When You Are Engulfed in Flames

( 397 )

Overview

"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...

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Overview

"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

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Editorial Reviews

Christopher Muther
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.
Boston Globe
Nancy Dalva
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.
New York Observer
Judith Newman
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.
People
Mark Washburn
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.
Charlotte Observer
Whitney Pastorek
The preeminent humorist of his generation...His reluctant charm and talent for observing every inch of the human condition remain intact.
Entertainment Weekly
Christopher Muther - Boston Globe
"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."
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."
Judith Newman - People Magazine
"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."
Whitney Pastorek - Entertainment Weekly
"The preeminent humorist of his generation...His reluctant charm and talent for observing every inch of the human condition remain intact."
Mark Washburn - Charlotte Observer
"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."
Judith Newman - People
"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."
Vanessa Grigoriadis
[Sedaris] tallies up the last 25 years, the prime of his life, and isn't impressed by the sum: "How had 9,125 relatively uneventful days passed so quickly," he writes, "and how can I keep it from happening again?" As usual, Sedaris has lots of answers to the first question but not many to the second in this delightful compilation of essays circling the theme of death and dying, with nods to the French countryside, art collecting and feces.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

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.
Library Journal

Sedaris once again enchants and amuses with his observations about the absurdity of ordinary life situations in this, his sixth collection of essays. As wonderful as it is reading Sedaris's work, it's an even greater pleasure listening to him read it himself, as he provides just the right delivery and cadence to maximize the humor (four of the recordings are live). Track listings with titles are printed on each CD, allowing listeners to find their favorites easily. Highly recommended for all collections. [Audio clip available through www.hachettebookgroupusa.com; the Little, Brown hc, released in June, was an LJ Best Seller.-Ed.]
—Gloria Maxwell

Kirkus Reviews
Older, wiser, smarter and meaner, Sedaris (Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, 2004, etc.) defies the odds once again by delivering an intelligent take on the banalities of an absurd life. The author's faithful fans probably won't be turned off by his copyright-page admission that these pieces, most seen before in the New Yorker, are only "realish." They feel real, whether Sedaris is revealing his troubling obsession with a certain species of spider or describing a lift from a tow-truck driver who kept saying things like, "yes, indeedy, a little oral give-and-take would feel pretty good right about now"-the ring of truth adds to the book's horrified-laughter factor. The author still draws from the well of familial tragicomedy in pieces that dissect his parents' taste in modern art ("Adult Figures Charging Toward a Concrete Toadstool") and their reactions to what he wrote about them in his first book ("fifty pages later, they were boarding up the door and looking for ways to disguise themselves"). Most of the essays, however, chronicle expatriate life in England, France and Japan with his long-suffering and improbably talented boyfriend Hugh. Sedaris positions himself as a hapless Bertie Wooster to Hugh's Jeeves, lazily allowing his partner's mother to clean their apartment ("I just sit in a rocker, raising my feet every now and then so she can pass the vacuum") and marveling at Hugh's interest in, well, doing things. A highpoint is "All the Beauty You Will Ever Need," which starts as a rant about his boyfriend's ludicrous self-sufficiency ("Hugh beats underpants against river rocks or decides that it might be fun to grind his own flour") but twists into a sharp declaration of lovethat's all the more touching for its lack of sentimentality. Just when Sedaris seems to have disappeared down the rabbit hole of ironic introspection, he delivers a cracking blow of insight that leaves you reeling.
From the Publisher
"The new book by renowned gay humorist David Sedaris is even better on CD; Sedaris reads the stories, and his comedic timing adds another layer of wit to the already hilarious prose."—L.A. Times
L.A. Times
"The new book by renowned gay humorist David Sedaris is even better on CD; Sedaris reads the stories, and his comedic timing adds another layer of wit to the already hilarious prose."
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316154680
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 6/2/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 98,832
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

David  Sedaris

David Sedaris is the author of the books Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Holidays on Ice, Naked, and Barrel Fever. He isa regular contributor to The New Yorker and Public Radio International's "This American Life."

Biography

According to Time Out New York, "David Sedaris may be the funniest man alive." He's the sort of writer critics tend to describe not in terms of literary influences and trends, but in terms of what they choked on while reading his latest book. "I spewed a mouthful of pastrami across my desk," admitted Craig Seligman in his New York Times review of Naked.

Sedaris first drew national attention in 1992 with a stint on National Public Radio, on which he recounted his experiences as a Christmas elf at Macy's. He discussed "the code names for various posts, such as 'The Vomit Corner,' a mirrored wall near the Magic Tree" and confided that his response to "I'm going to have you fired" was the desire to lean over and say, "I'm going to have you killed." The radio pieces were such a hit that Sedaris, then working as a house cleaner, started getting offers to write movies, soap operas and Seinfeld episodes.

In subsequent appearances on NPR, Sedaris proved he wasn't just a velvet-clad flash in the pan; he's also wickedly funny on the subjects of smoking, speed, shoplifting and nervous tics. His work began appearing in magazines like Harper's and Mirabella, and his first book Barrel Fever, which included "SantaLand Diaries," was a bestseller. "These hilarious, lively and breathtakingly irreverent stories…made me laugh out loud more than anything I've read in years," wrote Francine Prose in the Washington Post Book World.

Since then, each successive Sedaris volume has zoomed to the top of the bestseller lists. In Naked, he recounts odd jobs like volunteering at a mental hospital, picking apples as a seasonal laborer and stripping woodwork for a Nazi sympathizer. The stocking stuffer-sized Holidays on Ice collects Sedaris' Christmas-themed work, including a fictional holiday newsletter from the homicidal stepmother of a 22-year-old Vietnamese immigrant ("She arrived in this house six weeks ago speaking only the words 'Daddy,' 'Shiny' and 'Five dollar now'. Quite a vocabulary!!!!!").

But Sedaris' best pieces often revolve around his childhood in North Carolina and his family of six siblings, including the brother who talks like a redneck gangsta rapper and the sister who, in a hilarious passage far too dirty to quote here, introduces him to the joys of the Internet. Sedaris' recent book Me Talk Pretty One Day describes, among other things, his efforts to learn French while helping his boyfriend fix up a Normandy farmhouse; he progresses "from speaking like an evil baby to speaking like a hillbilly. 'Is thems the thoughts of cows?' I'd ask the butcher, pointing to the calves' brains displayed in the front window."

Sedaris has been compared to American humorists such as Mark Twain, James Thurber and Dorothy Parker; Publisher's Weekly called him "Garrison Keillor's evil twin." Pretty heady stuff for a man who claims there are cats that weigh more than his IQ score. But as This American Life producer Ira Glass once pointed out, it would be wrong to think of Sedaris as "just a working Joe who happens to put out these perfectly constructed pieces of prose." Measured by his ability to turn his experiences into a sharply satirical, sidesplittingly funny form of art, David Sedaris is no less than a genius.

Good To Know

Sedaris got his start in radio after This American Life producer Ira Glass saw him perform at Club Lower Links in Chicago. In addition to his NPR commentaries, Sedaris now writes regularly for Esquire.

Sedaris's younger sister Amy is also a writer and performer; the two have collaborated on plays under the moniker "The Talent Family." Amy Sedaris has appeared onstage as a member of the Second City improv troupe and on Comedy Central in the series Strangers with Candy.

"If I weren't a writer, I'd be a taxidermist," Sedaris said in a chat on Barnes and Noble.com. According to the Boston Phoenix, his collection of stuffed dead animals includes a squirrel, two fruit bats, four Boston terriers and a baby ostrich.

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    1. Also Known As:
      David Raymond Sedaris (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      London, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 26, 1956
    2. Place of Birth:
      Johnson City, New York
    1. Education:
      B.F.A., School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 1987

Table of Contents

It's Catching 3

Keeping Up 11

The Understudy 20

This Old House 33

Buddy, Can You Spare a Tie? 49

Road Trips 63

What I Learned 73

That's Amore 82

The Monster Mash 109

In the Waiting Room 117

Solution to Saturday's Puzzle 125

Adult Figures Charging Toward a Concrete Toadstool 135

Memento Mori 148

All the Beauty You Will Ever Need 158

Town and Country 166

Aerial 176

The Man in the Hut 183

Of Mice and Men 195

April in Paris 205

Crybaby 217

Old Faithful 228

The Smoking Section 240

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 397 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(185)

4 Star

(118)

3 Star

(61)

2 Star

(24)

1 Star

(9)

Your Rating:

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 397 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2008

    Comedy at its finest

    Now, while I have heard a number of good things about David Sedaris' books, I have never actually read one before. Despite this, I was pretty excited about reading 'When You Are Engulfed in Flames', and I was not disappointed. Sedaris' newest book is a very funny collection of essays about ordinary everyday events in his life, or at least ordinary for him. All the stories in his book feel almost intertwined, possibly because they all to build up to a realization, almost like lessons he learned over time. Whether it is his realization that country spiders don't survive well in the city, or Sedaris eventually learning what makes one of his neighbors tick, Sedaris is very good at building a story over time. He can look at a number of events at different times and places, and see how he came to a better understanding because of these seemingly unrelated events. He also tends to make the simplest things seem more fun and exciting, such as quitting smoking. Not many people would decide to temporarily move across the world just to quit smoking. I think, in the end, David Sedaris is just skilled at comedy and story-telling in general. After all, isn't comedy just making the mundane amusing?

    13 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2009

    A little disappointing

    Maybe because I've read all of his other books I found this one a little disappointing. I only laughed out loud until I cried while reading one of the stories, while in the past much more frequently. But I will still keep reading whatever he writes, as I do enjoy his skewed way of looking at life.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 29, 2008

    Not Sedaris's Best

    David Sedaris offers yet another compilation of humorous life essays that are a pale comparison to other hilarious books he's previously written. The younger Sedaris sharing family stories is far funnier than this newly reformed wiser man attempting to filter out impure unhealthy habits. Always a pleasure to read his stories, but this is not his best.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Hot mess

    I love David Sedaris, but this book is a DISASTER. It's hard to believe that he's the author. There are few things worse than looking forward to a new book by a favorite author and instead being sold a pile of garbage. It's not funny, it's not insightful. This book reads like Sedaris gathered up all of the stories he'd thrown away over years of writing- the ones too awful for anyone else to see, and then had them published to see if any of us were dumb enough to read them.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 26, 2008

    Never heard of him before

    Ok, I am an avid reader, but I had never heard of David Sedaris before. A friend loaned me this book she had picked up at a second hand book store, said 'read it, it is hysterical'. I was up to the challenge. Never have I read a book as funny and mocking on the top layer, but acknowleding the sad and ugly things just under that surface. He says the things that we all think, and some that we hadn't thought of yet. He is a master with words and I am defintly going to purchase my own copy of 'when you are engulfed in flames' so that I can have one all my own (with the dust cover) to read over again. My favorite line in the whole book was on page 233 "Sometimes the sins you haven't commited are all you have to hold on to." pure, dark, and simple. love it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2008

    Funny and Insightful

    This is a good book to read when you're looking for a light funny read. The author helps you not to take life so seriously. I¿d recommend it for all adults.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 8, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    When You Are Engulfed in Hilarity...then you must be listening to David Sedaris.

    A few months ago, a friend loaned me the audio book of Sedaris' earlier book DRESS YOUR FAMILY IN CORDUROY AND DENIM. I listened to most of it in one sitting on a long drive between Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia. The next time I had to make the drive, I walked into B&N and with the firm knowledge that I wanted another Sedaris audiobook. I was already aware of his writing from his contributions to THIS AMERICAN LIFE (just about the best thing on broadcast radio). Listening to these audiobooks has been like nursing an exotic and decadant dessert that never makes your teeth ache.

    If you are the kind of person who enjoys essays and memoirs, I would definitely recommend Sedaris, and WHEN YOU ARE ENGULFED IN FLAMES particularly. If you don't mind that the author is not always entirely likeable, Sedaris will be a good fit. In some ways I've enjoyed him as much as Augusten Burroughs (RUNNING WITH SCISSORS, DRY, A WOLF AT THE TABLE), although Sedaris does not come across as mean as Burroughs can.

    I'm a little compulsive and definitely a completist. I will probably read or listen to everything that David Sedaris has published over the next few months. I will then loan all these to my friends and family. I will then be bewildered when they are not as wildly ecstatic about him as I have become. That's the way it is with me. I'm weird. If you are the kind of weird who enjoys Augusten Burroughs (memoir), Sarah Vowell (essay), and Chris Moore (absurdist humor), then I feel reasonably confident that you will be in love with the writing of David Sedaris.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Spot-on, witty, and utterly relatable.

    I've also read "Naked" and "Me Talk Pretty One Day," and of the three, this is by far my favorite. Sedaris does an excellent job of taking somewhat different tales and weaving them together so that the book in its entirety is not disjointed. I kept finding myself thinking, "I've thought/experienced exactly the same thing and could never articulate it as well as he does." He says the things that we are too polite to discuss out loud, with riotous results. A page-turner worthy of a second read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 7, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    David Sedaris delivers another dose of humor!

    Although I've read all of Sedaris' books, I continue to anticipate the next one as if it is something new. "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" does contain several essays found in his previous books, however, they still have the same LOL results. I would highly recommend "Holidays on Ice" for Holiday reading.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2008

    Funniest Book I've Ever Read!!!

    This book is laugh outloud hilarious! I would recommend it to anyone with an open mind and great sense of humor! If you didn't like this book, you've got serious issues and are obviously closed minded. I loved it and will probably read it many more times as the years go by!!! I love David Sedaris and can't wait for new material!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2008

    Not my style¿

    David Sedaris style is understated humor. When Your Are Engulfed In Flames is a collection of his short stories and essays. I have not read any of Mr. Sedaris¿ previous books. I did find a few humorous moments, but nothing that made me laugh aloud or even brought a little chuckle. However, that does not make Sedaris a bad writer it makes his style not my style.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2008

    Train Ride Read

    Mr. Sedaris is a great essay and memoir writer. I must confess that this book does not hold up to the hype of his previous books, but this book holds a sense of togetherness in the life of Mr. Sedaris until now. I would recommend this easy read to other readers who enjoy simplicity with a dab of twists and turns that Sedaris always has in store for the audience.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2008

    Been here, read that

    In this latest collection, David Sedaris provides literary proof for the cliche 'going to the well once too often.' I couldn't escape the feeling of 'been there, read that' while perusing these essays. True, Sedaris has always relied on the subjects of family, language difficulties, his relationship, and his love affair with smoking for his work, but he usually provides some new percptions that catch the reader off guard. Not here. Make no mistake, even repetitive, derivative Sedaris can be droll and amusing. And if he is going to be derivative,there are worse sources then his ownn writings to use as a source. Not bad, but I had hoped for better.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2008

    So Good

    This book is admittedly different from some of Mr. Sedaris' earlier work. I agree that it is, at times, dark, but I don't think it was without meaning. His honesty comes through about his present life - it seems that he is more comfortable talking about topics which before were off-limits - we get to know his relationshp with Hugh better in this book, which, to this point, has been just tangentially explored. I think he is a genius, and I love that he is able to give us a different perspective on everyday occurrences. Can't wait for the next one.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 2, 2013

    Hilarious. A must read!

    this is hilarious. david sedaris is hysterical, leaves no one untouched, and tells his tale with wry humor. love this!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2013

    I don't even want to rate this.

    Only reason why? I need to post this.

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  • Posted February 1, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    It's unfortunate that one star is the lowest rating you can give

    It's unfortunate that one star is the lowest rating you can give a book. This book is nothing short of pornographic. Sedaris stoops as low as anyone can, covering topics ranging from drug use and homosexuality to epic levels of erotic and perverted sex - including but not limited to bestiality.It is a sad example of today's "literature" and sadder still that this book and its writer have been touted as best-selling. What this book is, is testamony to just how desensitized society has become to the appalling.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2012

    Amazingly hilarious.

    That is all.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2012

    Freaking awesome!

    This is....freaking awesome!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2012

    Hilarious!

    If you have a dry quirky sense of humor, you will love this book. Sedaris discusses everything from flaming mice to giving skeletons as gifts to loving Kabuki theater. This collection of experiences, rants and observations by Sedaris is one of my favorites. Not since Me Talk Pretty One Day have I laughed so much!

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