When you are engulfed in flames, read....

A few months ago I discovered the very wonderful comic writer, David Sedaris, when I read Let's discuss diabetes with owls. After the serious Museum of Innocence, I was in need of a good laugh so turned to David Sedaris' New York Times best seller When you are engulfed in flames.

When you are engulfed...consists of  22 essays of varying lengths. All are humorous, although I didn't generally find this volume as hilarious as Owls. Having said that, there are, of course, similarities.

Sedaris' surreal sense of humour is everywhere. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments involving his family from the route-marching Hugh (his very lovable partner) to the peculiarities of his father, his outspoken sisters and his trash-loving Greek grandma. There's often real poignancy at the heart of his tales; and there are a few moments that are heart-stoppingly good. The horror of the exhibits at the Hiroshima museum coming in the middle of pages gently mocking his sojourn in Japan become all the more horrific and stark because of the humour that surrounds them.

Oddly many of the essays reminded me of Pamuk's Museum of innocence. As Pamuk points out the ordinary and turns it into the extraordinary, so Sedaris does exactly the same finding humour in the everyday from trying to quit smoking to the perils of European wildlife (I too have had birds trying to get through the windows). He manages to be both anarchically funny and lovable. As ever he is a treat to read.


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