Wednesday, April 3, 2019

When You Are Engulfed in Flames

I “borrowed” When You Are Engulfed in Flames* by David Sedaris from a popsicle stand Airbnb about a year ago. I realize that’s not a cool move and I’m a hypocrite because I would be sad if someone took one of my books without telling me. But we learn from our mistakes and I have learned that I just don’t belong in Airbnbs then! Also, yes-- it was a tiny home that used to be a popsicle stand. It was an awesome work of art that gave me grotesque, popsicly nightmares at night. No wonder I took the book.

The book sat on my shelf for a year and then I read it a couple of weeks ago while vacationing in Playa del Carmen, Mexico (am I coming across as well traveled???). I don’t like to label books as “beach reads” because I feel like it’s code for “this was a dumb book that I perceived as less dumb than usual because I was getting a tan”; however When You Are Engulfed in Flames was very nice to read on the beach.

I was not a big David Sedaris fan at first. Two years ago, I reviewed Me Talk Pretty One Day and didn’t find it very funny. Sedaris tells stories about his life (perhaps embellishing a little) and, as in life, some things are funny/worth telling and other things are better kept to yourself. I should take this to heart with my own Twitter, but I prefer telling other people what they should and should not write.

In my opinion, the stories in When You Are Engulfed in Flames are inherently funny and Sedaris’ writing chops improved from his Me Talk Pretty debut eight years prior. When You Are Engulfed in Flames is still a collection of essays and most of the book is about his experiences while quitting smoking. His method of quitting was to move to Tokyo and distract himself by learning Japanese. Dude, just take Chantix like Ray Liotta and get a commercial deal out of it.

Again, maybe I was blinded by the beauty of the Playa del Carmen sun, but I’ll give When You Are Engulfed in Flames 4 out of 5 camel humps.

*Sedaris, Dave. When You Are Engulfed in Flames. New York: Back Bay Books, 2008. Print.