Even if you’d never read his work, a glance at the titles of his essay collections-Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, Me Talk Pretty One Day-would give you a sense that Davis Sedaris isn’t the most serious writer around. You’d be right. Of course, chances are you’ve read his stuff already, or heard him on NPR, talking about the job he once had as a Christmas elf at a department store. If you heard Sedaris read at the Arlington with Sarah Vowell last year, you might remember some of the essays that are now published in his most recent collection of cynicism and silliness, When You Are Engulfed in Flames.
Among the anecdotes, tales, sketches, and musings in this latest collection is an incident where the author catches crabs from a pair of thrift store pants, an episode involving an obese babysitter and a backscratcher, and the trials of trying to purchase a human skeleton in Paris. The reader is treated to visions of the author sitting in a doctor’s waiting room wearing nothing but his underpants, spitting his cough drop on the woman next to him in an airplane, and organizing his life around the needs of a pet spider.