Audiobook of the Month: When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

As the season turns subtly into fall – cooler mornings, fog settling into the crags of the mountains, a daily sprinkling of dead leaves on the front porch – I find myself struggling to be happy.  This is because I HATE winter, and autumn is the warning shot across the bow: first the falling leaves, and next the snow, the grey skies, the never-ending monotony of a monochrome landscape. Short days, the sun barely making an appearance before it flees again, probably to warmer climes: I dream of Australian beaches.

And in this changing season, I find myself attracted to books that are clever, and funny, and engaging and in this way brighten my day. Sorry, John Green, but I don’t want to read about cancer.  I found what I was looking for with Sedaris’ audiobook, When You Are Engulfed in Flames. I don’t know if you’ve ever read a book by David Sedaris before, because of course I don’t know you, but he’s also written Naked and Me Talk Pretty One Day, as well as several other essay collections. He is also a radio contributor and writes for the New Yorker.  When You Are Engulfed in Flames is a purportedly nonfiction collection of essays and stories from Sedaris’ own life living in England, France, and the US.

The thing I really like about his stories are that he is a master at pulling patterns, humor, and absurdity from random occurrences. His diary would be the most entertaining diary in the world because his life, put through the filter of his brain, becomes something more: complex, funny, but with understated twists of solemnity.  His own idiosyncrasies are endlessly relatable, his attitude sardonic yet somehow terrified underneath: of the world, of people, of change and of staying the same.  It makes for endlessly enjoyable listening.

His soft, Midwestern accent soothingly weaves tales of crazy neighbours, cultural miscommunications, inappropriate nudity, smoking (or the cessation thereof) and just a little bit of cancer.  I could listen to him tell stories for hours and hours longer than this audiobook’s nine-hour runtime, but alas all good things must come to an end.

Highly recommended, and if you enjoy it then definitely check out his other writing. I’ve read both Naked and Me Talk Pretty One Day and loved both of them.

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