Wednesday, October 22, 2008

When You Are Engulfed in Flames

David Sedaris' fifth collection of stories, "When You Are Engulfed in Flames," is, like the others, hilarious. To enjoy his self-effacing humor and appreciate the often preposterous situations he finds himself in, you have to get over the fact that he is openly gay and not shy about his preferences and peculiarities. If you can accept that, you'll be treated to laugh-out-loud reading.

Sedaris has made a living out of writing stories and then reading them to audiences. That his stories are intended to be heard is the strength of his writing. The author Kurt Vonnegut used to say that he wrote novels like a series of jokes, a few paragraphs building to a punchline. Sedaris takes the same approach.

Beyond the belly laughs, Sedaris is a keen observer of human nature, a quality that has become more apparent with each succeeding book. Among the human frailties he expounds on in this book is addiction, and his description of quitting cigarettes will strike a chord with anyone who has ever tried it.


Brant said...

Sedaris' books have never failed to make me laugh out loud. "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim" or "Me Talk Pretty One Day" or "Holidays on Ice." They're all hilarious. The stories about his brother, The Rooster, (and his bucket) and the family Christmas letter in "Holidays" are especially entertaining.

Anonymous said...

Sedaris is absolutely my favorite author. I was lucky enough to see him last year at Carnegis Music Hall in Pittsburgh, and his reading adds a whole new dimension to his stories. Get any of his live CDs and you'll see what I mean. His essay "Six to Eight Black Men" is flat out hilarious when you hear him read it. Now that Christmas is almost here, those who have never read "The Santaland Diaries" should do so right now. And if you've never read his essay about his "affair" with Mike Tyson, you will bust a gut when you do. It's in his "Naked" collection.