David Sedaris' sixth book of essays. Subjects include a parasitic worm that once lived in his mother-in-law's leg, an encounter with a dingo, and the recreational use of an external catheter. Also recounted is the buying of a human skeleton and the author's attempt to quit smoking In Tokyo.
Reading this new collection of memoir-essay-stories by the master US humourist David Sedaris is like being tickled on the ribs by someone you love: you laugh hysterically, feel a mixture of excitement and irritation, and instinctively wriggle away as exhaustion sets in ... Every one of these 22 essays has something unique and extraordinary to offer ... These are dark, visceral essays that look unflinchingly at the vulnerable ageing body and at death. It's amazing that Sedaris manages to make witnessing an autopsy so funny ... Many stories have a loose, associative structure more akin to the diary or daydream than the perfectly crafted jewels of his other collections ... you're left with a much more colourful picture of the little tragedies at work in the everyday.
Flames reads like a hit-and-miss set; some selections simply run out of ideas before they’re over ... The best pieces, as ever, are the most closely observed, including those about his boyfriend, Hugh, that resolve into bittersweet comments about their mutual love and dependency ... When You Are Engulfed in Flames isn’t the best way to introduce a new reader to Sedaris. But for fans, it’s good just to be back at the table, hearing that unforgettable voice chatting away. Kind of like catching up with one of your best friends. It’s not always what they have to say, but the endearingly entertaining way they say it.
There are sidesplitting essays here, like the baccalaureate address he gave at Princeton University in 2006 and a primer on masculine style that includes wearing an external catheter called the 'Stadium Pal' ... It’s hard not to feel a tiny pang of regret as the family retreats into the background, replaced by Sedaris’s partner, Hugh Hamrick, a happy homemaker who has never provided the same comedic mileage ... Here the 83-page story is cut into three parts — before, during and after — and while the first section zooms off the page, once Sedaris stops smoking it’s as if he has lost his muse ... It would take more than quitting cigarettes to make Sedaris bland — he’s not ready to chill out and open a yoga studio yet.