Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"When You Are Engulfed in Flames" by David Sedaris

"When You Are Engulfed in Flames"
by David Sedaris
Narrated by David Sedaris
Produced by Hachette Audio
approx. 9 hours

First let me say, I just love David Sedaris. Okay that said, I may be a little biased but his stories are just so funny and so well written, they make for a perfect humorous audio book source, especially when read by the author. Some of these are even recordings from his lecture tours so you get the fun audience reaction on some of the stories.

Sedaris has a way with finding the humor in the normal everyday happenings, from lancing a boil to rude neighbors to quitting smoking. Every one of the stories in this book had a little bit of a humorous witty twist that made want to go back and listen to the story again to fully analyze how he came to his final point.

Most of the stories in this book seemed to center around his partner Hugh where in his previous books David's family were the source of the the humor. Many of the stories in this book had the laugh out loud moments but some had some very poignant moments and still some had a great combination of both. The written stories when heard really felt as if he were telling you the story just then, kind of a train of thought type process that moved the story and made it so you have to listen and that you know something good is coming up.

One of the stories talks about when he's going away to Princeton and how proud his parents are. Sedaris then throws the listener a curve ball when he tells his father he's majoring in "Patricide." David's mom gets jealous and asks "I'm not good enough for you?" He then replies that he'll look into a double major. After some time at Princeton he becomes a writer and his parents ask, "What are you trying to do, kill us?"

Another very funny story happens when he's on a plane heading for the U.S. for one of his lecture tours and he is shamed by his own clothing when a very well dressed couple sit next to him. But his shame is soon turned to laugh out loud fun when the elderly couple begin using the "f"-word and the "s"-word in very creative ways.

The latter part of the book is about his and Hugh's trip to Japan. The purpose of the trip, to stop smoking. The whole stranger in a strange land idea reaches hilarious heights as he tries new food, tries to learn the language, and all while quitting smoking.

Once again Sedaris delivers fun while pointing out the realism of life in "When You are Engulfed in Flames"

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posted by Gil T. @ 9:38 PM Comments: 0

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

"Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim" by David Sedaris (Publisher:Little, Brown and Company, 2004)

This book is collection of 22 autobiographical essays by American humorist David Sedaris, and a fun joyride through they eyes of David looking at his family members and his own experiences. The essays run the gamut of family topics from David wanting to be a hippie and panhandling to purchase a suede vest in the 70s to his "redneck" brother's marriage day to uncomfortable situations in which an openly gay man should not get into with a young boy.

I think the best way to break this review down would be essay by essay. But first I want to say that David Sedaris has a great way of finding humor in the most interesting places. It could be that funny situations hit us everyday, and from some of these stories, they do, and we just don't take the time to enjoy them. David Sedaris now allows you to laugh at some of those moments from his life and possibly enjoy your own just a little more. Most of these stories are really something that happen on a day to day basis but Sedaris' use of language and ability to describe the situations, makes them funny and with some just poignant enough to make you feel good.

I'm not going to go recap all 22 essays, I'll leave some of the fun for you, but I will recap some of my favorites.

"Us and Them" - childhood memories of a family "who don't believe in TV"
Young David takes upon himself to defend and pity a neighborhood family that have no television and may not understand some pop culture references, at least until, they go trick or treating the day after Halloween, and the only candy available is his "hard earned" stash.

"Full House" - a childhood game of strip poker gives the young Sedaris a touching moment
Have you ever wondered how growing up a homosexual affects the normal everyday things a young boy goes through? Take for example slumber parties.

"The Change in Me"
- the 13-year-old Sedaris wants to act like a hippie.
Seeing a hippie girl get free money by panhandling David decides that's the way to be cool, and after eyeing a suede vest in the department store he now knows how to earn the money.

"Blood Work"
- a case of mistaken identity while cleaning houses
So what would happen if you worked cleaning houses and a customer mistook your company for an erotic housecleaning service?

"The End of the Affair" - Sedaris and Hugh's different reactions to a love story
This story had one of the funniest lines. David is explaining that his sister is one to talk through a whole movie and at times the following may happen; While watching an actor spread mayonnaise on a chicken sandwich she would lean over and say, "One time I was doing that and the knife slipped and landed in the toilet." Leaving David wondering, who would make a chicken sandwich in the bathroom?

"Repeat After Me"
- Sedaris's visit to his sister Lisa, and his family's feelings about being the subject of his essays
I always wondered what his family thought about being the subject of his stories and in this story we find out and at the end left with a little tender moment where David apologizes, not directly but through a parrot.

"Six to Eight Black Men" - thoughts about the traditional Dutch Christmas story, among other cultural oddities
This has got to be one of the funniest stories in the book. David likes to compare different cultures and this comparison of the Dutch Christmas and that St. Nicholas doesn't have 8 tiny reindeer but 6 to 8 black men accompanying him is some great laughs.

"Nuit of the Living Dead"
- a late night encounter at home in rural France
In this story David points out how the mundane things in life can be viewed by the average person much different than what is actually going on. The story starts with David drowning a mouse in a bucket when some lost tourists stop by to ask for directions. Many hilarious details in this one.

And those are just the highlights. I would highly recommend the audiobook on this one because hearing the words read by the author makes them that much more hilarious.

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posted by Gil T. @ 7:44 PM Comments: 0

Monday, July 28, 2008

"Holidays on Ice" by David Sedaris (pub. 1997)

Every so often you have to treat yourself to a David Sedaris book. If you haven't read David Sedaris, let me introduce him to you. First of all he's extremely funny, his wit is a bit on the cynical and sarcastic side of humor. He's actually been referred to as Garrison Keillor's evil twin. My first introduction to him was the book, "Me Talk Pretty One Day," and I have enjoyed his books ever since.

Sedaris got his start in radio after This American Life producer Ira Glass saw him perform at Club Lower Links in Chicago. In addition to his NPR commentaries, Sedaris now writes regularly for Esquire. Some of his other books include: Barrel Fever (1994), Naked (1997), Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000), Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (2004), and the latest, When You Are Engulfed in Flames (2008).

Sedaris's younger sister Amy is also a writer and performer; the two have collaborated on plays under the moniker "The Talent Family." Amy Sedaris has appeared onstage as a member of the Second City improv troupe and on Comedy Central in the series Strangers with Candy.

Okay really that's a decent introduction, let's talk about this book.

Like his other books, this one is a collection of stories, the theme of this book of course are the Christmas holidays. In all this book is one you'll find yourself laughing out loud several times so if you get embarassed by such things you may want to read this one privately. Or if you listen to the audiobook be prepared to look funny laughing when others aren't. Speaking of the audio book, it is read by David and he gets a little help from Ann Magnuson and his sister Amy Sedaris. I'll break the rest of this review down to the separate stories.

First you have SantaLand Diaries, this is the tale of David's stint working as an elf during the holiday's at Macy's Santaland. This story has several moments of hilarity but true to David Sedaris's style he throws in a few poignant moments. What are the holidays without a little poingnancy here and there? This story is filled with many adventures in the separate sections of Santaland including the collecting money from the shoppers for photos with Santa. One of the Santas, there are several hired for different shifts, takes his role a bit too seriously and David hates working with him. This "Santa Santa" often asks the kids to tell their favorite Christmas Carol and asks them to sing, if the child is shy Santa asks the elf to sing. David doesn't want to but when Santa coaxes him he sings "Away in a Manger" in the style of Billie Holiday. Santa doesn't ask him to sing anymore.

Season's Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!! is the next section. This story is one that seems like a harmles annual Christmas letter but soon goes to the trials and tribulations of a family that gets an unexpected gift of the husband's illegitmate Vietnamese 22 year old daughter and adopt their natural daughter's "crack-baby."

Dinah, the Christmas Whore, seems to be one of those true stories that David is good at that seem completely unlikely but at the same time could dwell in the realm of possibility. Dinah is a friend of David's older sister who happens to be a prostitute and comes to spend some time with the family around Christmas.

Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristolm, has got to be one of the funniest yet harshest essays I've ever read. You know all those Christmas plays and pagents you have to sit through if you have grade school kids? Well finally a critic tells it like it is and reviews all the area grade schools plays.

Based Upon a True Story, is the story of a TV producer trying to convince a rural, "redneck/hillbilly" community to have a woman sell her story of how she cut out her own kidney and placed into her young son to save his life, to the TV network.

And finally Christmas Means Giving, is the ultimate battle of one upmanship between two extremely wealthy families.

So when the holidays come around and you get tired of the fuss, pick up this book. Or if you are simply looking for some fun stuff to read anytime pick up this book.

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posted by Gil T. @ 10:15 PM Comments: 0