Archive for September 12th, 2014

‘When You Are Engulfed in Flames’ presents the quirky sensibility of essayist David Sedaris

September 12, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
Sept. 12, 2014

David Sedaris is a comic essayist whose most frequent subject is himself. Raised in Raleigh, N.C., by an alcoholic housewife and the son of Greek immigrants, Sedaris himself was an aimless drug-using alcoholic artist wannabe for years before developing a career as a popular writer.

When You Are Engulfed in Flames, Sedaris’s 2008 collection, is his sixth book, and it’s up to his usual standards. The various essays look at outrageous episodes from his childhood, adulthood and present life; often, the essays touch upon more than one of these periods.

A frequent trope is Sedaris as misfit. “Road Trips” describes some of his awkward early attempts to grapple with his homosexuality; “Buddy, Can You Spare a Tie?” is a catalog of the author’s sartorial follies; “Keeping Up” compares the discomfort he’s witnessed among foreigners visiting Paris (where he’s lived for some time) with his own misadventures as a tourist with his boyfriend, Hugh.

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