Avid fans of David Sedaris’ work probably know him better than their own family. They are aware of his many menial jobs, his off-beat family, his adventures in slackerdom, and more important, his sardonic wit. Ever since he grabbed the spotlight by regaling his days of woe as a Macy’s elf, Sedaris’ frank and scintillating manner has earned him a place in the literary world. “When You Are Engulfed in Flames” continues the author’s saga, never straying from the biting style that has served him so well in his previous books.
Sedaris makes us laugh at his own expense, as well as of those closest to him. The usual cast of characters are back along with a new crop lunatics, including a foul-mouthed sexagenarian neighbor, a scary babysitter with a monkey’s paw, and an airplane passenger with a chip on her shoulder and lozenge on her lap, just to name a few. Sedaris also explores his personal life, such as coming out of the closet to close friends and finding love, or something like it, with his partner Hugh.
What makes Sedaris’ writing captivating is his ability to take everyday events and spin them into a yarn long enough to knit a bulky sweater. His trials and tribulations, no matter how small or petty, are placed under a microscope for our amusement. For some folks, this might seem like beating a dead horse, but it’s more like catching up with an old schoolmate, albeit one you probably avoided in the hallways on occasion. You might think him a bit strange, but at least you know his stories will be good.