David Sedaris's When You Are Engulfed in Flames has some seriously funny shit. I had an audiobook copy of this title, and it was great hearing David Sedaris himself reading his very personal essays. A few were even recorded live in front of an audience, as I heard lots of guffaws and heartfelt applause from people. What I would give to see and hear Sedaris! Probably an arm and a leg. Or 3 of my fat fingers and toes.
The essays in When You Are Engulfed in Flames are so personal that, if I were in Sedaris's shoes, I would've holed up in a remote town in Albania, or maybe just packed everything to live with Eskimos. The collection, released in 2008, features 22 essays. So that's 22 funny little pieces I listened to on my way to work, while queueing in the bank, and doing the number 2. Looking at the list of these essays, I am amazed at how Sedaris is able to see the humorous and the ridiculous in everything (e.g., while taking a taxi from La Guardia to NYC, strolling along the streets in Paris, taking train rides in Tokyo).
The essays are pretty candid as well. I cringed when his partner, Hugh, pricked his boil and out came tablespoons of pus streaked with blood. I felt a closeness to him when he described his preference for unstylish clothes. Sedaris is my cool gay uncle, the one everyone goes to for advice, the writer who doesn't mind being politically incorrect, the person who chooses to be the wallflower, the absentminded bloke in the corner.
A handful of essays have become my favorites. In "The Understudy," he talks about the babysitter who didn't really do anything till the last few days when his parents were to come back from vacation. "Buddy, Can You Spare a Tie?" debunks the myth that gay guys are born with a fabulous sense of fashion. He talks about his undergraduate days in Princeton in "What I Learned" and his goal of majoring in killing one's parents. Bestiality is the highlight of the uber funny "Town and Country," where a cabdriver also attempts to discuss the importance of "getting pussy" with him.
My favorite would have to be the last piece though, which is entitled "The Smoking Section." This is also the longest essay in When You Are Engulfed in Flames and also the funniest. Sedaris chronicles his attempts to quit smoking by, goodness, moving temporarily to Japan. The title of this book actually came from a warning printed on a card in the hotel where Sedaris and his partner were staying: what should one do when one is engulfed in flames. You gotta hand it to the Japanese.
Sedaris never fails to bring in the laughs. I constantly had to keep myself in check, making sure that I don't laugh out loud while I was on the bus. Although, I think that really happened, twice in fact. I couldn't care less. I had my Sedaris and he was good company.
Read this book if:
- You know that the best audiobooks are the ones read by the authors themselves.
- You've quit smoking, and you know how hard it is.
- Sedaris rhymes with Dolores rhymes with clitoris.