When You Are Engulfed in Flames

So, how does one go about reviewing David Sedaris’ When You Are Engulfed in Flames?  I’ll admit I have been a fan ever since catching him reading some of his material on an appearance with David Letterman many years back.  Indeed, between that, his “Santaland Diaries” bit on NPR, as well as other contributions, you sort of know what you are getting.  What can be said about Sedaris’ latest is that it delivers on all of the dimensions that you do expect.  The characters of David, Hugh, his family, Normandy (which is featured quite a bit) and the Rooster (who is sadly underutilized).  In particular his reminiscence of furniture and an old boarding house in Chapel Hill he used to live in, was particularly guffaw-inducing.  And as usual, he still manages to deftly combine with with some poignancy, such as his recollection of the old lady who he befriended (probably too strong a word) in his apartment.  The book ends with a seventy-page or so larger story about his quest to quit smoking, which is a longer form than I usually expect from him – but a good story to end with all the same.   Really, Sedaris’ books are critic proof, and the only question to ask was – is this funny, and was it worth reading?  Wait, I guess that is two questions.  Anyway, I certainly enjoyed it.


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