Thursday, September 18, 2008

When You Are Ungulfed In Flames


The other day I was at my sister's house and she thrust David Sedaris' most recent book at me, "When You Are Engulfed In Flames" and bade me to read it. Read it now! One of her clients had given her the book and she read the whole thing in one sitting, something it soon became apparent that she we wanted me to do too. I've been busy this week being sick, and while typically reading is a good activity while ill, not so much if you have a head cold. There just seems to be less clarity than usual rattling around upstairs. But my sister did convince me to read the chapter "Cry Baby", which is third to the last in the book.
Then she called yesterday.
Sister: Hi! Have you read the book yet?
Me: No, but I did read the chapter about the guy crying on the plane.
S: Isn't that hilarious?
M: Eh, it was ok. It made me think of that time I was on a flight to Philadelphia and the woman sitting next to me with a baby on her lap and she let the baby hang all over me, drooling on my shirt.
S: What does that have to do with it?
M: Nothing, it just made me think of it.
S: Well, what did you think of the chapter on such and such (truly, I forget which chapter she was referring to)?
M: I haven't read it yet. I read the crying chapter and then I walked the dog.
S: Wait until you read the chapter about quitting smoking!
M: Wait. You mean he quit smoking?
S: Yeah!
M: I'm not going to read that part.
S: Why not?
M: It's too much pressure. I decided to quit smoking myself. I just haven't done it yet and I don't want to internalize his account of the process.
S: That's idiotic. What kind of logic is that? He quit smoking two years ago, so it's not like you're quitting smoking with him and he's succeeded and you've failed.
M: I can't cope with someone else's smoking cessation success, regards of when it happened. I'm skipping that part.
S: Maybe you should give me the book back.
M: No! I want to finish reading it! MK wants to read it too.
S: Are you going to allow her to read the smoking section?
M: I don't dictate what she can read and can't read. She can read whatever she likes. She can read Japanese anime tentacle porn for all I care!
S: Tentacle porn? Is that what it sounds like?
M: I think so, but I can't be certain. I mean, I've never looked at it, I've just heard about from other people.
S: Not your kids, I hope!
M: No, they don't talk to me about porn, tentacle or otherwise.
S: That's a relief.

I really enjoy David Sedaris' work. MK and I have gone to see him read his work, which given that we had seats with a partially obstructed view, wasn't all that different from listening to him on NPR. Because of the nature of Sedaris's observations, it's almost impossible to not use that same eye and method when assessing what he's got to say. While the absurd is showcased, it's his position at the center of the ridiculous universe that gives it all perspective. I'm beginning to find this annoying. Nothing is simply presented as it is/was, instead it's all littered with his touchstones - some amusing, some tiresome.
But I'm going to keep all of this to myself because my sister won't lend me a book ever again.

3 comments:

Natazzz said...

Help me out here...where do I know this guy from again? (I'm too lazy to Google him)

I hate when people lend me books with clear instructions which parsts I should enjoy.

Almost as much as I hate people who have me read dumb books I couldn't care less about just because they happen to love them

The only person who can recommend me books I will actually read is my sister. And only because we have the exact same taste in books...

gypsywee said...

That conversation with your sis is hysterical!

I love D.S. and read his article in the New Yorker about quitting smoking. I too plan on quitting...at some point. Uh hem...anyway, the article made me laugh myself silly. He's not a preachy ex-smoker. Just sayin'.

jennifer from pittsburgh said...

@Nat: David Sedaris is an American memoirist. He employs a naturally sardonic world view to facilitate his sardonic writings ;) Should you decide to google him, you can probably find a link to listen to an audio file of him reading one of his accounts.
@Gypsy: I despise preachy exsmokers. They're the worst. I don't dread quitting, just have myself resolved. Back when everybody smoked it was wonderful! Now I can't even smoke in my car unless I'm alone.