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When You Are Engulfed in Flames

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  181,068 ratings  ·  9,709 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 / CAN Edition, 323 pages
Published June 3rd 2008 by Little Brown and Company
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Katy Because the last essay is about his efforts to quit smoking and the Van Gogh picture shows a skeleton with a cigarette in its mouth, probably how Seda…moreBecause the last essay is about his efforts to quit smoking and the Van Gogh picture shows a skeleton with a cigarette in its mouth, probably how Sedaris pictured himself ending up. (less)
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Average rating 4.06  · 
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 ·  181,068 ratings  ·  9,709 reviews


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Lyn
Aug 01, 2011 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
...more
Dusty Myers
Jul 11, 2008 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
Debbie
Yep, pogo-stick time! Leave it to Sedaris to send me bouncing!

Okay. Imagine this: You end up in a waiting room in France in just your underwear, all because you uttered “I agree” in French. Or, how about if you coughed so hard a lozenge flew from your mouth onto the lap of a nasty passenger sitting next to you on a plane? Seriously, these things happened to Sedaris, and man can he make every little detail hilarious. I’m grinning just thinking of the pickles he had to wriggle out of!

Sedaris is m
...more
Robin
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018, humour, american
Oh, David Sedaris. I'll always love him for rescuing me from the bog-of-eternal-stench which is A Little Life. I survived my weeks-long recovery from that epic torture session by reading Sedaris' hilarious Me Talk Pretty One Day. He earned lifelong gratitude from me, reminding me books don't have to include dozens of sexual assaults, or a multitude of self harm shower scenes, in order to be great. They can actually make you LAUGH. OUT LOUD. IN PUBLIC. Or, in my car, in endless Montreal traffic, ...more
Majenta
Jan 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
4 1/2 stars.

"The houses looked like something a child might draw, a row of shaky squares with triangles on top. Add a door, add two windows. Think of putting a tree in the front yard, and then decide against it because branches aren't worth the trouble." (Page 27)

"...I referred to him as Sir Lance-a-Lot. 'Once is not a lot,' he said. This was true, but Sir Lance Occasionally lacks a certain ring." (Page 238)

Thanks for reading!
Brian
Jan 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
“How different life looks when people behave themselves.”

"When You are Engulfed in Flames" is a more mature and serious work from Mr. Sedaris. Just like the rest of us, he is growing up. Death, the comfort and security of old relationships, and the humility of age are all thematic elements in this text. However, that is not to say that Sedaris has lost his inimitable sense of style and humor. “Flames” is a seriously funny book, but it has more pages between the laugh out loud antics of some of S
...more
James
Jun 23, 2008 rated it liked it
Eh.

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?”

Yes.

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
...more
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Feb 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

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
...more
Matthew
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
...more
Mark Porton
May 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
When you are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris was a much needed reprieve from a miserable previous book. I was after something to lighten the mood and make me laugh. Well, Sedaris did the trick – I downloaded it onto my Kindle around 10pm, sullen, miserable and crestfallen. Halfway through the first chapter of my new book, I was laughing out loud.

”It was just a Guinea Worm, people get them all the time” Hugh’s (David’s Boyfriend) Mother explained regarding a worm she previously had growing o
...more
Jason Koivu
Apr 07, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: humor, comedy
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
...more
RandomAnthony
Oct 24, 2008 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
Calista
David totally brought the funny in some of these stories, but overall, this was not my favorite collection of his. I list all the stories at the end.

The Understudy had me in stitches. Oh, so funny. Town and Country was pretty funny. Oh, In the Waiting room had me rolling. I almost had to pull over for that one. Solution's to Saturdays puzzle had me laughing uncontrollably also.

So there are some gems in this book. It was well worth reading. I felt like the last story about Japan and him wanting
...more
Montzalee Wittmann
Mar 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris and narrated by author is a book I picked up from the library. I enjoyed this book so much! The first story had me laughing so much!!! He has a way of telling a basic story but making it extraordinary and either heartwarming, thought provoking, or hilarious! I could relate to many of his characters! I think I have seem them all he listed. Love his books!
Julie
Sep 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
This collection of personal essays is not for everyone. My grandmother, who died three years ago at the age of 87, would've been hospitalized by the third chapter. My 70-year-old father, who is alive and kicking, wouldn't crack the cover.

That's okay. I get it. The musings of a white, gay, affluent male with an extensive drug past aren't for everyone.

But, I couldn't stop laughing. To be specific, I chuckled, I chortled, I giggled, I guffawed. I tittered behind my hand, I fell forward with deep
...more
Antigone
Aug 29, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays-shorts
I find humor particularly difficult to review. Even if I like a work, what sparks my smile may leave you cold. So much depends upon a shared sensibility - which is, in actuality, the bedrock of the craft.

The art of comedy lies, for the most part, in guiding a mind to merge with yours for a moment to rejoice in the ridiculousness of reality. It's not enough to know what's funny, not if you plan to take this act on the road. Because as much as an audience may want - or even need - to get the joke,
...more
V. Briceland
Jan 04, 2011 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
...more
Anne
Mar 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020, bio-memoir, audio
In my binge listening to Sedaris lately, looking for laughs and something to lighten my day I didn't find this selection of essays as humorous as the 3 previous books. I even went through it a second time to be sure. There were definitely some funny moments and some chuckles to be had and the trademark Sedaris take on people and awkward situations. But there were more than the usual number of characters in this selection that were acerbic and unlikable and some of the essays just fell flat for m ...more
Brian
May 31, 2008 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
Nusrah Javed
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Every night before I went to bed, I would read an essay from this collection. The longer ones would take me more than one night, even three sometimes. Every single night though, exhausted from the day of taking care of a 4 month old, work and general adulting, I would go to sleep with a smile on my face. Sedaris's words kept pulling me back from a breakdown so many times; from unbearable exhaustion to a month full of house guests. One particular night I started laughing out loud at one of his es ...more
Shannon
Apr 26, 2008 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
Maxwell
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
...more
brian tanabe
Jun 11, 2008 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
...more
Ivonne Rovira
Jul 23, 2015 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
...more
Alana
Jun 12, 2008 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
...more
Rae
Oct 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Another exceptional work by Mr. Sedaris. Kept me laughing from beginning to end.
Sam Quixote
Dec 04, 2011 rated it liked it
Is there anyone better to read when you want to relax and laugh a bit, than David Sedaris? I still think "Santaland Diaries" is must-read material for this time of year and "Me Talk Pretty One Day" is one of the funniest books I've ever read, full stop. So it's a given that when he publishes a new book I have to buy it immediately. I know, "When You are Engulfed in Flames" came out in 2008, this is 2011, but I did try and read it 3 years ago but I gave up frustrated. The solution to completing i ...more
Imogen
Jun 10, 2008 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
...more
Erin
Aug 12, 2008 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
...more
Selena
Jul 31, 2008 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
...more
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18,751 followers
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
...more

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