Saturday, October 11, 2008

Recommended Escapist Reading: "When You Are Engulfed in Flames" by David Sedaris

I hope that you have a three day weekend in observation of Columbus Day as I do, but either way, this book is a great way to escape the stress of school. I actually haven't read any of David Sedaris previous books; instead, I listened to all of his previous work on audiobooks driving between Texas and New Jersey over the last few years.

Indeed, I think that audiobooks may be the best way to fully appreciate Sedaris's work. His voice and delivery enhances every punchline, whether he's in the studio or drawing from the energy of a live audience. It's just as suited for iPods on public transit as it is for long car rides, and you're really drawn into the stories with Sedaris.

That being said, I decided to take full advantage of a commute where I'm not driving and actually read Sedaris's latest collection, When You Are Engulfed in Flames. What I love about his books is how deeply he thinks about every person he observes or interacts with; he imagines their lives, their motivations, their internal reactions to whatever he has said or done. Inanimate objects and non-talking animals are brought to life in vivid, hilarious ways as well.

There's also an underlying theme throughout Sedaris's essays written since he met his boyfriend Hugh. For all his tongue-in-cheek contempt of Hugh's ability to handle any situation and casual dismissals of Sedaris' many neuroses, Sedaris clearly loves and needs him to survive. It also provides great comedic fodder: Hugh is the straight man to Sedaris's ridiculousness. It's reminds me of the scene in Annie Hall where Woody Allen chases a lobster around the kitchen frantically while Diane Keaton wonders out loud why he's making such a big deal out of it. I don't know why this thread, more than anything, speaks to me, but I know it's both touching and endearing.

If you've never read anything by David Sedaris, know that he paints a lively picture of what might seem like the most mundane moments of life. You enter his world completely; instead of viewing each episode as an outsider who might grow annoyed by Sedaris's many anxieties, you find yourself agreeing with him and recalling your own recent (or ancient) traumas.

This is why When You Are Engulfed in Flames is perfect escapist reading for the stressed-out teacher. It is hilarious, fully enveloping, and has nothing to do with teaching (except for Sedaris trying out a language school in Japan during an extended trip there). If you're hooked, you can't go wrong with The Ultimate David Sedaris boxed set, which contains audiobook versions of everything up to and including his last book, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. Let me know what you think!

Stressed? Read more ideas about teacher stress relief.