Thursday, February 25, 2010

When You Are Engulfed in Flames - David Sedaris (audio)


David Sedaris, where have you been all my life? How many bloggers have to tell me he is God's gift to pee-in-your-pants laughter before I actually check him out? I guess it all started with a review I read recently of a 4-disc Sedaris audio (sorry, can't remember the blogger or the book), but ended up with "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" because that is what was available at the library.

I'll just start out by saying I can't do this man justice. If you have read him, heard him on audio or in real life, you already know this. If you haven't, you will just have to trust me. No excerpt will capture the essence of the dry, sardonic yet brutally honest wit of the man, or of Sedaris' own high, whiny voice that delivers it. (On a side note, Sedaris reminded me alot of Sarah Vowell, author and narrator of "The Wordy Shipmates". I say this with love in my heart.) I cannot even conceive that reading his books would be half the experience of hearing him in all his glory.

Since this was my first Sedaris adventure, I'm certainly not an expert. But assuming that his modus operandi is consistent from book to book, here is what you can expect: A series of essays about nothing, sort of like the TV show Seinfeld. Sedaris ruminates on various events in his life...living with a full-sized skeleton in his apartment and imagining that it is continually telling him he is going to die, sitting in a doctor's waiting room in his underwear, sneezing a cough drop into the lap of the lady sitting next to him on a flight, and a nasty boil on his rear end, just for some examples. He even spends two discs talking about his efforts to quit smoking. But on this path of enlightenment, he also takes short detours of the mind. Digressions, if you will, that are just as much fun as the primary train of thought.

For those easily offended, Sedaris may push your buttons. Bad language, the occasional gay reference, the slaughtering of a few sacred cows...it's in there. But in Sedaris' little-boy voice, it all seems OK. I was snickering or laughing out loud about every 5 or 10 minutes, languishing in his style of humor. Now when I find myself in a depression from too much literary family dysfunction or WWII dramas, I know where to turn.

Are you one of the millions of worshipers of Sedaris? What is his best novel?

4.5 out of 5 stars




24 comments:

Melody said...

Sounds like a fun read to me! I've not read this book yet though I've heard several good reviews on it. Will have to check it out next time!

slipbananapeel said...

I enjoyed Dress Your Family in Courderoy and Denim a whole lot. Me Talk Pretty One Day was ok.

Jackie (Farm lane Books) said...

I haven't tried any Sedaris yet, but have heard so many wonderful things about him on audio that I bought a copy of Dress Your Family in Courderoy and Denim last week - I'm looking forward to discovering his magic!

caite said...

I have only read..actually listened to...only one of his books, Holidays on Ice, which I quite enjoyed. In fact, it is one of the few books that I was able to enjoy as an audiobook. I need to try some others of his.

JoAnn said...

Welcome to the fan club!! I loved Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim - one of my favorite audios ever. Was also lucky enough to hear him live just over a year ago. My face actually ached from smiling and laughing for so long. My daughter really liked Me Talk Pretty One Day, and I have When You Are Engulfed in Flames on the audio tbr list.

Julie P. said...

I need to take your advice and check him out!

bermudaonion said...

I've listened to 3 of Sedaris's books and have loved every one of them. I've got several of his print books, but haven't read any of them because I'm afraid the magic just won't be there.

Molly said...

I have not yet read any of his works, but I did listen to Holidays on Ice this past fall and nearly drove off the road several times because I couldn't see through the tears of laughter. I only listened to the first essay, his description of being an Elf in Macy's Santa Land, but it was priceless.

I hope to read more of works sooner rather than later.

Kim said...

You must read Me Talk Pretty One Day. I read it on a plane and was laughing out loud like a lunatic. Jesus Shaves is the best story in that collection.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I have not read any of his works yet either but he sounds great for the car. I love to be all alone in the car laughing, with other drivers thinking I'm crazy! :--)

Kathleen said...

I've not read any of his stuff but based on your review I am quite sure I will LOVE him!

Valerie said...

I've read this one and "Me Talk Pretty One Day"...I enjoyed both, but I thought "Me Talk Pretty One Day" was much funnier!

Zibilee said...

I love Sedaris!! This is the only one of his books that I haven't yet read. If you are looking for a good one, I can recommend Naked and Me Talk Pretty One Day. Holiday's on Ice is funny as well. Heck, they are all good! I am so glad that you have found him, he is just hilarious. You have a lot of happy reading time ahead!

C.B. James said...

My vote goes to Holidays on Ice. We listen to it every year at my house.

Amused said...

Great review! I think he is hystercial! For me, "Naked" was probably one of his funniest but they were all laugh out loud worthy.

Carrie K. said...

I really think audio is the best way possible to experience Sedaris!

Kathie Smith said...

Hey San. Glad to hear you've discovered David Sedaris. There are so many stories of his that I love. You have to find the Santaland Diaries - hilarious!

Trisha said...

My only experience with Sedaris was naked which was absolutely wonderful. Hey, that sounded kind of dirty... :)

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) said...

I'm not much of a comedy reader, but I hear David Sedaris is the place to start. One of these days!

Lauren said...

Love Sedaris! That's my favorite by him, but it is a great book.

Just Mom said...

I love David Sedaris - got to hear him live once and it was wonderful1 I did one post just of clips from him on You Tube so when I need a fix I can go right there!

Jenners said...

I've only read his books and never heard him speak but I think he is hilarious ... but it seems that I should try him on audio to get the full effect. And you pretty much nailed his style ... random essays about different parts in his life. One of my favorites is "Me Talk Pretty One Day." There is an essay in there about him in French class that made me laugh until I cried. Glad you finally discovered Sedaris!!!!

Alice Teh said...

I haven't read anything by Sedaris before, but sure have seen it many times at the bookstores. You gave this one such high rating, I think it'd be wise for me to check this out.

Anna said...

Sounds like I'm going to have to check him out. You may have just found me an audio book I'll actually enjoy.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric