Book Review 1: When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are, ”  said Mason Cooley.

That is true for me at times, but in this case, I intend to do some reading while I am moving.

Few days before leaving for my backpacking trip to Vietnam and Malaysia, I was looking for a book to carry on my journey. Nevermind, that I have my kindle with me, or that I don’t have any check-in luggage on my flights. It’s just hard to understand a bookworm at times.

So after checking the web what book is great to carry on a trip, I’ve found David Sedaris. The particular book I wanted from him was not available at the bookstore. What they had was this book, “When You Are Engulfed in Flames”; A collection of short essays.  I’ve had the tendency to devour books and finished them in few hours that I found this book worthy to be carried around. It means I could hold on to it for awhile. I could finish one essay at a time while waiting for the bus, my flights or the train.

The moment I checked the start of the book, I knew it was the one, except for the price. I was debating if shelling out some cash while I was about to go is the right decision, so I asked them to keep it for me for a day. A, then swoop up from the sky and bought me the book as a surprised (with a few nudging hints, of course). He gave it to me, while we were at our beach getaway, and I started reading right away. He scolded me and said,  “It’s for Vietnam.” So I gave in by reading only two short essays. When I mentioned the gist of the book, A commented, “That’s you! That would be the kind of author you could become”. Sure (in a dream probably)! But it was one hell of a compliment.

There are writers that when you read them once, you read them all: Kurt Vonnegut, Dan Brown and some more. It doesn’t make them less great, nor it will stop you from reading them again. Some said the same thing about Sedaris. I can’t agree or disagree considering that it was my first time reading him; so I was in the process of discovery. An entertaining, delightful discovery.

“When You are Engulfed in Flames,” is a collection of David Sedaris’ autobiographical essays chronicling some of his experiences with his longtime partner, Hugh. Each of these 22 essays is somehow unique and remarkable. Each piece is diverse from each other and yet somehow tied together by a common theme. Sedaris is gifted in telling stories about everyday life, its piquancy, and life’s mortification and turned them into something entertaining. He certainly can turn simple mundane daily events and twist it into something hilariously quirky. And it is done with his stylish deadpan delivery. What I like about the book was that despite the absurdity and weirdness of some of the stories, some ends reveal something that not only gives you a glimpse of who he is but profoundly a glimpse of yourself.

Sedaris only strengthen my belief that sometimes embarrassing and weird things could happen to you but instead of letting it bring you down, you let yourself see the humor in the situation. With a bit of self-deprecation and a hint of self-mockery, people laugh with you instead of at you. Life could be sweeter when you have the ability to learn how to laugh at yourself. Sedaris could certainly teach us a bit on how to learn to live life a little bit more and see it in the different view.

As a first timer,  I easily get what has Made David Sedaris a bestseller. He certainly is a pleasure to read. I could not help but laugh at loud no matter where am I, may it be on the bus or at the airport terminal. I certainly could not wait to read some of his books again.





Sedaris in HCMC, Vietnam, with coffee. A winning combo.


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