When You Are Engulfed in Flames
It's early autumn 1964. Two straight-A students head off to school, and when only one of them returns home Chesney Yelverton is coaxed from retirement and assigned to what proves to be the most difficult and deadly - case of his career. From the shining notorious East Side, When You Are Engulfed in Flames confirms once again that David Sedaris is a master of mystery and suspense.Or how about...when set on fire, most of us either fumble for our wallets or waste valuable time feeling sorry for ourselves. David Sedaris has studied this phenomenon, and his resulting insights may very well save your life. Author of the national bestsellers Should You Be Attacked By Snakes and If You Are Surrounded by Mean Ghosts, David Sedaris, with When You Are Engulfed in Flames, is clearly at the top of his game.Oh, all right...David Sedaris has written yet another book of essays (his sixth). Subjects include a parasitic worm that once lived in his mother-in-law's leg, an encounter with a dingo, and the recreational use of an external catheter. Also recounted is the buying of a human skeleton and the author's attempt to quit smoking In Tokyo.Master of nothing, at the dead center of his game, Sedaris proves that when you play with matches, you sometimes light the whole pack on fire.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames Details

TitleWhen You Are Engulfed in Flames
Author
FormatHardcover
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 3rd, 2008
PublisherLittle Brown and Company
ISBN0316143472
ISBN-139780316143479
Number of pages323 pages
Rating
GenreHumor, Nonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Writing, Essays, Short Stories, Comedy, Audiobook, Funny, Biography, Biography Memoir

When You Are Engulfed in Flames Review

  • Dusty Myers
    July 11, 2008
    Here's my take on Sedaris, or maybe my take on Sedaris before I listened to this book: Naked is easily his best work because it's his most thorough, his most unencumbered by his own fame. If we were to compare his oeuvre to MTV's The Real World, Naked is the original New York season (despite not being Sedaris's first book). In New York, the cast members were people already living in the city (with the Alabama exception) and trying to make a living; the whole "be on TV" part of it was something Here's my take on Sedaris, or maybe my take on Sedaris before I listened to this book: Naked is easily his best work because it's his most thorough, his most unencumbered by his own fame. If we were to compare his oeuvre to MTV's The Real World, Naked is the original New York season (despite not being Sedaris's first book). In New York, the cast members were people already living in the city (with the Alabama exception) and trying to make a living; the whole "be on TV" part of it was something they dealt with in the name of free housing. Now, of course, teens run at the chance to go live in some other city just to "have their lives taped," just for the fame it might bring, and what they actually do on the show is dull as a result. Naked is the masterpiece because the essays therein are longer and more satisfying; the whole thing is memoir in its finest form of sifting through the past to let someone understand how life (or maybe just a life) gets lived.Then he got wildly famous and was able to publish any old essay in any old magazine. This, I recognize, is a factor of his talent both as a writer and a humorist, not a factor of his name. Still, even as "far back" as Me Talk Pretty One Day, I left much of the essays with a sense of incompletion. "Picka Pocketoni"? Why wasn't this narrator doing anything? It wasn't enough just to stand there and report, I felt.A lot of WYAEiF is about how wealthy and glamorous Sedaris's life is, and how wealthy he was growing up, which is something I'd never really sensed before. He talks about the cork-lined dining room at his parents' house with the (at the time) contemporary Danish modern furniture. He talks about the $20K he spent to quit smoking by moving to Tokyo for three months. He mentions an $8K first-class ticket he bought. He mentions a lot of airplane rides; I think at least three of the essays have their roots in something that happened to D.S. while flying across the Atlantic. This smacks to me of a writer who's run out of things to write about; and yet there are essays about old neighbors ("That's Amore", one of the collection's best), so it seems Sedaris still has enough memories to last a few more books.I heard that in some interview somewhere, Sedaris confessed that he was getting to the point in his life where he'd act in a scene explicitly for the purposes of creating something to write about. Maybe Sedaris has a history of this (I can't imagine he just wanted to up and go to a nudist colony on his own; clearly, he saw great material in the exercise) but something about the heft of those earlier essays ("Santaland Diaries", too) makes them seem more honest. In the interview, Sedaris was talking specifically about the decision to cough so hard on a plane that his throat lozenge would be expelled from his mouth. He thought, Let's see what happens, and coughed. This action begins one of the essays in this book, and it's never revealed as constructed.I'm not aligning myself with that camp of Memoir Exposers For The Truth. My complaint isn't that Sedaris makes things up. It's that at one time, behind the essays, was this guy David Sedaris, or as close to the guy as we could get, and now it seems that behind all these essays lies "The Writer David Sedaris". I'm not making myself clear.(Which, incidentally, is one thing I can't fault Sedaris for. His timing in writing is impeccable and his descriptions apt and lovely in places. Oh and funny. The book in just incredibly, unendingly funny. In short: get the audiobook.)
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  • Lyn
    August 1, 2011
    In our present culture, we sometimes write "LOL" meaning laugh out loud to recognize something is funny, but this is usually just a smile or an acknowledgment of a humorous situation. I can sincerely type LOL, or even ROFL, or LSHIS (laughed so hard I snorted). This is funny. Sedaris has a rare gift of relating a hilarious story or by simply telling a commonplace occurrence in a funny way. So why just three stars? In between the laughs is the not altogether likable persona of Sedaris. He may imp In our present culture, we sometimes write "LOL" meaning laugh out loud to recognize something is funny, but this is usually just a smile or an acknowledgment of a humorous situation. I can sincerely type LOL, or even ROFL, or LSHIS (laughed so hard I snorted). This is funny. Sedaris has a rare gift of relating a hilarious story or by simply telling a commonplace occurrence in a funny way. So why just three stars? In between the laughs is the not altogether likable persona of Sedaris. He may impart self deprecating humor, or maybe he is personifying a satire on our culture, or both, but many times in the narrative, organized into short essays or vignettes, I had to admit that I did not like my narrator. Other times, to be fair, he repented or showed a generous, open mindedness; but I could not shake the image of an unapologetically selfish person who, sadly, may reflect modern Western culture all too well. That said, really funny book.
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  • James
    June 23, 2008
    Eh.That’s my review: eh.With maybe a shoulder shrug.Someone better read than I recently remarked something to the effect of, “Once you’ve read one David Sedaris book, haven’t you read them all?”Yes.And Kurt Vonnegut.And several others. But that’s neither here nor there.Sedaris’s recent book makes such a dismissive comment truer than ever. For readers familiar with Holidays on Ice, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, and Me Talk Pretty One Day, there is little Funny and Original to enjoy fro Eh.That’s my review: eh.With maybe a shoulder shrug.Someone better read than I recently remarked something to the effect of, “Once you’ve read one David Sedaris book, haven’t you read them all?”Yes.And Kurt Vonnegut.And several others. But that’s neither here nor there.Sedaris’s recent book makes such a dismissive comment truer than ever. For readers familiar with Holidays on Ice, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, and Me Talk Pretty One Day, there is little Funny and Original to enjoy from When You Are Engulfed in Flames. And especially for readers of The New Yorker like myself, where most of the essays in this publication were initially published, there is a lot to be desired.A few highlights include an explanation for why Sedaris does not believe in God: “Because I have hair on my back, and a lot of other people, people who kill and rob and make life miserable, don’t. A real God wouldn’t let that happen.” And his prediction that, “It’s safe to assume that by 2025, guns will be sold in vending machines, but you won’t be able to smoke anywhere in America.” With the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on D.C’s gun ban, Sedaris’s prescience is foreboding.But what I found most interesting about When You Are Engulfed in Flames was the About the Author: “David Sedaris’s half-dozen books have been translated into twenty-five languages, including Estonian, Greek, and Bahasa. His essays appear frequently in The New Yorker and are heard on Public Radio International’s This American Life.”It was the first sentence that intrigued me. There’s a good David Sedaris essay to be had from that line. Did David Sedaris himself write it? If not, but the editor did, why the importance on Estonian, Greek, and Bahasa and not the other 22 languages? Does translation into these three languages indicate a literary achievement of some sort? Is it a big deal for Estonians, Greeks, and Indonesians to be reading David Sedaris? While Microsoft Word’s spell check wants Bahasa to be Bahamas, Bahaman, Batas, Balas, or Banana, Bahasa is in fact spelled correctly. It is the native language of Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation, and therefore one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. So for David Sedaris to be available in this language is no small feat. Why then Estonian and Greek? And what are the other 22 neglected languages? Why are they less special?
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  • Kelly (and the Book Boar)
    February 6, 2014
    Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/The funniest collection by David Sedaris that I’ve read so far. There just aren’t words to express how happy these books make me. Sedaris is by far my favorite humorist/essayist/columnist/whatever-ist you want to call him. His writing can turn my frown upside down and always leaves me laughing like a lunatic. My infatuation actually began with another Sedaris – David’s sister Amy. Anyone who looks like this: But prefers to get paid for Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/The funniest collection by David Sedaris that I’ve read so far. There just aren’t words to express how happy these books make me. Sedaris is by far my favorite humorist/essayist/columnist/whatever-ist you want to call him. His writing can turn my frown upside down and always leaves me laughing like a lunatic. My infatuation actually began with another Sedaris – David’s sister Amy. Anyone who looks like this: But prefers to get paid for looking something like this: Is someone that I want to hang out with. When I discovered her brother, I found there was enough love in my heart for multiple Sedaris-es. Sadly, as much as I love dear David, it will most likely always be from afar. I have a huge phobia that if I meet a famous person I adore, they will end up being an asshat. I find myself each year sitting at the computer, hand hovering over the PayPal button, but always failing to purchase a ticket to one of his book readings/signings. Not only am I fearful David will be a jerk, but that he will also discover I’m a huge nutter. Ours would be quite the ill-fated meet/cute with me screaming things like "why won't you love me????" while he runs away responding something along the lines of "because I'm gay, you crazy bitch, which you should be well aware of since you've been my borderline stalker for years now!" In addition, I would be forced to stand in line with a bunch of strangers mouthbreathing their germy breath on me – or even worse, having the gall to engage in small talk. Just UGH! My David and I may never meet, but I will continue to stalk love him and shout my praise of his hilarious books from the rooftops.Sidenote: This was my final selection for the Kansas City Public Library's Winter Reading Challenge. "Stop Me If You've Read This One" was the theme this year and encouraged patrons to read books that might make them laugh. By completing my 5 books, I got a lovely little coffee mug that Mitchell promptly declared as his. For those curious of my funny book choices for this challenge, they are as follows:Skinny Dip by Carl HiassenIn Fifty Years We'll All Be Chicks by Adam CarollaMan Up by Ross MathewsWhen You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris (duh)andAmerican Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. I figure I'm probably on some Federal watch list anyway, so why not mix it up a bit and let them think there might really be something to be scared of ; )
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  • Jason Koivu
    April 7, 2009
    When You Are Engulfed in Flames continues David Sedaris' cataloguing of the awkward moments of his life in humorous, memoir-like essays. Herein are more of his usual daily-life topics: getting to know the neighbors (I.E. the local child molester), his fascination with creepy shit, the annoying people that enter his life, relationship issues (poor Hugh comes in for it in this one!), his pet spider and a mish-mash of other stuff.Sedaris is very open about his personal issues. He has some OCDs and When You Are Engulfed in Flames continues David Sedaris' cataloguing of the awkward moments of his life in humorous, memoir-like essays. Herein are more of his usual daily-life topics: getting to know the neighbors (I.E. the local child molester), his fascination with creepy shit, the annoying people that enter his life, relationship issues (poor Hugh comes in for it in this one!), his pet spider and a mish-mash of other stuff.Sedaris is very open about his personal issues. He has some OCDs and while it's surely hell to live through, he kindly plucks out the funny bits for our amusement. The writing is getting a little bit too meta at this point for me. His daily life over the last few years, due to his own fame and fortune, has become less relatable for us commoners. Thus his material that finds him flying about the world, living in Paris and Tokyo, etc., while still humorous, does not hit the same funnybone as his past works. The regional idiosyncrasies of the travel-related pieces are good for a few laughs, but they just don't elicit the same home-grown guffaws that sprouted naturally from the stories of his middle class American family's upbringing of him and his many siblings. Still though, I've enjoyed this a couple times and would again. Rating: 3.5Recommended: For people that prefer observational humor and would rather steer clear of his highly personal anecdotes. (Trust me, they get even more personal than this!)
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  • RandomAnthony
    October 24, 2008
    You know, Montambo is right, this is Sedaris' best book. While earlier in his career the author seemed to go for easy laughs (Look at my brother! What an ass!) or convenient self-loathing something seems to have clicked this time around that transforms the work from magazine article quality to literature. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Sedaris sounds like a real writer in this book; the essays flow unforced and genuine insight accompanies the punch lines. Sedaris doesn't seem to be writing for p You know, Montambo is right, this is Sedaris' best book. While earlier in his career the author seemed to go for easy laughs (Look at my brother! What an ass!) or convenient self-loathing something seems to have clicked this time around that transforms the work from magazine article quality to literature. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Sedaris sounds like a real writer in this book; the essays flow unforced and genuine insight accompanies the punch lines. Sedaris doesn't seem to be writing for performance here as much as writing for the page; that's a welcome change, in my eyes. I enjoyed When You Are Engulfed in Flames and heck, I'd read it again.
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  • Brian
    May 31, 2008
    After reading Sedaris' previous collection, I began to suspect that he had mined all of the material he could from his family and the earlier hard times he experienced. It appeared he was now left with the task of finding hilarity and poignancy in the life of a rich, celebrated author. "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" confirms that his days of dressing as an elf, picking apples, and hitch-hiking cross country with an incomplete quadriplegic are long gone. In their place we are left with essays After reading Sedaris' previous collection, I began to suspect that he had mined all of the material he could from his family and the earlier hard times he experienced. It appeared he was now left with the task of finding hilarity and poignancy in the life of a rich, celebrated author. "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" confirms that his days of dressing as an elf, picking apples, and hitch-hiking cross country with an incomplete quadriplegic are long gone. In their place we are left with essays about catching flies, cantankerous car service drivers, and foul-mouthed airline passengers (two essays on this topic in fact). This would be a real problem if they weren't entertaining (most are), but they lack the quality of desperation that so fueled his earlier work. Add to that the author's note at the beginning of the book: "The events described in these stories are realish. Certain characters have fictitious names and identifying characteristics," along with a recent article from The New Republic revealing him as a serial exaggerator, and I'm left with the impression that his best work is behind him. I hope he proves me wrong.
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  • V. Briceland
    January 4, 2011
    Dear Mr. Sedaris,First off, I understand that you live in France. With your boyfriend. In France. Where they speak French, because it's France. Thank you for reminding me you live in France, with your boyfriend, where they speak French, with funny French accents, and funny funny French words, with their French ways, every ten to twelve pages. Else I might have forgotten you live in . . . wait, where was it again?No, seriously, I'm glad you have an army of NPR-head fans to squirm with delight at Dear Mr. Sedaris,First off, I understand that you live in France. With your boyfriend. In France. Where they speak French, because it's France. Thank you for reminding me you live in France, with your boyfriend, where they speak French, with funny French accents, and funny funny French words, with their French ways, every ten to twelve pages. Else I might have forgotten you live in . . . wait, where was it again?No, seriously, I'm glad you have an army of NPR-head fans to squirm with delight at your every little bon mot. it must be pretty gratifying. As a former fan, however, I'm a little distressed at the direction you've been moving over the last several years, especially in this volume.I understand that your legions of fans love it when you collect eccentrics like some eBay addicts collect Precious Moments figurines. It seems to me, however, that even as you celebrate the grotesque in every essay, you seem less in touch with the real, the good, and the positive. If it doesn't belong in a freak show, the material seemingly doesn't belong in your book. For example, it seems as if you have a (very patient) boyfriend who cares for you, but you show precious little evidence of returning the affection as in your essays you toss aside the flowers he buys you, mock his musical enthusiasms, and generally diminish his role in your life. You recoil with horror when a friendly cabbie offers to help you find companionship in a strange city, but you lovingly recall for several long pages the memory of looking at photos with your sister of a woman copulating with a horse. Oh, I'm all for celebrating oddities. Good for you. The mainstream gets enough attention. The fussy, grandmotherly way in which you gather them to your sides and cultivate them, however, lately borders less on comedy or insightful reporting, and more toward outright pathology. It seems a shame, as I know you're a much more capable writer than your adoring fans want you to be.--A friendP.S. We suffered for too many years with your funny French lessons. Please, please, don't do the same with Japanese.
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  • Matthew
    January 8, 2013
    3.5 or maybe 4 - rounding up because I was entertained. Not my favorite Sedaris. This one seemed to be darker and more serious than the others of his I have read (includes some artsy filler stories). There were some of the usual amusing tales - most of which in this book took place in France or on an airplane. The last 1/3 of the book (or so) was a cross between what it is like to live in Japan and being a smoker from start to finish. I don't think I would recommend that someone start here if th 3.5 or maybe 4 - rounding up because I was entertained. Not my favorite Sedaris. This one seemed to be darker and more serious than the others of his I have read (includes some artsy filler stories). There were some of the usual amusing tales - most of which in this book took place in France or on an airplane. The last 1/3 of the book (or so) was a cross between what it is like to live in Japan and being a smoker from start to finish. I don't think I would recommend that someone start here if they want to try Sedaris, but if you have read and enjoyed him before, this will be a good one to read.
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  • Shannon
    April 26, 2008
    I don't quite get the people who say this isn't as funny as his other books- I thought it was plenty funny. The comment about having a 400 dollar sweater that looked like it had been thrown to a tiger and thus was already ruined and incapable of being further ruined.. that made me laugh. And saying a cracker tasted like penis. And lots of little one-liners. But what's really awesome about his stuff is that it's MORE than just a bunch of one-liners. He really is a very observant, intelligent, hil I don't quite get the people who say this isn't as funny as his other books- I thought it was plenty funny. The comment about having a 400 dollar sweater that looked like it had been thrown to a tiger and thus was already ruined and incapable of being further ruined.. that made me laugh. And saying a cracker tasted like penis. And lots of little one-liners. But what's really awesome about his stuff is that it's MORE than just a bunch of one-liners. He really is a very observant, intelligent, hilarious writer. I think.Admittedly a few times he seemed to kind of go.. off track, and there were all these little asides that didn't seem to be related to the main theme, or whatever. So, I guess, some of the essays were a bit less cohesive than usual. But, he can pull it off. I could listen to him ramble about anything.Also I LOVE his descriptions of his relationship with Hugh. It's so awesome that he can complain so much about his partner and yet do so in a way that indicates clearly that he is deeply in love with him. It's adorable.Oh, and speaking of adorable. I listened to the audio-book version of this, too. If you haven't heard Sedaris read his work, you're missing out. He's excellent..Also: Because I'm a spaz for Chip Kidd I have to say this: he designed the cover ISN'T IT AWESOME? I think it's really apt for this book, because, besides several literal references to skeletons and smoking in this book.. I think it captures the overall mood.. there is a lot of reference to death, but it's all relatively lighthearted and humorous.. as is an image of a skeleton smoking a cigarette. Kind of awesomely dark and a bit morbid, I think.
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  • Maxwell
    January 26, 2016
    The reasons that this didn't get a 1 star from me are because 1.) I didn't actively dislike anything about it, I just found it boring and 2.) David Sedaris' narration is great. Actually, his narrating is probably one of the only things I did like about this book.As an avid listener of NPR's This American Life, I have, from time to time, heard stories from David Sedaris and found them highly enjoyable. So enjoyable, in fact, that I've been driving to work almost in tears from laughter. What I exp The reasons that this didn't get a 1 star from me are because 1.) I didn't actively dislike anything about it, I just found it boring and 2.) David Sedaris' narration is great. Actually, his narrating is probably one of the only things I did like about this book.As an avid listener of NPR's This American Life, I have, from time to time, heard stories from David Sedaris and found them highly enjoyable. So enjoyable, in fact, that I've been driving to work almost in tears from laughter. What I expected from this collection was that. And that is not what I got. Perhaps it was my own false assumption, but these stories were neither funny, nor memorable. If I hadn't listened to the audiobook on my hour-long commute to and from work this week and instead had chosen to read the stories, I probably would've given up after the first few. But Sedaris' companionship during my drive kept me optimistic, hoping that the next story would be better than the last. In the end though, I didn't really love any of them.I will, however, check out another Sedaris audiobook because 1.) his narration really is great and 2.) I've heard much better things about his other collections.
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  • Ivonne Rovira
    July 23, 2015
    I have adored the hilarious David Sedaris from his very first readings on NPR. And nothing in When You Are Engulfed in Flames makes me adore him less — not even his ultra-competitiveness with children and his cavalier attitude towards cancer. When You Are Engulfed in Flames explores the give-and-take of long-term relationships, some objectionable neighbors, the struggles of quitting smoking or learning a new language, and Japanese society — always in pretty funny ways. While not as hilarious as I have adored the hilarious David Sedaris from his very first readings on NPR. And nothing in When You Are Engulfed in Flames makes me adore him less — not even his ultra-competitiveness with children and his cavalier attitude towards cancer. When You Are Engulfed in Flames explores the give-and-take of long-term relationships, some objectionable neighbors, the struggles of quitting smoking or learning a new language, and Japanese society — always in pretty funny ways. While not as hilarious as SantaLand Diaries or Me Talk Pretty One Day, readers — whether longtime Sedaris groupies like me or newbies — won’t go wrong with When You Are Engulfed in Flames, which is still laugh-out-loud funny in parts and pretty humorous otherwise.Lastly, there’s only one way to listen to a David Sedaris book: That’s as audiobook, with Sedaris reading it himself.
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  • brian tanabe
    June 11, 2008
    When I first saw this in a bookstore I thought to myself, can he do it again? Is there more scrapable hilarity clinging to the walls of his interesting life, fit to amuse and entertain his many fans? Sedaris does in fact do it again and apparently there's an endless well of funny stuffy, a font of hilarity, within this man.This is another great collection, on par with his other works for all the Sedaris fans out there. There is one story in particular (“That's Amore”) -- or rather a character in When I first saw this in a bookstore I thought to myself, can he do it again? Is there more scrapable hilarity clinging to the walls of his interesting life, fit to amuse and entertain his many fans? Sedaris does in fact do it again and apparently there's an endless well of funny stuffy, a font of hilarity, within this man.This is another great collection, on par with his other works for all the Sedaris fans out there. There is one story in particular (“That's Amore”) -- or rather a character in this story -- I would love to see him write a full length piece on. Helen is too good (or bad) to be true. As with city rats, Sedaris likens her to the “type of creature [he] expected to find living in New York.” When apartment shopping in New York it was Hugh (Sedaris’ partner) who runs into the 70-something year old first, “[nodding] hello and as he turned to leave, she pointed to some bags lying at her feet.“'Carry my groceries upstairs.' She sounded like a man, or, rather, a hit man, her voice coarse and low, like heavy footsteps on gravel.“'Now?' Hugh asked.“She said, 'What? You got something better to do?'”As with his other collections Sedaris has a very matter of fact method for transferring his hilarious life musings to the page. And I love of his use of the word “faggoty.” Two thumbs up for anyone looking for something light and a must-read for Sedaris fans.
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  • Alana
    June 12, 2008
    While I certainly won't call this the best David Sedaris collection that you can purchase for yourself, I will say that any David Sedaris is worth reading -- and thus, my star rating. It would probably be more like three and a half if Goodreads did half stars the way LibraryThing does, but ah well.The observation I have for this collection is that with Mr. Sedaris giving up drinking, drugs, and smoking... his stories seem to be a bit more tame. Much more focus on his boyfriend Hugh or stories ti While I certainly won't call this the best David Sedaris collection that you can purchase for yourself, I will say that any David Sedaris is worth reading -- and thus, my star rating. It would probably be more like three and a half if Goodreads did half stars the way LibraryThing does, but ah well.The observation I have for this collection is that with Mr. Sedaris giving up drinking, drugs, and smoking... his stories seem to be a bit more tame. Much more focus on his boyfriend Hugh or stories tinged with a bit of melancholy. The NY Times mentioned the story about his parents' art collection, which is perhaps one of the better crafted stories. My favorite, however, is called "Keeping Up" -- which talks about couples arguing on vacation and features Mr. Sedaris rehearsing his "I'm leaving you" speech to his boyfriend after Hugh's fast walking leaves Sedaris lost and alone in a zoo in Sydney. In general, it's nice to see Hugh making more of an appearance in Sedaris' stories. Sedaris' previous volumes have focused so much on his siblings that when you realize how long he and Hugh have been together, you're a bit surprised that it's taken Sedaris this long to mine his significant other for material. In the past, he's popped up every now and then, but he's a much more substantial figure in this collection. As with Sedaris' other works, though, one can't help but wonder how his friends and relatives deal with having details of their lives published and sold. Unlike his parents and sisters, though, Sedaris consistently paints Hugh in a good light and one can't help but wonder how Sedaris can function without Hugh at times in this collection.In any case, while you might want to wait to purchase a paperback version, this collection does have several good chuckles. I might not have been struggling for breath as I have once or twice in the past ("Six to Eight Black Men" comes to mind), but I still think that anyone who enjoys Sedaris should not miss this most recent offering.
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  • Imogen
    June 10, 2008
    When I am not reading David Sedaris, I am thinking: David Sedaris, man, there is a popular guy whose books are kind of just always around and not very interesting. But when I *am* reading him, I'm always like, there are five or six absolutely brilliant punchlines in every one of this guy's books, and the other parts are, y'know, enjoyable enough. I think it's a testament to my always forgetting how much I like him that I guess I've read all his stuff, but I absolutely never think of him as an au When I am not reading David Sedaris, I am thinking: David Sedaris, man, there is a popular guy whose books are kind of just always around and not very interesting. But when I *am* reading him, I'm always like, there are five or six absolutely brilliant punchlines in every one of this guy's books, and the other parts are, y'know, enjoyable enough. I think it's a testament to my always forgetting how much I like him that I guess I've read all his stuff, but I absolutely never think of him as an author I like when I'm thinking about authors I like. I definitely appreciate that he's a big homo- there's a point in this book where he says that something he's eating tastes kind of like penis- who absolutely kills the Barnes & Noble circuit. Kind of like Chuck Palahniuk, except more explicit. I also like that one time at the Strand he was reading and he asked, 'who here is totally stoked about the new George Romero zombie movie?' and I was all WOOOOOO and the whole rest of the room was silent, so we had a moment. That was good. Anyway, I don't know if I'd pay twenty-five dollars for this as a new book, but I don't know if I'd pay twenty-five dollars for anything as a new book, so that is the wrong question to ask me.
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  • Erin
    August 12, 2008
    Some people find that after reading one or two of Sedaris's books, he becomes less ha-ha funny. Maybe they get used to his style of humour. Maybe there's a golden order in which to read them (personally, I find chronologically by publishing date works well). Maybe there is a slight advantage to hearing him speak in person. I tend to read him while imagining how he'd say it, and immediately a dry sentence comes to life.I could go on about the maturation I see happening in his work, but I won't. N Some people find that after reading one or two of Sedaris's books, he becomes less ha-ha funny. Maybe they get used to his style of humour. Maybe there's a golden order in which to read them (personally, I find chronologically by publishing date works well). Maybe there is a slight advantage to hearing him speak in person. I tend to read him while imagining how he'd say it, and immediately a dry sentence comes to life.I could go on about the maturation I see happening in his work, but I won't. Not for now.What I will say is that in his past work, he seems to be a sort of bystander in many of his stories. Things happen around him. He observes. Takes notes. Then turns them into stories. But rarely is he at the center of the story - the obvious exception being "Me Talk Pretty One Day."This book is different. This is a collection of mostly unrelated stories, and his presence in all of them is more noticeable. More nostalgia, and a dark softness pervades these stories. I really appreciate this quality.Plus, he gets brownie points in my book for using Van Gogh on the cover :)
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  • Valerie
    April 26, 2008
    When I first started reading this book, I found myself disappointedly thinking that it was just more of the same from David Sedaris - stories that either make you laugh out loud or make you cringe (or more often both). Don't get me wrong - he's still funny - but I was expecting more from this one... some evolution in style or content. I liked his earlier books because they were more raw, the stories a bit more unexpected. The beginning of this one felt a little recycled, and I was ready to be do When I first started reading this book, I found myself disappointedly thinking that it was just more of the same from David Sedaris - stories that either make you laugh out loud or make you cringe (or more often both). Don't get me wrong - he's still funny - but I was expecting more from this one... some evolution in style or content. I liked his earlier books because they were more raw, the stories a bit more unexpected. The beginning of this one felt a little recycled, and I was ready to be done reading it.But then about two-thirds of the way through, the stories lost their formulaic feeling, and an unexpected poignancy crept in. I ended up really enjoying the the last few stories, in particular the last, titled The Smoking Section. I think the editors started out with the lightest stories and saved the best for the end. I wish I'd read it backwards.
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  • Shelly
    August 30, 2008
    I think the honeymoon is over. Or, maybe I'm just too hard to please. Wait, I don't think those are mutually exclusive. In any event, I was let down. This collection of stories/anecdotes seemed more blog-worthy than book-worthy to me. It gave me the sense that he was under pressure to put another book out. To say something. So he follows the formula that's worked for him so well only this time the content's not nearly as entertaining, or noteworthy. One chapter is about a boil he had that his pa I think the honeymoon is over. Or, maybe I'm just too hard to please. Wait, I don't think those are mutually exclusive. In any event, I was let down. This collection of stories/anecdotes seemed more blog-worthy than book-worthy to me. It gave me the sense that he was under pressure to put another book out. To say something. So he follows the formula that's worked for him so well only this time the content's not nearly as entertaining, or noteworthy. One chapter is about a boil he had that his partner, Hugh, ended up popping for him. While I like gross, there's not much else to it. Speaking of Hugh, there was way too much of him. He's not nearly as entertaining or interesting as any of David's family members, particularly Amy. The book's ending chapters take place in Tokyo. Which I found refreshing, it's a much needed change of scenery. And there are some really funny scenes that take place here. But for the most part this section drags. It's like a SNL skit that starts off funny and you're hoping will just go ahead and end on a good joke but instead it just keeps going--unable to figure out how to wrap it up. I hate that I was disappointed. I really do love David Sedaris. This book just under-whelmed me. I will forever enjoy his p.o.v., and sense of humor-- but I think all his good stories have been chronicled so far.
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  • Rob
    June 7, 2008
    A solid ★★★★ and damn near close to ★★★★★ that we'll settle for ★★★★. But then again, I'm a serious Sedaris fiend.When You Are Engulfed In Flames makes Sedaris' previous collection, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim , seem like a disaster, a complete train wreck. Which is unfair because I think that Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim is a strong collection with some exemplary essays. And also because I get the feeling that it was a more personal werk for him, that he's a bit more exp A solid ★★★★ and damn near close to ★★★★★ that we'll settle for ★★★★½. But then again, I'm a serious Sedaris fiend.When You Are Engulfed In Flames makes Sedaris' previous collection, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim , seem like a disaster, a complete train wreck. Which is unfair because I think that Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim is a strong collection with some exemplary essays. And also because I get the feeling that it was a more personal werk for him, that he's a bit more exposed and vulnerable in those essays.Thematically, When You Are Engulfed In Flames is a reprise of Me Talk Pretty One Day -- highly focused on language and style, on the humanity of humiliation and (to echo some other reviewers) those dark places where our sentimentality tends to get the best of us. But it's a counterpoint melody to Me Talk Pretty One Day -- arrogant where the other was modest, chagrined where the other took delight.Structurally, this collection is an echo of Naked , though a bit more mature. As I wrote of DFW's Consider the Lobster , the essays are arranged well, jokes from earlier essays recurring, serving to inform your tittering later on. That said, the individual essays seem to follow a rhythm that is new for Sedaris. If this were an elementary school music class, I would say that his earlier essays have a rhyme scheme that goes ABAB, these are turned more toward ABCA.But if you're reading this, it's probably because you were curious what I thought of When You Are Engulfed In Flames. By now, you (dear reader) have already made up your mind about David Sedaris and have either worked your way through this collection or else long ago discarded him, irrelevant as an expended filter tip.
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  • David
    October 31, 2008
    This new collection of essays by David Sedaris is unobjectionable, but fails to come anywhere near the hilarity of his best effort, "Me Talk Pretty Some Day". Most of the pieces remind one of "Seinfeld", being about nothing but the author's particular neuroses. Which range from being moderately entertaining ("Memento Mori", buying a human skeleton and its aftermath) to weirdly offputting ("April in Paris", in which the author's fascination with spiders is merely grotesque).True fans may enjoy th This new collection of essays by David Sedaris is unobjectionable, but fails to come anywhere near the hilarity of his best effort, "Me Talk Pretty Some Day". Most of the pieces remind one of "Seinfeld", being about nothing but the author's particular neuroses. Which range from being moderately entertaining ("Memento Mori", buying a human skeleton and its aftermath) to weirdly offputting ("April in Paris", in which the author's fascination with spiders is merely grotesque).True fans may enjoy this. If you are new to Sedaris, start with one of his earlier books. This book is primarily navelgazing, told with little of the wit that characterized his earlier work.It probably didn't help this review that I was reading Sedaris in parallel with Orwell's "A Collection of Essays" - the comparison only serves to emphasize the flimsiness of most of the Sedaris pieces.
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  • Jessi
    September 12, 2011
    The first time I had ever heard David Sedaris was when he once appeared on Letterman and read an essay about a "Stadium Pal" the perfect accessory for a sports fan or full time trucker. Basically a catheter like situation that flows into a bag that is "conveniently" taped to your calf. It is for when you just don't want to get up and go to the washroom, you can pee into this sac and deal with the urine at a later time. (Other then the recommendation to not wear shorts apparently the skys the li The first time I had ever heard David Sedaris was when he once appeared on Letterman and read an essay about a "Stadium Pal" the perfect accessory for a sports fan or full time trucker. Basically a catheter like situation that flows into a bag that is "conveniently" taped to your calf. It is for when you just don't want to get up and go to the washroom, you can pee into this sac and deal with the urine at a later time. (Other then the recommendation to not wear shorts apparently the skys the limit with the Stadium pal)Sedaris points out that this product was marketed exclusively to men as woman would have more sense then to piss themselves in public. I laughed my ass off. When You Are Engulfed in flames has this essay and many more and Sedaris, himself narrates the audiobook. I love Sedaris, his voice makes the experience that much more enjoyable. My favourite bits are when he is either outraged about something or when he tells stories that are about his family. One of my favourite stories takes place when he is 11 years old and his parents leave him and his sisters with a strange babysitter for a week.She is an overweight hillbilly who David and his sisters instantly dislike. When she walks around their house, she had "this look as if she was as good as them, if not better " to which 11 year old Sedaris states "that just wasn't true" This is what I love! Sedaris trying to not come off as a total snob but in essence the whole story is about how appalled they are by the class of this woman. The children take note of every infraction this woman commits and record these infractions and then"As I read aloud from the complaint book during the daily crisis meeting we had in the woods behind our house" I don't know what I love better the daily crisis meeting or the fact that there was a complaint book. I think its all gold!I will definitely be getting more of Sedaris' stuff, truly enjoyed this.
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  • N W James
    May 12, 2008
    I didn't care much for Sedaris' last book, Dress your family in corduroy and denim. It felt forced, his embellishments more absurd to the point where I felt it was obvious which events actually happened and which were invented to make the story more interesting. When You Are Engulfed in Flames was calmer in tone, more believable and felt less deadline inspired. Most of the stories revolve around the author and his partner, as opposed to the Sedaris brood - Gretchen, Lisa, the Chicken and, of cou I didn't care much for Sedaris' last book, Dress your family in corduroy and denim. It felt forced, his embellishments more absurd to the point where I felt it was obvious which events actually happened and which were invented to make the story more interesting. When You Are Engulfed in Flames was calmer in tone, more believable and felt less deadline inspired. Most of the stories revolve around the author and his partner, as opposed to the Sedaris brood - Gretchen, Lisa, the Chicken and, of course, that weird woman whose always on David Letterman talking about her imaginary boyfriend. The entire last quarter is about Sedaris' recent break with smoking and the extended vacation they took to Japan to alter his everyday routine. Like the rest of the book, it felt genuine, seamless, and reminded the reader that Sedaris isn't just flash-in-the-pan pop culture: the man can write, especially endings, more specifically, the last sentence of an essay...enjoy:(from The Smoking Section)Its not their germs that put me off. I'm simply afraid that on taking one between my fingers, I'll snap to remember, with clarity, just how good a cigarette would taste right now.(from The Understudy)Framed through the window, they looked like figures on a stage, two characters who seem like opposites and then discover they have a lot in common: a similarly hard upbringing, a fondness for the jugged Burgandies of California, and a mutual disregard for the rowdy matinee audience, pitching their catcalls from beyond the parted curtain.(from Of Mice & Men)The fire spread, the house was consumed, and these are certainly dark times, both for the burning, and those who would set them alight.(from The Monster Mash)It was the look you get when facing a sudden and insurmountable danger: the errant truck, the shaky ladder, the crazy person who pins you to the linoleum and insists, with increasing urgency, that everything you know and love can be undone by a grape.
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  • Lord Beardsley
    January 18, 2013
    I was pretty disappointed with "Dress Your Family...". After reading it, I was a little concerned that Sedaris was feeling a bit stuck as to how to proceed with his writing. So, I waited a while to read "When You Are Engulfed," and it was worth the wait! It felt like the author has grown in confidence and voice, also in allowing vulnerability in and seems to be extending himself beyond tales of his childhood (although those abound). It's not a huge change of form (and why should it be? His child I was pretty disappointed with "Dress Your Family...". After reading it, I was a little concerned that Sedaris was feeling a bit stuck as to how to proceed with his writing. So, I waited a while to read "When You Are Engulfed," and it was worth the wait! It felt like the author has grown in confidence and voice, also in allowing vulnerability in and seems to be extending himself beyond tales of his childhood (although those abound). It's not a huge change of form (and why should it be? His childhood stories + his tales of being a young fuck-up are amazing), but it's a nice reminder of what made me fall in love with his writing so much in the first place.My two favorite stories are about his extended stay as a lodger with a woman stuck in the 1930s (seriously had some hilarious shades of Southern Gothic going on there) as well as his moving account of visiting the Hiroshima memorial, which was fascinating. There's more meat on the bones with these stories, and I'm happy to see him growing as an author while still staying true to his own weird world vision.
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  • Selena
    July 31, 2008
    I'm one of the few people in this world who does not think that David Sedaris is funny or deserves the critical acclaim that he has received for his various endeavors.His stories are not particularly funny or clever. I feel like anyone could be a David Sedaris. Sit some asshole down and tell him to write something remotely funny in a memoir kind of way, and there you have it: David Sedaris. The New Yorker will publish it at first in short stories and from there someone will ask you to compile it I'm one of the few people in this world who does not think that David Sedaris is funny or deserves the critical acclaim that he has received for his various endeavors.His stories are not particularly funny or clever. I feel like anyone could be a David Sedaris. Sit some asshole down and tell him to write something remotely funny in a memoir kind of way, and there you have it: David Sedaris. The New Yorker will publish it at first in short stories and from there someone will ask you to compile it into a somewhat coherent novel and walk around like you did something special. He didn't. He doesn't. This book is no better than his previous "novels" but it sure is worse. Why?You can't truly be a good writer without smoking (if you didn't know, nicotine equals good writing). And in fact, you shouldn't quit smoking and have a skeleton smoking a cigarette on the cover of your new book. Just a thought.
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  • Kim
    September 1, 2013
    I flummox myself. Onomatopoeically, that totally fits. It happens often and the internal struggle is staggering. This happens out in the open, usually on a crowded sidewalk or bus or subway or stoplight. I find that I will mouth the argument much to the annoyance of people who need to walk around me or stand next to me or wait behind me. Sometimes I think I'm deep...this Denny's bottomless cup of coffee of enlightenment, sometimes I think I'm just fucking nuts. Why do I not like David Sedaris mo I flummox myself. Onomatopoeically, that totally fits. It happens often and the internal struggle is staggering. This happens out in the open, usually on a crowded sidewalk or bus or subway or stoplight. I find that I will mouth the argument much to the annoyance of people who need to walk around me or stand next to me or wait behind me. Sometimes I think I'm deep...this Denny's bottomless cup of coffee of enlightenment, sometimes I think I'm just fucking nuts. Why do I not like David Sedaris more than I do? I think we would be friends if he weren't 14 years older than me and living in completely different circles. I believe our combined neuroses could make even Woody Allen say 'Hey now...' I read his essays and nod my head with equally matched comraderie and empathy. Yet, I finish one of his books and I'm like 'eh'. What the hell is wrong with me? I read When You are Engulfed in Flames concurrently with Arguably: Selected Essays and I marveled at the feelings each book brought forth. I would smile and sometimes chuckle with David but be in awe of Christopher. David is much more kin to me than Christopher ever would be, is that why I expect more out of him? I know, it's not fair to compare, but that's just my nature. But, I can say the same of Sarah Vowell. I adore Sarah. I worship Sarah, yet I'm lukewarm to David? Is that really fair? Do I spend too much time thinking about my injustices with David? Most likely. Again, flummoxed. Maybe I need to hear David read. I've listened to Sarah, and her voice grates on me and speaks to me in ways that have me desperatley reaching for my anti depressants. Just the opening reading of Assassination Vacation had me picking out our china pattern, naming our firstborn. Why doesn't David do that for me? I've said this before, I just want to hold David, press him against my bosom and tell him that all will be okay. He would probably hate that and I would most likely passive aggressively hate him for making me want to do that, but this is life and what can I do? All the injustices in the world and what have you...
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  • Dillwynia Peter
    January 4, 2016
    I now understand the appeal of Sedaris. This collection is incredibly eclectic - probably more so that say Dress your family in cordaroy & denim - which is predominantly about his family. The usual themes are explored: interactions with his family; being an American in France; his relationship with his partner; and growing up gay in America.This was an audiobook read by Sedaris, so it is possible to hear his nuances in his writing, the punch line and the puns and humour. It has, for me, a Ne I now understand the appeal of Sedaris. This collection is incredibly eclectic - probably more so that say Dress your family in cordaroy & denim - which is predominantly about his family. The usual themes are explored: interactions with his family; being an American in France; his relationship with his partner; and growing up gay in America.This was an audiobook read by Sedaris, so it is possible to hear his nuances in his writing, the punch line and the puns and humour. It has, for me, a New York Jewish quality - the sort of thing Woody Allen presents - self deprecating and slightly whiny. Sedaris isn't Jewish, he is mixed Greek/ Anglo-American but you get what I mean.As noted the scope is wide and covers a lot of ideas. Sedaris might make fun of himself, but not of his subjects - the pedarast with the metal plate in his head is treated with dignity, but it is Sedaris that is the clown and failure. There are modern American concepts - the obsession with some people over germs and the one family member who is a super qualified medical practitioner even though they never attended a medical school. First World problems are given a fair airing and plane flights & the strangers you share that tin box with are also good fodder for Sedaris.I laughed a lot - a real lot. I also sympathised with him as I reflected on my own experiences of the 70s & 80s. This is a book that one dips into rather than reading in one session. I had to stop the CDs after a while because I found the stories & essays running into each other, which doesn't give Sedaris justice. I recommend this to anyone who is staring at a grey sky, or having a crappy week: reading one or two essays will have you feeling uplifted.
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  • Malbadeen
    July 9, 2008
    Considering how I feel about any one book by Sedaris is, at this point, like wondering how I feel about one of my kids drawings vs. another.At the end of the day I adore him so dang much it's hard to see it objectively.This was not my favorite book of his, it seemed much sweeter and settled than his others, yet was enjoyable in it's own right.The content of his memories, reflections and observations are so much more benign than those in past writings (I suppose one can only exercise so many demo Considering how I feel about any one book by Sedaris is, at this point, like wondering how I feel about one of my kids drawings vs. another.At the end of the day I adore him so dang much it's hard to see it objectively.This was not my favorite book of his, it seemed much sweeter and settled than his others, yet was enjoyable in it's own right.The content of his memories, reflections and observations are so much more benign than those in past writings (I suppose one can only exercise so many demons before real life sets in), it's clear that his life is MUCH more comfortable than it was in the past (kudos to him for acknowledging and even mildly mocking this). He wrote more about Hugh and relationships in general and seemed to explore his age and status in life with a more sober tone than in other writings and I kept finding myself thinking, "oh that's sweet". A phrase I don't typically associated with Sedaris.It would've been 3 stars except for an essay about getting in trouble for laughing at the dinner table which felt like his older essays in it's relatability and humor.
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  • Tatiana
    April 30, 2009
    This is the second book by Sedaris that I've read at the insistence of my co-worker (first was Naked). And although I enjoyed it more than Naked, I still don't understand why he is called one of the funniest writers out there. Based on the reviews, I am not the only one who thinks that way. Yes, sometimes he can be quite ironic or sarcastic, but laugh-out-loud funny? I don't think so. Once again we are presented with an anthology of autobiographical essays. Several of them are funny, some are sa This is the second book by Sedaris that I've read at the insistence of my co-worker (first was Naked). And although I enjoyed it more than Naked, I still don't understand why he is called one of the funniest writers out there. Based on the reviews, I am not the only one who thinks that way. Yes, sometimes he can be quite ironic or sarcastic, but laugh-out-loud funny? I don't think so. Once again we are presented with an anthology of autobiographical essays. Several of them are funny, some are sad, some I just didn't bother to finish. I am surprised Sedaris does not venture beyond these life stories about his family, his sexuality, his bizarre youth and adulthood. After all, if anything, he is a great observer. This is why I enjoyed so much his last essay in the book about his attempt to quit smoking in Japan. I didn't care for the smoking part, but his notes about Japanese culture were clever and witty. Why can't he write more of that?
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  • Stefania T.
    July 9, 2011
    Quando, in preda alle mie manie/idiosincrasie/fobie/fissazioni, incontro uno scrittore che, con nonchalance, quasi fischiettando, riporta su carta bianca tutti i caotici discorsi delle vocette che albergano nella mia mente, riportandone i toni e l'atmosfera della più completa inettitudine, e, in più, mi fa ridere a crepapelle di tutto ciò, come può il giudizio non essere più che positivo (e forse anche un po' sbilanciato)?Alcuni racconti sono (nettamente) migliori di altri, un tantino di delusio Quando, in preda alle mie manie/idiosincrasie/fobie/fissazioni, incontro uno scrittore che, con nonchalance, quasi fischiettando, riporta su carta bianca tutti i caotici discorsi delle vocette che albergano nella mia mente, riportandone i toni e l'atmosfera della più completa inettitudine, e, in più, mi fa ridere a crepapelle di tutto ciò, come può il giudizio non essere più che positivo (e forse anche un po' sbilanciato)?Alcuni racconti sono (nettamente) migliori di altri, un tantino di delusione per il capitolo sul fumo, ma il 4/5 è senza indugi e senza rimpianti.
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  • Liesl
    March 10, 2017
    Humorous and enjoyable. Sedaris shares many witty observations through this collection and I often found myself laughing out loud. Not everything here is a winner; a few of the inclusions felt somewhat superfluous, but the ones that work really sing. "The Smoking Room" is the biggest standout, as it is long enough to delve into both Sedaris' cessation of smoking and time living in Japan. I feel fortunate to have listened to the audiobook, as Sedaris adds so much to his material while reading it Humorous and enjoyable. Sedaris shares many witty observations through this collection and I often found myself laughing out loud. Not everything here is a winner; a few of the inclusions felt somewhat superfluous, but the ones that work really sing. "The Smoking Room" is the biggest standout, as it is long enough to delve into both Sedaris' cessation of smoking and time living in Japan. I feel fortunate to have listened to the audiobook, as Sedaris adds so much to his material while reading it aloud. The only complaint that I have about the audio version is that there are live recordings included alongside the studio tracks, which felt extremely discordant; I wish that the compilation had been either all studio or live recordings instead of an unsatisfying mixture of both.
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