David Sedaris is back with another collection of essays full of self-deprecation, unexpected and apt comparisons, family high jinks, and the charming sentimentality that has been lacing Sedaris's works lately. For longtime fans, many of the essays from When Engulfed in Flames will be familiar; many have appeared in The New Yorker and other magazines. Among the new ones is "Smoking Section," wherein Sedaris tries to quit smoking while studying Japanese in Tokyo. Even in this new essay, Sedaris revisits the old topic of his difficulty learning a new language. He is, not surprisingly, no better at learning Japanese than he is at learning French. But in this way, the essayist's work has become something like comfort food, something that you can return to time and again because you know it will make you feel good and when you're craving something familiar. Sedaris's book arrives just in time for weekends at the cabin where readers can sit by the lake, read, laugh, and be grateful (and a little bit jealous) that your family isn't like his.
Fri., June 13, 7 p.m., 2008