Schmacko's Reviews > When You Are Engulfed in Flames

When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris
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Jun 19, 08

Read in June, 2008

I just finished the new David Sedaris book When You are Engulfed in Flames. Isn’t that his snappiest title yet?

This very funny man’s book of personal essays only sporadically reaches the wacky heights of his other book. I laughed quite a few times, but there were very few stories I wanted to read to my friends over the phone (a mark of distinction I’ve held for his earlier books)

There are a few stand-out, hilarious stories here. One about Sedaris’ neighbor in NYC will surely be added to the pantheon of “Wacky People David has Met.” Her name is Helen, and this octogenarian curses like a sailor, cooks disgusting food that she presents as a prize to only certain neighbors, and basically belittles and insults everyone.

And Sedaris certainly has a gift for turning a funny phrase, calling Scandinavia “a cold and forsaken place where people stay indoors and plot the death of knobs.”

What seems to often be missing here are Sedaris’ wild flights of panic, paranoia, and fancy we’ve witnessed in the past. When the author’s in top form, he can throw out the most outrageous and unorthodox views of the world and then tightly pull them back together into a single, hilarious yet honest picture. Instead we get charming stories of losing his lover in a foreign zoo, or of that same lover proving his love by lancing David’s boil (this latter story has all the possibility of a great Sedaris yarn, but he misses the chance to panic and become all hypochondriac and run to the library and then comically explain the medical phenomenon of a boil to us. Instead, Sedaris describes the smell – gross- and then waxes poetic about his boyfriend’s offer to lance it.)

The last story of the book – a longer tale of Sedaris quitting smoking – has its moments but is largely all over the place; a trip to Tokyo, language classes, Japanese sight-seeing, and tricks on avoiding the cancer stick. It never adds up, and coincidentally, it’s probably the worst thing Sedaris has written. It’s still intermittently funny, but it doesn’t through me into a fit of paroxysms, which I know Sedaris is capable of.

He’s still a good writer, better than almost everyone else out there, but this isn’t his best material.

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message 1: by Claudio (last edited Jan 14, 2009 09:31AM) (new)

Claudio Carina Hi, Schmacko
I'm translating Engulfed in Flames to Portuguese and I have a serious doubt. When Sedaris says "planning the death of knobs" is he actually referring to door knobs? Or is there a meaning that I cannot understand?
Thank you in advance for any enlightnenment

Schmacko Because Swedish furniture doesn't have knobs on the drawers or drawer pulls, it's funny. Swedish furniture usually has a bevel or divet in the wood instead of drawer pulls or knobs. Look up Swedish design online and you'll see what I mean. "The death of knobs" is like "the extinction of drawer pulls." Does this help?

message 3: by Claudio (new)

Claudio Carina You've been very helpful, Schmacko, thank you very much. Now at least I can figure out a solution.
Best wishes

Tyler Hart Hah! I was wondering that same thing. Excellent explanation schmacko, thanks a bundles!
Those swedes are some crazy ass Ikea shits, I tell you what.

Amanda Jorgensen Claudio wrote: "You've been very helpful, Schmacko, thank you very much. Now at least I can figure out a solution.
Best wishes"

Claudio, voce terminou a traducao? Esta fazendo com o objetivo de mandar para alguma editora?
Acabei de ler o livro agora e fiquei com vontade de traduzi-lo tambem, caso nao houvesse ainda uma traducao no mercado brasileiro...

Um abraco,

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