Book #32: When You Are Engulfed in Flames

It was about 120 pages into When You Are Engulfed in Flames, the sixth volume of autobiographical essays by David Sedaris that I came to a sad realization. This realization occurred without the use of narcotics or alcohol, and was not due to lack of sleep, stress, or anything that might warrant any type of re-evaluation.

Sadly, I'm just not all that into David Sedaris.

I don't mean as a person; although there are several instances in ...Engulfed in Flames where Sedaris is (admittedly to his a credit) a bit of a prick, overall he comes across as a pleasant enough fellow. His observations about the way we communicate, our commonalities and our differences, are all carefully observed, witty, and full of that quirk that's a staple of This American Life specifically and NPR in general, two things I enjoy very much.

But after 120 pages I felt like I got it. I understood where Sedaris was going, how it would end, and although each essay differed in content, it's all essentially the same. It's something I can read and say "okay, that was fine, what's next?" But after a while "next" turns out to be much of the same: interesting story seemingly unrelated to anything until a nugget of wisdom in the concluding paragraph ties it together and while there's nothing wrong with it per se, I was never left eager to jump into the next story. This is basically the same issue I had with Naked, the only other Sedaris book I've read.

Why is it sad? It's sad because my brain tells me I should like this type of thing. And maybe in a live environment this would go over a lot better - many of the pieces seem better suited to live readings, something I've heard Sedaris is excellent at. But alas, I have only the book and the heart and the mind do no always come together, and When You Are Engulfed in Flame left me not engulfed, merely singed.