Monday, September 21, 2009

When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris

I wish I was rich. I kept thinking that over and over while I was perusing David Sedaris’s new book with the initial intensity of a child who had found a bag of old Valentine candy, knowing I’d try it no matter how old and sticky they looked. I couldn’t help not thinking it. Other than an occasional essay in the New Yorker, you know on my frequent business trips when I fly around the world…I’ve not read much Sedaris, but I’ve heard great praise for his work, so I wanted to try out his new collection of essays.

Don’t get me wrong here. Most were hysterical. He has a gift of making the mundane, the ludicrous and the little issues that hide in corners of our everyday relationships, bone-ticklingly funny. Almost every essay discusses his boyfriend Hugh in some way. Keeping up with Hugh who walks way faster than he does, putting up with the 200 year-old skeleton Hugh wants to hang in their bedroom, you know, typical relationship stuff, although I try to keep my skeletons in my closet, not hanging over my bed.


When he’s not discussing Hugh, he writes about early Sedaris family life, his parents art collection growing up, his parents cork-lined paneling, how he and his siblings survived the white trash babysitter. Interspersed in little increments throughout we hear about his multiple homes in France, his many travels by plane, his many book readings, and in conclusion, how he spent 20K on three months in Japan while trying to quit smoking. I’ll admit by that point I was tired of it, almost bored. David Sedaris, the person, seemed a little to full of David Sedaris, the writer.

The clincher might have been his bio on the last page: David Sedaris half-dozen books have been printed in 25 languages, including Estonian, Greek, and Bahasa. What? Bahasa? I guess that means he's not just famous, but really super world famous. Or maybe he's just being funny. That's the thing I'm figuring out about this man. You can never tell for sure.

But, I hear his earlier stuff is great, so maybe he’s reached a point in his career where he tries to provide his own fodder and now it feels forced? Unnatural maybe? I’m not really qualified to make that assumption, but I do know I will try his earlier stuff as I hear Naked and Holidays on Ice are some of his best, most sincere early work.

Who knows, maybe back then he only lived in one house and traveled by horse-drawn buggy. Well, I can dream can't I?
3 stars


Anonymous said...

Try Me Talk Pretty. I love Sedaris. I try not to read his books in public because I can't stop laughing out loud.

TheBlackSheep said...

Does it make you feel any better to know I've never heard of him?

I think if I ever do try him, I'll start with the earlier works methinks.

Lula O said...

StephanieD - I've heard that's a good one, that one and Naked. He is laugh out loud funny. Twisted too. Thanks for stopping by!

BlackSheep - I'd heard of him from the New Yorker, but had no idea he'd written books until recently. I wouldn't start with this one if I did it again.