October 16, 2011

Not to Mention the AWESOME Cover...

When you are Engulfed in Flames
David Sedaris
Collection of Essays

This is my second experience with Sedaris, having previously read Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk last year on new years eve. I enjoyed both. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk is a parody on real life situations and their absurdity, anthropomorphized. When you are Engulfed in Flames was much more personal, and relatable - to me, at least.

I wasn't sure, when I started reading, if these were all true essays about situations in his life, or another parody, or short stories put together to mock a collection of essays (Palo Alto, anyone?). It is the first, and it is excellent.

I can relate to David Sedaris, only I'm less funny, less rich, and less daring (drugs are mentioned more than once). Many things that made me laugh about this book - were like little inside jokes that I was in on, where someone else - more charismatic, less worried, and less interesting - wouldn't understand.

Here is an excerpt that perhaps we can all relate to:

"I will walk out the door and never look back, never return his calls, never even open his letters. The pots and pans, all the things that we acquired together, he can have them, that’s how unfeeling I will be.
Thirty minutes of pure rage, and when I finally spot him I realize that I’ve never been so happy to see anyone in my life.
“There you are,” I say. And when he asks where I have been, I answer honestly and tell him I was lost."

It is the text in between those lines that I found so much of myself in. Finding yourself completely reliant on a person after so many years - perhaps everyone has that, but It felt especially resonant with me. 
After I got through a bit of the book and started seeing characters returning after a few essays, I decided I loved that effect. Since these are real people, they are more beautiful to me - and by seeing them in many stories, you really get a better feel about who they are. Seeing them in this situation, and then this one -- it's more like real life. When you meet someone, you don't follow them around inside their head all day, you see them in the little situations you find yourselves in when you happen to be hanging out. 
Reading this book made me finally pick up a blank notebook (as I'd been meaning to do for quite awhile) and begin chronicling my life - in thoughts, events, and emotions - as a journal. 
I find in the end, this is a top contender on my shelf for re-read. Sedaris is so (brutally at times) honest, and you can rely on him as your narrator through these tidbits of life. Since I started with his most recently published book, and then his second more recently published book (which happened completely on accident), I think I will continue this pattern and read Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim next.


What Remains Now said...

I haven't read this one yet, but I love David Sedaris. I've read three of his books and laughed 'til I cried.

btweenthecovers.com said...

I've read this, and Me Talk Pretty One Day and I enjoyed both very much. The only thing you forgot to mention is that Sedaris is HILARIOUS. I laughed out loud a whole bunch while reading both books. I'm working on reading them all. Great review.

Steven E. Belanger said...

Any reason to pick up a notebook and use it as a Life Journal is a good reason. You have a good book or two in there as well. Rumor has it that we all do!