I first got into David Sedaris about five years ago, when I made the mistake of reading Me Talk Pretty One Day on an airplane ride and spent the entire time trying to stifle giggles unsuccessfully. It’s shameful that it’s taken me so long to read When You Are Engulfed in Flames, but the result is no less pleasing.
Sedaris’ books are collections of stories that he writes about his life. More specifically his family, his longtime partner and their world travels, and the copious amounts of drugs he used in his younger years. I always find them ridiculous but relatable, and When You Are is no different. There are moments when I laugh so hard it hurts, and others when I feel sorry for him.
The last third(ish) of the book is about his decision to quit smoking and it’s both entertaining and informative. He describes to the reader that he started smoking in a culture that is so different than ours now. Now we have clean air zones, smoking bans, and the disintegration of the smoking section. As a non-smoker I never thought of the difference it would make to a traveler who can no longer smoke in their hotel, or having to smoke in those disgusting tanks they have in airports. Some people would say it serves them right, but whatever.
Overall it is just as enjoyable as Sedaris’ other books. I laugh out loud on every page and my boyfriend thinks I’m crazy. But at least I’m in the privacy of our home and not crying from laughter on a plane by myself. If you haven’t read any of his work, I would suggest starting with Holidays on Ice and moving up from there. I tried to pull some quotes from the book, but there’s no way to do it without the context, which makes them even funnier. His writing style is so matter of fact that I feel like if I tried to pull it apart I would ruin it, so you really just need to read it on your own. Holidays on Ice is a good place to start because the book is the size of a coaster so you can’t really go wrong.