On the Shelf Book Review: ‘When You Are Engulfed in Flames’, by David Sedaris

when-you-are-engulfed-in-flamesOn the Shelf Book Review
By Lisa Boss, Grand Rapids Public Library, Main

When David Sedaris, the famous humorist, was in Grand Rapids last spring, the Grand Rapids Press reviewer summed up his type of comedy as “NPR funny”— an excellent term, which perfectly describes an addictive style that touches on the poignant absurdity of life.

Along the lines of Woody Allen and James Thurber, with a bit of Jack Benny and Phillip Roth thrown in, Sedaris takes the melancholy and self-absorbed male to new heights. He’s honed an intense, but not mean-spirited voice over the years, and it is quite unique.

With a self-depreciating eye, he looks over topics like his childhood, family life, a checkered career path, being obsessive, being gay, travel, and his long-term relationship with his partner, Hugh, among others. If the topics seem a little mundane, it’s really about what he does with them.

If you haven’t discovered Sedaris yet, try a couple of his more recent works. One of my favorites is Dress Your Family in Denim and Corduroy, which has the small chapter, The End of the Affair, where David and Hugh take in a movie. It becomes clear to Sedaris that watching romantic movies is just plain dangerous, for reasons that may not have ever occurred to you. These four pages alone are worth the price of the book, and of course his works are available in print or audio at the library for free.