Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Engulfed in Flames

A writer who divides many people who have read him is David Sedaris. His "97% true" books of personal stories are frequently hilarious, but some people I know who've read him find him a bit mean-spirited (though to be fair, he is his own main target). Those who have never read him are advised to try some of his work available from the New Yorker.

His newest book is entitled When You Are Engulfed in Flames. The title, as Sedaris has explained, comes from a badly translated emergency booklet in a Hiroshima hotel: "It was called ‘Best Knowledge of Disaster Damage Prevention and Favors to Ask of You.’ And it was broken up into different chapters. ‘When You Check In a Hotel,’ ‘When You Find a Fire,’ and ‘When You Are Engulfed in Flames.’ It just slayed me."

As well as a fine title, it makes use of an excellent Van Gogh painting on the front cover.

The painting is Skull with a Burning Cigarette, from 1885.

UPDATE: Have finally got my copy--I seem to have inadvertantly ordered the large-print version, so the size of the type is a bit scary. I note that the cover is a Chip Kidd design.

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