Rating: 2 stars
Why I got it: It was in the bargian book section of Chapters and I had heard a lot of good things about Sedaris. I also really liked the cover.
I don't read short stories. I'm much more inclined to pick up a sprawling epic than a book of short stories yet for some reason I have bought several over the years, one of them being When You Are Engulfed in Flames. The book jacket called these stories essays- but essays are something I know well, they start with an introduction which contains a thesis and then continues to argue whatever point the thesis makes. These were not essays as I know them and the genre of personal essay confuses me. This is basically a collection of exaggerated recollections from what seems like a rather mundane life. There were moments I thought things could get interesting when he mentioned the drugs and alcohol but apparently they were covered in a different book and those vices have been given up. He also should have a wealth of cultural exchanges and comments because of the different countries he's lived in but apart from a comment on Japanese toilets and language lessons, you could barely tell that he had ever left his bedroom. Perhaps once again these are told in other books but I have no interest in hunting down the possibly interesting sections in a man's life. Even the parts that were interesting I often couldn't help but feel that there was so much more potential for humour or that I personally had a more extreme or engaging story about the same topic. Other reviewers have remarked that Sedaris makes the mundane funny and interesting but not for me. There was a handful of weak chuckles throughout the book but I didn't find anything hilarious. The book somewhat reminded me of a blog, which would be fine if that's what is was and I had come across it online and not paid $10 for it. Overall, I was unimpressed with the book and doubt I'll buy anything else from Sedaris.
Quotes: "I have often heard of cigarettes compared to friends. They can't loan you money, but they are, in a sense, there for you, these mute little comfort merchants always ready to lift your spirits. It's how I now feel about macadamia nuts, and these strange little crackers I've been buying lately. I can't make out the list of ingredients, but they taste vaguely of penis."