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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it.
I loved this book and pretty much anything David Sedaris writes. These are great stories full of his wit and observations.
Published 21 months ago by Dotty

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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good pick me up in a free 20 minutes book
Anyone who lives in the US and listens to NPR (the closest American equvalent to the BBC) will have heard of David Sedaris. He is a regular contributor to "This American Life," a show hosted by Ira Glass that looks one aspect of American life each week. The show can vary from the the deep (how people adapt to grief in their lives) to the humourous (what happens to teens...
Published on 24 Dec 2009 by Jamie Bowen


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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good pick me up in a free 20 minutes book, 24 Dec 2009
Anyone who lives in the US and listens to NPR (the closest American equvalent to the BBC) will have heard of David Sedaris. He is a regular contributor to "This American Life," a show hosted by Ira Glass that looks one aspect of American life each week. The show can vary from the the deep (how people adapt to grief in their lives) to the humourous (what happens to teens in the run up to their prom). The show is segmented, with a number of stories told. Sedaris is used in the show when he has written some story about the topic at hand. His stories typically cover some aspect of his life (though I supected they have been "amped up" for effect) and are read in the form of a monolgue.

This book is a collection of essays that talk about aspects of his life. They are lightly amusing tales, but I don't think it's neccesarily a good thing to read the stories in quick succession. The problem is that if you read one story it can be funny. If you read two they can be humourous. Read 3 or more in succession and I suspect that you're going to think he's whiney.

Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad book, just a book that works best in short doses. Incidentally, the title comes from those terribly polite (and poorly translated) instructions that you see in Japan. It told him what to do if his hotel room was on fire.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it., 3 April 2013
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I loved this book and pretty much anything David Sedaris writes. These are great stories full of his wit and observations.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars When you are engulfed in time to spare, 4 Dec 2011
By 
Sam Quixote - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: When You are Engulfed in Flames (Paperback)
Is there anyone better to read when you want to relax and laugh a bit, than David Sedaris? I still think "Santaland Diaries" is must-read material for this time of year and "Me Talk Pretty One Day" is one of the funniest books I've ever read, full stop. So it's a given that when he publishes a new book I have to buy it immediately. I know, "When You are Engulfed in Flames" came out in 2008, this is 2011, but I did try and read it 3 years ago but I gave up frustrated. The solution to completing it this time? - audiobooks.

Sedaris reading his stories is a different beast to reading them yourself. I love podcasts and felt that him reading his stories was like listening to a podcast, telling everyone funny stories that had happened to him, and so I got through this book in a day after a few enjoyable hours spent listening to him while driving.

His bad baby sitter, Mrs Peacock, was a funny and strange character who demanded back scratches and that David and his sisters clean her house while their parents were on holiday; his Italian neighbour in New York, Helen, who was this extremely bullying and unlikable person and who beat up a disabled kid for accidentally pocketing a biro of hers; and the Normandy neighbour who turned out to be child molester.

While his characterisations of real people are always brilliant, what I liked better were the anecdotes centred around himself - arguing with cab drivers for whom English was a second language; giving up smoking in Japan; or sitting on a plane in first class next to a Polish man who couldn't stop crying as he'd just buried his mother. The foreign element tips it over for me as it reminds me of the brilliance of "Me Talk Pretty One Day" which also focused on language and communication issues. And most touching of all were his love letters to his boyfriend Hugh, for who is clear he is deeply in love with.

"When You Are Engulfed in Flames" is not his best book but definitely an entertaining audiobook, particularly when Sedaris attempts the voices of some of the characters. The anecdotes are far from stale but also not as entertaining as other volumes and this is why it took me a few years to get around to finishing it. Having done so though, I'm glad I did, and can recommend this as an antidote to hours of tedious driving.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars funny and honest 3.5 *, 22 Nov 2010
By 
Purpleheart (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: When You are Engulfed in Flames (Paperback)
'My friend Patsy was telling a story. 'So I'm at the movie theatre,' she said,'and I've got my coat all neatly laid out against the back of my seat when this guy comes along-' And here I stopped her, because I've always wondered about this coat business.' Typical Sedaris - realistic dilaogue and gossipy love of the apparently unimportant detail.

These stories are funny and they are self-revealing and honest. I haven't scored them higher because they are so similar. There are some great characters - the terrible babysitter, Mrs Peacock who makes them scratch her back and pick up dog turds on the lawn - or their NY neighbour Helen swearing and cooking loathsome food offerings.

Very amusing and probably best read when picked up now and then, rather than all together as I did.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant., 9 April 2013
By 
Xenia (Pelham, Albania) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: When You are Engulfed in Flames (Paperback)
How can you not love David Sedaris? Highly recommend - my favorite being The Understudy. I started with that one back in 2008 and have been hooked ever since..
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gin and Tonic for the soul, 15 Dec 2012
By 
Charlotte Disley "Charlotte" (Bath United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Touching and funny in equal measure; wonderfully crafted with searing honesty and outrageous wit. I read it in one sitting.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars funny and honest ***1/2, 3 Nov 2008
By 
Purpleheart (UK) - See all my reviews
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'My friend Patsy was telling a story. 'so I'm at the movie theatre,' she said,'and I've got my coat all neatly laid out against the back of my seat when this guy comes along-' And here I stopped her , because I've always wondered about this coat business.' Typical Sedaris - realistic dilaogue and gossipy love of the apparently unimportant detail.

These are funny and they are self revealing and honest. I haven't scored them higher because they are so similar. There are some great characters - the terrible babysitter, Mrs Peacock who makes them scratch her back and pick up dog turds on the lawn - or their NY neighbour Helen swearing and cooking loathsome food offerings.

Very amusing and probably best read when picked up now and then, rather than all together as I did.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best of a marvellous bunch, 27 Oct 2008
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I guess the only reason you're reading this is to find out if this is as good as all his other books. In my opinion, this is the best of the lot. And while I don't think his changes of pace, and attempts at pathos/bathos have ever been very successful, his all-out humour is brilliant. It's that rare and wonderful thing; a book that causes you to laugh out loud and embarrass yourself and irritate others while doing so, In fact, there's a bit about that in here too...
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Self-Absorption Driven to Laughter, 19 Nov 2008
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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Laugh at yourself and the whole world laughs with you. It's hard to write humorous essays that stand the test of time. Will Rogers realized that and just read the newspaper to audiences while adding an occasionally wry quip to get huge laughs. Put those messages into a book, and they wouldn't have lasted.

I haven't heard David Sedaris perform in person (which he does as readings), but I'm told he's marvelous. If you have had that pleasure, you will undoubtedly hear his voice, know his timing, and see his expressions as you read this witty, self-deprecating book. I suspect that such an imagined performance would easily turn this into a five-star book.

Proust waxed poetic about his memories of a madeleine (a shell-shaped cake in the France of his youth) in stream of consciousness prose. Sedaris does the same thing for a painful boil on his derriere, his horrible inability to learn new languages, and his desire to show a little more plumpness in his derriere. The results are equally memorable . . . but much more amusing in the case of Sedaris.

Sedaris likes to put together mosaics of seemingly unconnected memories that when combined show a different image and send a different message. It's a little like a Chuck Close portrait.

Like the best humorists, he takes us into her personal life . . . into the kinds of details that few of us would openly share with the public. In exchange for yielding his privacy, he helps us see ourselves in his experiences. Who hasn't struggled with a foreign language with embarrassing consequences? Who hasn't wanted to be a little more in some aspect of their lives? Who hasn't had trouble getting rid of a bad habit?

These themes and more are explored in well-written, interesting style that lacks only an overriding sense of meaning (other than that we are all a mess) to be important prose. Some of them are hilarious, breaking into images of burlesque skits in your mind. Others are more poignant than funny, using wry humor. But he mostly doesn't stretch; rather, he expresses who he is and how he sees life.

As a former smoker, former heavy drinker, former drug user, and current homosexual with a fascination for feeding spiders, some aspect of his life will intersect with yours. But at the same time, he has exotic tastes (spending a lot of time in Normandy, learning not to smoke in Tokyo, and traveling from city to city reading his essays while staying at the finest hotels) that will make his lens different than yours. You'll never see the world the same way, as Proust changed our perceptions of madeleines.

Is it worth the trip? Yes, but I advise small reading doses. It goes down more smoothly that way.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Laugh out loud, 5 April 2014
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As usual with David Sedaris the accounts of his experiences are extremely funny. I am working my way through his books. Recommended!
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When You are Engulfed in Flames
When You are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris (Paperback - 1 Oct 2007)
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