When You Are Engulfed in FlamesWhen You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

sedaris in real life must be a really weird guy. usually i am leery of conflating an author with his works, but in this case, i think the quantity of weirdness on display in the book must be consistent with a high degree of weirdness on the author’s part.

i mean, feeding spiders? hanging out at the morgue? carrying on a loving hate affair with a loathsome next-door neighbor? always scurrying after a disappearing hugh? what kind of guy is this?

to me, the best essay was the last one in the book, on his attempt to quit smoking by moving to tokyo. i like it best because it intersects with two huge preoccupations in my own life: quitting smoking, and tokyo. sedaris’ take on tokyo and the varying oddnesses of the japanese are delightful. i’m really glad he noted just how weird they are, and how wonderful. the world could really learn a lot from how the japanese behave.

one side-note for mr. sedaris: janglish is not meant to be understood as English. janglish is its own form of expression. every English speaker who’s spent time in japan has her own favorite bit of janglish. mine was on a t-shirt i found early one morning in a D-Mart (yes, the japanese equivalent of K-Mart). i was flipping t-shirts on the rack in this cavernous, mostly-empty store, just grazing really, and ran across this: “Run Your Head into the Lion’s Mouth!” i busted up laughing so loud that i’m sure i frightened the few shoppers in the store.

anyway, the book’s a romp, and it does contain quite a few bits worth remembering. besides the fact that sedaris is obviously very, very weird.

oh, and congrats to him on quitting smoking, by the way.