You Are What You Read

Reviews of books as I read them. This is basically a (web)log of books I've read.

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Location: Lawrenceville, Georgia, United States

I am a DBA/database analyst by day, full time father on evenings and weekends.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

When You Are Engulfed in Flames

When You Are Engulfed in Flames is the latest book by David Sedaris. Like the last two I enjoyed, this is a compilation of humorous essays about various subjects.

One of the funniest essays is "The Understudy", about the old woman left to take care of him and his sisters and brother when his parents go on a vacation. The old woman, Mrs. Peacock, spends her time in their parents bed, having the children take turns scratching her back with a back scratcher. She barely feeds them anything or takes care of them. The greatest part is when their parents come home are are incredulous about their tales of woe.

He also talks about his life living in France. About misunderstanding what a nurse tells you and sitting down in the waiting room in his underwear. About befriending an old man in an old hut who turns out to be a molester.

He also writes about traveling. He describes some of the people he meets when hitchhiking. He is cursed to meet some of the worst people. A woman he sits next to on a plane makes his flight miserable because he refuses to trade seats with her husband.

Another terrible woman he meets is his neighbor in an apartment building. She is nosy, mean, demanding and pushy. Yet he maintains a friendship with her for years, and attends her funeral.

The final essay is a long one about his decision to live in Japan for three months while he tries to give up smoking. It's a strange choice, given the heavy smoking of the Japanese and the fact that he doesn't speak the language. But he and his boyfriend stay in an apartment and he takes language lessons. He describes some anecdotes of his life there, including how terrible he does in the Japanese class and how he comes to not think of smoking.

Sedaris has a way of describing the incidents in his life and bringing out the most humorous and touching parts. He has a way of finding the most interesting people, in a good way and a bad way. As usual, I found the parts where he describes his family the most entertaining. One of the funniest essays is "Adult Figures Charging Toward Concrete Toadstool", where he talks about turning his parents onto his love of art, only to have them overtake his interest and for him to discover that he has terrible taste and no talent. I found myself laughing at many points in the book. B+


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