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When You Are Engulfed in Flames

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  148,596 Ratings  ·  8,735 Reviews
It's early autumn 1964. Two straight-A students head off to school, and when only one of them returns home Chesney Yelverton is coaxed from retirement and assigned to what proves to be the most difficult and deadly - case of his career. From the shining notorious East Side, When You Are Engulfed in Flames confirms once again that David Sedaris is a master of mystery and su ...more
Hardcover, US, 323 pages
Published June 3rd 2008 by Little Brown and Company
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David Jenny Lawson, Allie Brosh, Haven Kimmel, Laurie Notaro, Annie Choi, Merrill Markoe, Sandra Tsing Loh, Mallory Ortberg, and (in fiction) I have to…moreJenny Lawson, Allie Brosh, Haven Kimmel, Laurie Notaro, Annie Choi, Merrill Markoe, Sandra Tsing Loh, Mallory Ortberg, and (in fiction) I have to highly recommend Maria Semple's "Where'd You Go, Bernadette?" Also, although you didn't want comedians, Ophira Eisenberg (Screw Everyone), Sara Barron (People are Unappealing, et al) and Margot Leitman (Gawky) are actually good writers as well. (less)
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Community Reviews

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Dusty Myers
Jul 11, 2008 Dusty Myers rated it liked it
Here's my take on Sedaris, or maybe my take on Sedaris before I listened to this book: Naked is easily his best work because it's his most thorough, his most unencumbered by his own fame. If we were to compare his oeuvre to MTV's The Real World, Naked is the original New York season (despite not being Sedaris's first book). In New York, the cast members were people already living in the city (with the Alabama exception) and trying to make a living; the whole "be on TV" part of it was something ...more
Aug 20, 2016 Lyn rated it liked it
In our present culture, we sometimes write "LOL" meaning laugh out loud to recognize something is funny, but this is usually just a smile or an acknowledgment of a humorous situation.

I can sincerely type LOL, or even ROFL, or LSHIS (laughed so hard I snorted).

This is funny.

Sedaris has a rare gift of relating a hilarious story or by simply telling a commonplace occurrence in a funny way. So why just three stars? In between the laughs is the not altogether likable persona of Sedaris. He may imp
Jul 02, 2008 James rated it liked it

That’s my review: eh.

With maybe a shoulder shrug.

Someone better read than I recently remarked something to the effect of, “Once you’ve read one David Sedaris book, haven’t you read them all?”


And Kurt Vonnegut.

And several others. But that’s neither here nor there.

Sedaris’s recent book makes such a dismissive comment truer than ever. For readers familiar with Holidays on Ice, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, and Me Talk Pretty One Day, there is little Funny and Original to enjoy fro
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Apr 11, 2014 Kelly (and the Book Boar) rated it it was amazing
Find all of my reviews at:

The funniest collection by David Sedaris that I’ve read so far. There just aren’t words to express how happy these books make me. Sedaris is by far my favorite humorist/essayist/columnist/whatever-ist you want to call him. His writing can turn my frown upside down and always leaves me laughing like a lunatic.

My infatuation actually began with another Sedaris – David’s sister Amy. Anyone who looks like this:

But prefers to get paid for
Jan 10, 2012 RandomAnthony rated it really liked it
You know, Montambo is right, this is Sedaris' best book. While earlier in his career the author seemed to go for easy laughs (Look at my brother! What an ass!) or convenient self-loathing something seems to have clicked this time around that transforms the work from magazine article quality to literature. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Sedaris sounds like a real writer in this book; the essays flow unforced and genuine insight accompanies the punch lines. Sedaris doesn't seem to be writing for p ...more
Jason Koivu
Apr 23, 2014 Jason Koivu rated it liked it
Shelves: comedy, humor
When You Are Engulfed in Flames continues David Sedaris' cataloguing of the awkward moments of his life in humorous, memoir-like essays.

Herein are more of his usual daily-life topics: getting to know the neighbors (I.E. the local child molester), his fascination with creepy shit, the annoying people that enter his life, relationship issues (poor Hugh comes in for it in this one!), his pet spider and a mish-mash of other stuff.

Sedaris is very open about his personal issues. He has some OCDs and
Jun 06, 2008 Brian rated it it was ok
Shelves: autobiography
After reading Sedaris' previous collection, I began to suspect that he had mined all of the material he could from his family and the earlier hard times he experienced. It appeared he was now left with the task of finding hilarity and poignancy in the life of a rich, celebrated author. "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" confirms that his days of dressing as an elf, picking apples, and hitch-hiking cross country with an incomplete quadriplegic are long gone. In their place we are left with essays ...more
3.5 or maybe 4 - rounding up because I was entertained. Not my favorite Sedaris. This one seemed to be darker and more serious than the others of his I have read (includes some artsy filler stories). There were some of the usual amusing tales - most of which in this book took place in France or on an airplane. The last 1/3 of the book (or so) was a cross between what it is like to live in Japan and being a smoker from start to finish.

I don't think I would recommend that someone start here if th
V. Briceland
Oct 13, 2016 V. Briceland rated it did not like it
Dear Mr. Sedaris,

First off, I understand that you live in France. With your boyfriend. In France. Where they speak French, because it's France. Thank you for reminding me you live in France, with your boyfriend, where they speak French, with funny French accents, and funny funny French words, with their French ways, every ten to twelve pages. Else I might have forgotten you live in . . . wait, where was it again?

No, seriously, I'm glad you have an army of NPR-head fans to squirm with delight at
Feb 09, 2009 Shannon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lulz
I don't quite get the people who say this isn't as funny as his other books- I thought it was plenty funny. The comment about having a 400 dollar sweater that looked like it had been thrown to a tiger and thus was already ruined and incapable of being further ruined.. that made me laugh. And saying a cracker tasted like penis. And lots of little one-liners. But what's really awesome about his stuff is that it's MORE than just a bunch of one-liners. He really is a very observant, intelligent, hil ...more
The reasons that this didn't get a 1 star from me are because 1.) I didn't actively dislike anything about it, I just found it boring and 2.) David Sedaris' narration is great. Actually, his narrating is probably one of the only things I did like about this book.

As an avid listener of NPR's This American Life, I have, from time to time, heard stories from David Sedaris and found them highly enjoyable. So enjoyable, in fact, that I've been driving to work almost in tears from laughter. What I exp
Ivonne Rovira
Oct 22, 2015 Ivonne Rovira rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have adored the hilarious David Sedaris from his very first readings on NPR. And nothing in When You Are Engulfed in Flames makes me adore him less — not even his ultra-competitiveness with children and his cavalier attitude towards cancer.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames explores the give-and-take of long-term relationships, some objectionable neighbors, the struggles of quitting smoking or learning a new language, and Japanese society — always in pretty funny ways. While not as hilarious as
brian tanabe
Jul 15, 2008 brian tanabe rated it really liked it
When I first saw this in a bookstore I thought to myself, can he do it again? Is there more scrapable hilarity clinging to the walls of his interesting life, fit to amuse and entertain his many fans? Sedaris does in fact do it again and apparently there's an endless well of funny stuffy, a font of hilarity, within this man.

This is another great collection, on par with his other works for all the Sedaris fans out there. There is one story in particular (“That's Amore”) -- or rather a character in
Jun 16, 2008 Alana rated it really liked it
While I certainly won't call this the best David Sedaris collection that you can purchase for yourself, I will say that any David Sedaris is worth reading -- and thus, my star rating. It would probably be more like three and a half if Goodreads did half stars the way LibraryThing does, but ah well.
The observation I have for this collection is that with Mr. Sedaris giving up drinking, drugs, and smoking... his stories seem to be a bit more tame. Much more focus on his boyfriend Hugh or stories ti
Jun 12, 2008 Imogen rated it really liked it
When I am not reading David Sedaris, I am thinking: David Sedaris, man, there is a popular guy whose books are kind of just always around and not very interesting. But when I *am* reading him, I'm always like, there are five or six absolutely brilliant punchlines in every one of this guy's books, and the other parts are, y'know, enjoyable enough.

I think it's a testament to my always forgetting how much I like him that I guess I've read all his stuff, but I absolutely never think of him as an au
Aug 19, 2008 Erin rated it it was amazing
Some people find that after reading one or two of Sedaris's books, he becomes less ha-ha funny. Maybe they get used to his style of humour. Maybe there's a golden order in which to read them (personally, I find chronologically by publishing date works well). Maybe there is a slight advantage to hearing him speak in person. I tend to read him while imagining how he'd say it, and immediately a dry sentence comes to life.

I could go on about the maturation I see happening in his work, but I won't. N
Aug 01, 2008 Valerie rated it liked it
Shelves: short-stories
When I first started reading this book, I found myself disappointedly thinking that it was just more of the same from David Sedaris - stories that either make you laugh out loud or make you cringe (or more often both). Don't get me wrong - he's still funny - but I was expecting more from this one... some evolution in style or content. I liked his earlier books because they were more raw, the stories a bit more unexpected. The beginning of this one felt a little recycled, and I was ready to be do ...more
Aug 30, 2008 Shelly rated it it was ok
Shelves: memoirs
I think the honeymoon is over. Or, maybe I'm just too hard to please. Wait, I don't think those are mutually exclusive. In any event, I was let down. This collection of stories/anecdotes seemed more blog-worthy than book-worthy to me. It gave me the sense that he was under pressure to put another book out. To say something. So he follows the formula that's worked for him so well only this time the content's not nearly as entertaining, or noteworthy. One chapter is about a boil he had that his pa ...more
Jul 08, 2008 Rob rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: if you thought "Dress Your Family..." was a misstep for Mr. Sedaris (or his publisher)
A solid and damn near close to that we'll settle for . But then again, I'm a serious Sedaris fiend.

When You Are Engulfed In Flames makes Sedaris' previous collection, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim , seem like a disaster, a complete train wreck. Which is unfair because I think that Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim is a strong collection with some exemplary essays. And also because I get the feeling that it was a more personal werk for him, that he's a bit more exposed and vuln
Oct 31, 2008 David rated it it was ok
This new collection of essays by David Sedaris is unobjectionable, but fails to come anywhere near the hilarity of his best effort, "Me Talk Pretty Some Day". Most of the pieces remind one of "Seinfeld", being about nothing but the author's particular neuroses. Which range from being moderately entertaining ("Memento Mori", buying a human skeleton and its aftermath) to weirdly offputting ("April in Paris", in which the author's fascination with spiders is merely grotesque).

True fans may enjoy th
The first time I had ever heard David Sedaris was when he once appeared on Letterman and read an essay about a "Stadium Pal" the perfect accessory for a sports fan or full time trucker. Basically a catheter like situation that flows into a bag that is "conveniently" taped to your calf. It is for when you just don't want to get up and go to the washroom, you can pee into this sac and deal with the urine at a later time.
(Other then the recommendation to not wear shorts apparently the skys the li
N W James
Jun 02, 2008 N W James rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Sedarians
I didn't care much for Sedaris' last book, Dress your family in corduroy and denim. It felt forced, his embellishments more absurd to the point where I felt it was obvious which events actually happened and which were invented to make the story more interesting.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames was calmer in tone, more believable and felt less deadline inspired. Most of the stories revolve around the author and his partner, as opposed to the Sedaris brood - Gretchen, Lisa, the Chicken and, of cou
Lord Beardsley
Jan 20, 2013 Lord Beardsley rated it really liked it
Shelves: read2013
I was pretty disappointed with "Dress Your Family...". After reading it, I was a little concerned that Sedaris was feeling a bit stuck as to how to proceed with his writing. So, I waited a while to read "When You Are Engulfed," and it was worth the wait!

It felt like the author has grown in confidence and voice, also in allowing vulnerability in and seems to be extending himself beyond tales of his childhood (although those abound). It's not a huge change of form (and why should it be? His child
Jul 31, 2008 Selena rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: people who like shitty jokes
I'm one of the few people in this world who does not think that David Sedaris is funny or deserves the critical acclaim that he has received for his various endeavors.

His stories are not particularly funny or clever. I feel like anyone could be a David Sedaris. Sit some asshole down and tell him to write something remotely funny in a memoir kind of way, and there you have it: David Sedaris. The New Yorker will publish it at first in short stories and from there someone will ask you to compile it
Sep 08, 2013 Kim rated it liked it
Shelves: essays

I flummox myself. Onomatopoeically, that totally fits. It happens often and the internal struggle is staggering. This happens out in the open, usually on a crowded sidewalk or bus or subway or stoplight. I find that I will mouth the argument much to the annoyance of people who need to walk around me or stand next to me or wait behind me. Sometimes I think I'm deep...this Denny's bottomless cup of coffee of enlightenment, sometimes I think I'm just fucking nuts.

Why do I not like David Sedaris mo
Dillwynia Peter
Jan 07, 2016 Dillwynia Peter rated it really liked it
I now understand the appeal of Sedaris. This collection is incredibly eclectic - probably more so that say Dress your family in cordaroy & denim - which is predominantly about his family. The usual themes are explored: interactions with his family; being an American in France; his relationship with his partner; and growing up gay in America.
This was an audiobook read by Sedaris, so it is possible to hear his nuances in his writing, the punch line and the puns and humour. It has, for me, a Ne
Jan 02, 2011 Malbadeen rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people looking for a kinder, gentler Sedaris
Shelves: funny, memoir-ish
Considering how I feel about any one book by Sedaris is, at this point, like wondering how I feel about one of my kids drawings vs. another.
At the end of the day I adore him so dang much it's hard to see it objectively.
This was not my favorite book of his, it seemed much sweeter and settled than his others, yet was enjoyable in it's own right.
The content of his memories, reflections and observations are so much more benign than those in past writings (I suppose one can only exercise so many demo
Apr 30, 2009 Tatiana rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
This is the second book by Sedaris that I've read at the insistence of my co-worker (first was Naked). And although I enjoyed it more than Naked, I still don't understand why he is called one of the funniest writers out there. Based on the reviews, I am not the only one who thinks that way. Yes, sometimes he can be quite ironic or sarcastic, but laugh-out-loud funny? I don't think so.

Once again we are presented with an anthology of autobiographical essays. Several of them are funny, some are sa
Stefania T.
Quando, in preda alle mie manie/idiosincrasie/fobie/fissazioni, incontro uno scrittore che, con nonchalance, quasi fischiettando, riporta su carta bianca tutti i caotici discorsi delle vocette che albergano nella mia mente, riportandone i toni e l'atmosfera della più completa inettitudine, e, in più, mi fa ridere a crepapelle di tutto ciò, come può il giudizio non essere più che positivo (e forse anche un po' sbilanciato)?

Alcuni racconti sono (nettamente) migliori di altri, un tantino di delusio
No me gustan los libros que se autodenominan 'humorísticos'. Principalmente porque no me suelen hacer ni pizca de gracia; los encuentro artificiosos, absurdos, forzados y casi siempre ridículos. Preguntadle a un tal Safier. Casi puedo oír desde aquí las risas enlatadas. Sin embargo, gracias a Cuando te envuelvan las llamas he conseguido dar con una excepción milagrosa. Y es que David Sedaris resulta más divertido y natural cuanto más trata de ocultar las pretensiones cómicas de sus relatos. Lo q ...more
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David Sedaris is a Grammy Award-nominated American humorist and radio contributor.

Sedaris came to prominence in 1992 when National Public Radio broadcast his essay "SantaLand Diaries." He published his first collection of essays and short stories, Barrel Fever, in 1994. Each of his four subsequent essay collections, Naked (1997), Holidays on Ice (1997), Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000), Dress Your Fa
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“Sometimes the sins you haven't committed are all you have left to hold onto.” 1552 likes
“It's just a penis, right? Probably no worse for you than smoking.” 177 likes
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