There is no question the audio book version of David Sedaris ‘ often autobiographical comic essays is the way to go. There is nothing quite like hearing Sedaris himself deliver his material. This is especially true in a live performance of which there are 4 here. When You Are Engulfed In Flames is not the best Sedaris CD audio book but it is still pretty decent.
The best essay on When You Are Engulfed In Flames is the two CD The Smoking Section. This is about Sedaris' history with the cigarette and his going to Japan to quit smoking. He also takes a few Japanese lessons, something that will remind some of similar French adventures from Me Talk Pretty One Day.
The flaws in The Smoking Section, a line from which the title of this collection comes from, reflect quite well the overall flaw in this Sedaris collection. A little editing would have made some essay tighter and thus less meandering. There are even a couple of essays such as What I Learned, about the Ivy League 20,000 B.C., that are pointless and not interesting, much like some of the chapters in The Smoking Section.
CD 1 includes It's Catching which his more or less about society's obsession with germs, Sedaris' mother-in-law, and a few other things. Keeping Up is an essay about the author's experiences in France, the fights couples travelling together get into, and a visit to the zoo. This Old House, a story about the author living in a rooming house owned and operated by a strange old lady who favors so-called antiques, old-time radio, and costumes. It's Catching and Keeping Up meander a bit and could have been tightened up a bit.
CD 2 ‘s Buddy Can You Spare A Tie was already available live on . Road Trips is about Sedaris coming out of the closet. What I Learned is a bizarre essay about Yale 20,000 B.C. The Monster Mash, obviously a Halloween NPR piece is about death.
The third CD in this David Sedaris audiobook box set features That's Amore and The Waiting Room. The latter is one of 4 live performances and these are funnier and better than the studio read pieces. This piece about trying to get by with very limited French in France is also one of the better stories here. That's Amore about tenement life in New York City is too long for its own good. A listener also wonders what the point of this story is all about. That's Amore is more akin to the French nouvelle than the essay or short story.
The fourth disc opens with one of the funniest essays in this collection. Solution to Saturday's Puzzle is about flying with an annoying person sitting next to you. It is up to the listener to figure out who is who. The second essay, Adult Figures tells the story of the Sedaris' collection of works by local artists and the posing involved in the art world. Memento Mori is another live performance. This is a darkly comic story about buying his boyfriend a genuine skeleton. The last track opens as one of Sedaris ‘ Normandy stories but segues into a drug story that goes nowhere.
Town and Country, CD 5, is another live performance reading. This is a fun tale with upper-crust people with lower class language skills. Man in the Hut is a story set in Normandy. This somewhat too long tale about a man living by himself and ostracized by the villagers is okay. Of Mice and Men is a banal tale centered around a NYC cab ride.
CD 6 of When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris opens with April in Paris. This essay about nature shows on TV and Sedaris' interest in French spiders. Crybaby is an uninteresting tale about the author being uncomfortable flying first class. Old Faithful is about being a one-man man. Again this is a fairly ordinary tale.
All in all, this is an uneven collection of essays by David Sedaris. Fans will appreciate it much more than those new to this writer who will find Live at Carnegie Hall or Me Talk Pretty One Day much more fun to listen to.
Some of the problems of earlier such audio books, such as track cuts that made no sense or intro and outro music that buried Sedaris have been fixed. Another, including the essay titles on each CD has also been addressed unfortunately they are basically impossible to read unless you tilt the CD to the light just right.
When You Are Engulfed In Flames: CD 1: It's Catching, Keeping Up, The Understudy, This Old House. CD 2: Buddy Can You Spare A Tie? Road Trips, What I Learned, The Monster Mash. CD 3: That's Amore, The Waiting Room (Live). CD 4: Solution to Saturday's Puzzle, Adult Figures Charging Towards a Concrete Toadstool, Memento Mori, All the Beauty You Will Ever Need. CD 5: Town and Country, Aerial, The Man in the Hut, Of Mice and Men, CD 6: April in Paris, Crybaby, Old Faithful CD 7 - 8: The Smoking Section.
Other David Sedaris Reviews
THe Ultimate David Sedaris Box Set - Live At Carnegie Hall: Review of the Live At Carnegie Hall CD in The Ultimate David Sedaris Box Set
Naked in The Ultimate David Sedaris Box Set: Review of the Naked audio book in The Ultimte David Sedais Box Set
Me Talk Pretty One Day - Ultimate Sedaris Box Set: Kinder, gentler 5 cd audio book by David Sedaris
Holidays On Ice - The Ultimate David Sedaris Box Set: Santaland Diaries and other Christmas stories by Sedaris
Dress Your Family In Corduroy And Denim - The Ultimate David Sedaris Box Set: More personal and not as caustic essays and stories by David Sedaris in 5 CD audio book set.
Barrel Fever in The Ultimate David Sedaris Box Set: The lesser of the Sedaris audio book CD sets in this collection.
The Ultimate David Sedaris Box Set: it is the ultimate David Sedaris box set of his audio book CDs
Live For Your Listening Pleasure: Quite good but not the best Sedaris audiobook ever. All live performances, as the title says
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: Not as impressive as Sedaris s usual tales.