When You Are Engulfed In Flames

David Sedaris

When You Are Engulfed In Flames
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When You Are Engulfed In Flames

David Sedaris

David Sedaris’s remarkable ability to uncover the hilarious absurdity teeming just below the surface of everyday life is elevated to wilder and more entertaining heights than ever in this new book of stories. Sedaris proceeds from bizarre conundrums of daily life - the etiquette of having a lozenge fall from your mouth into the lap of a fellow passenger or how to soundproof your windows with LP covers against neurotic songbirds - to the most deeply resonant human truths.

Taking in the parasitic worm that once lived in his mother-in-law’s leg, an encounter with a dingo and the purchase of a human skeleton, and culminating in a brilliant account of his attempt to quit smoking - in Tokyo - David Sedaris’s sixth story collection is a fresh masterpiece of comic writing.

Review

Here is a true story: I was so engrossed in reading this book yesterday that I forgot to pick up my son from school. (I was half an hour late.)

‘Wow, Mum,’ he said. ‘That MUST be a good book.’ It is. And, for the uninitiated, that’s the sort of small, ridiculous, human incident that Sedaris’s books are packed with – beautifully set up, then seamlessly woven in to tell a wider story and, sometimes, make a larger point about contemporary life. So, a flamboyantly gay 15-year-old living in the street where Sedaris grew up (who calls Sedaris’s dad ‘she’) leads to a memory of spontaneously coming out as a 20-year-old hitchhiker to a woman in a negligee and her husband, who drive the streets propositioning hitchhikers, then a reflection on the fact that it’s now okay to be gay in Mid-Western America.

There’s also the worm that once lived in his mother-in-law’s leg; the time he decided to say ‘d’accord’ (‘okay’) to everything rather than learn French, and ended up sitting in a waiting room in his underpants, surrounded by well-dressed French patients and – hooray! – more stories about his fabulously dysfunctional, enviously tight-knit family. This is the kind of book that will make you forget the outside world. I promise.

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