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When You Are Engulfed in Flames, By David Sedaris

By Tyler DFC | Books | August 13, 2009 |

By Tyler DFC | Books | August 13, 2009 |

There isn’t a great deal to say about When You Are Engulfed in Flames. It’s David Sedaris so you know what you are going to get and are either a fan or you are not. There are stories about living in France and other countries abroad, there are stories about his family, and stories about the everyday things that he notices. After 6 books the descriptions are all pretty much the same.

However, I would put When You Are Engulfed in Flames second only to Me Talk Pretty One Day. This is his tightest collection yet, and every story has at least one or two laugh-out-loud moments and most have several. The focus is off his family this time and really concentrates more on his life with his long time partner Hugh. This helps the stories to not feel like they are treading over the same ground, while still linking nicely to the earlier books.

A large chunk of the book is dedicated to David’s attempts to quit smoking and offer a very funny history lesson in how cultural acceptance of smoking has changed dramatically from the 60s until today. After several failed attempts to quit, he and Hugh move to Tokyo for the winter for a change of scenery. Here, David enrolls in a class to learn to speak and write Japanese. The 50-page story expertly interweaves the trials of trying to quit, along with doing something very difficult (speaking Japanese) without the crutch of a cigarette, and also several observations of Japanese culture vs. US and European. It is easily the highlight of the book.

The book is a fast read but just as engaging as his previous works. There was just something here that made me like it more. Naked tread some very dark material and the lighter touch just works better for the humor.

This review is part of the Cannonball Read series. Check here for more of Tyler DFC’s reviews.

Also, Tyler DFC has his own pop-culture blog, RUFKM.

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