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"When You Are Engulfed in Flames" by David Sedaris March Meetup


"David Sedaris's ability to transform the mortification of everyday life into wildly entertaining art," (The Christian Science Monitor) is elevated to wilder and more entertaining heights than ever in this remarkable new book. 
Trying to make coffee when the water is shut off, David considers using the water in a vase of flowers and his chain of associations takes him from the French countryside to a hilariously uncomfortable memory of buying drugs in a mobile home in rural North Carolina. In essay after essay, Sedaris proceeds from bizarre conundrums of daily life-having a lozenge fall from your mouth into the lap of a fellow passenger on a plane or armoring the windows with LP covers to protect the house from neurotic songbirds-to the most deeply resonant human truths.  Culminating in a brilliant account of his venture to Tokyo in order to quit smoking, David Sedaris's sixth essay collection is a new masterpiece of comic writing from "a writer worth treasuring" (Seattle Times). 

First Pages:

Book Club Discussion Questions:

1. Of course, the best place to start with Sedaris is to recount the funniest, LOL moments in his books. At which parts did you find yourself laughing out loud? Any favorites?

2. Sedaris tallies up the days over the past 25 years, feeling he hasn't accomplished much...and he'd like to prevent the same number of "uneventful" days from occurring again. Of course, this is a little precious given that Sedaris has a fabulous writing and performance career. But nonetheless, it is a cry of angst in a typical midlife crisis. Ever feel that way yourself? At any time, at any age? What's the antidote—does Sedaris suggest one? Can you?

3. Sedaris says of his relationship with his partner Hugh, that they are "two decent people trapped in a rather dull play." How does he then parlay what at first seems like a typical litany of complaints about a loved one into a profession of love? What does Sedaris come to realize about the nature of love, at least his love for Hugh?

4. In "The Monster Mash," Sedaris recounts his time spent researching a story in the medical examiner's office. He says the experience was a matter of "seeing too much and understanding the horrible truth: no one is safe." The realization hit him that soon or later he is going to die. Did you find that chapter funny or poignant or upsetting or .... what?

5. Talk about how Sedaris finally decides to quit smoking after 30 years. He writes about it in three phases. For any non-smokers, does it ring true? Did you find his account funny or realistic?

6. As always, Sedaris gets good mileage out of his eccentric but loving family. This time he talks about his parents' reaction to his first book. How would it feel to have a writer/humorist/ social critic in your family? How fair is it of a writer to use family members as fodder?

7. If you have read or heard any of Sedaris's other works, how does this one compare? Which was your favorite Sedaris book/recording?

(Questions by LitLovers)


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  • A former member
    A former member

    Thanks Sierra for organizing, was great to meet everyone!

    1 · March 4, 2013

  • Valerie V.

    Have to work :(

    March 1, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sorry, I just realized I have tennis at the same time. I hope to be able to participate soon!

    February 25, 2013

  • Jason Lars B.

    Damnit, just realized I have another commitment that night. We have tons of people though. Anyone interested in setting up a secondary night?

    February 11, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    My first time at a book club and David Sedaris is great!

    February 8, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Rats, I have a class on Monday nights until the end of May. I guess I'll see you all in June...;)

    January 23, 2013

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