David Sedaris, where have you been all my life? How many bloggers have to tell me he is God's gift to pee-in-your-pants laughter before I actually check him out? I guess it all started with a review I read recently of a 4-disc Sedaris audio (sorry, can't remember the blogger or the book), but ended up with "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" because that is what was available at the library.
I'll just start out by saying I can't do this man justice. If you have read him, heard him on audio or in real life, you already know this. If you haven't, you will just have to trust me. No excerpt will capture the essence of the dry, sardonic yet brutally honest wit of the man, or of Sedaris' own high, whiny voice that delivers it. (On a side note, Sedaris reminded me alot of Sarah Vowell, author and narrator of "The Wordy Shipmates". I say this with love in my heart.) I cannot even conceive that reading his books would be half the experience of hearing him in all his glory.
Since this was my first Sedaris adventure, I'm certainly not an expert. But assuming that his modus operandi is consistent from book to book, here is what you can expect: A series of essays about nothing, sort of like the TV show Seinfeld. Sedaris ruminates on various events in his life...living with a full-sized skeleton in his apartment and imagining that it is continually telling him he is going to die, sitting in a doctor's waiting room in his underwear, sneezing a cough drop into the lap of the lady sitting next to him on a flight, and a nasty boil on his rear end, just for some examples. He even spends two discs talking about his efforts to quit smoking. But on this path of enlightenment, he also takes short detours of the mind. Digressions, if you will, that are just as much fun as the primary train of thought.
For those easily offended, Sedaris may push your buttons. Bad language, the occasional gay reference, the slaughtering of a few sacred cows...it's in there. But in Sedaris' little-boy voice, it all seems OK. I was snickering or laughing out loud about every 5 or 10 minutes, languishing in his style of humor. Now when I find myself in a depression from too much literary family dysfunction or WWII dramas, I know where to turn.
Are you one of the millions of worshipers of Sedaris? What is his best novel?
4.5 out of 5 stars