for all those times of passing him up in the New Yorker to look at the cartoons. I finished the book yesterday, and if hard-pressed to match the plots of the stories with their titles, I’m still not sure I’d be able to do it – maybe because they hardly ever have anything to do with one another. But I suppose my point is: I find the writing to be incredibly flat, overly indulgent, repetitive, and too autobiographical (if such a criticism can be made). You will hear endlessly that he lives in France, of his international travels, his long-suffering partner Hugh, et cetera. These are incessantly and grindingly shoved in your face, so much so that the book begins to lose the sense that it might have an audience.

The lack of interest in the stories on the page is probably attributable to Sedaris’ whiny, effete voice and overall stage presence. He just so much sounds the persnickety curmudgeon that he can’t help but be occasionally funny. His voice – both its physicality and tender faux sentimentality – are lost on the page. I suppose what I really found funny was his unashamed prissiness, his unmitigated misanthropy – both available, at least to me, only when I hear him reading his stories to a live audience. While even the prissiness and misanthropy can get old after a while, they never even struck me while simply reading him on the page. My reaction to this collection (at least as presented here, in book form)? Eh. I could really take it or leave it. In the future, I’ll probably do more of the latter. ( )
  kant1066 | Jul 3, 2014 |
I try to wait as long as I can to read bestselling authors, the few that I'm interested in to begin with. Just to see what holds up. It's not that David Sedaris can't write, or that he doesn't have good ideas, or that he doesn't touch on subjects of merit. I got a couple of laughs and a few "Nice.." moments out of this. But I kept waiting to see if it really was going to be all about him, and it was, and that's not enough. I felt the way I feel about watching that umpteenth Woody Allen movie in which he shows up as the same irritating side character (when he isn't one of the main characters) who provides the supposedly trenchant and poignant and whatever else -ant type commentary on life and it sort of works until you realize he's a default character who is de rigueur in every film.

If David Sedaris were a little more trivial, he'd be a younger, less old school Andy Rooney; if he were a little breezier, he'd be a gay, childless,'90s Jean Kerr. But he's no Thurber. You actually have to be able to write about something and somebody else besides yourself to go there.
( )
  CSRodgers | May 3, 2014 |
I think Sedaris was a bit funnier when he mainly wrote about his miserable youth and crazy family...but I love reading about Hugh, too. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 6, 2014 |
i heard he's mellowed.
  cat-ballou | Jan 22, 2014 |
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For Ronnie Ruedrich
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My friend Patsy was telling me a story.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316143472, Hardcover)

"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
Aerial
The Man in the Hut
Of Mice and Men
April in Paris
Crybaby
Old Faithful
The Smoking Section

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:49 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A collection of essays celebrates the foibles of the author's everyday life in France and America, from an attempt to make coffee with water from a flower vase to a drug purchase in a North Carolina mobile home.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

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