When You Are Engulfed in Flames – David Sedaris

If you’re a regular follower of the blog, you’ll already know of my  love for David Sedaris. I turn to his writing when I’m feeling down or if I can’t sleep. His entertaining memories always have me in stitches but I also find his words reassuring, and often there is a poignancy to his stories.

Being a bit quirky himself, Sedaris attracts some rather strange people. Many of them wouldn’t be out of place in a Dickens’ novel. This book in particular has some real corkers. There’s his opinionated and crude New York neighbour who sounds like just the sort of person I would avoid. But she makes for great reading, especially with lines such as “Mess with me, and I’ll stick my foot so far up your ass I’ll lose my shoe”.  And who could forget Mrs. Peacock, a childminder who lived in a house full of toy dolls and forced the Sedaris children to scratch her back with a claw-like hand on a stick?

I often wonder how much Sedaris embellishes and exaggerates. It’s almost as though his life is made up of anecdotes, all perfect for recording in a diary and later reading aloud to an audience. But some of his recollections could quite easily have happened to anyone. One of my favourite pieces from When You Are Engulfed in Flames is all about an argument he has with a woman sitting next to him on an aeroplane. The  thoughts that swirl round his head are very similar to what I’d be thinking in the same situation. Sedaris takes these commonplace moments and makes you laugh out loud, both because of the cringe-worthy awkwardness of the situation and the fact that it’s so relatable.

I don’t think I will ever tire of reading about David Sedaris. I love learning about his previous jobs, his book tours and the people in his life. I’ve been a fly on the wall in his family home and, although it feels slightly intrusive, I find it fascinating. The family has its quirks, but really his relationships are refreshingly ordinary. My favourite line from this book describes Sedaris and his long-term boyfriend Hugh in the moments of fake cheeriness after a fight as “two decent people trapped in a rather dull play”. It’s certainly not romantic, but I find it comforting, somehow.

Buy this hilarious book by clicking on the picture below.

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