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Sedaris Bares Body and Soul in 'Engulfed'

Jun 9, 2008 (Fresh Air from WHYY)

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Whether he's lancing boils, getting crabs from thrift store pants or sitting in a hospital waiting room dressed only in his underwear, one thing is clear: David Sedaris is not shy about sharing those embarrassing, cringe-worthy incidents that members of the general population tend to save for diaries or therapists.

In his sixth collection of essays, When You Are Engulfed in Flames, Sedaris continues to bare his body and soul, detailing the aforementioned boils and crabs as well as an uncomfortable incident in which he accidentally spits a lozenge into the lap of his seatmate on an airplane.

Though some critics have questioned the strict veracity of his essays, defenders maintain that even if Sedaris stretches the truth, a certain degree of exaggeration is expected in humor. In a 2007 Washington Post article defending the humorist, Peter Carlson wrote, "Did Mark Twain fudge facts about how far the frog jumped?"

While his magazine pieces do get fact-checked, Sedaris points out, he agrees with Carlson. For a humorist, he says, "it comes with the territory. I exaggerate about how much I exaggerate. If someone nags [in real life], in my writing they nag nag nag."

Sedaris lives in France and England with his partner, Hugh Hamrick, and is a frequent contributor to This American Life, Esquire and The New Yorker. His previous books include Me Talk Pretty One Day and Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim.

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David Sedaris' When You Are Engulfed in Flames.

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