His So-Called Life

Memoirs about quitting smoking haven’t lit up like ones about drugs or stripping or working at Vogue, and let’s hope our luck holds: The last thing we need at the gasping end of the memoir era is some hotshot igniting another subgenre. Not that David Sedaris doesn’t give it a shot. The last 83 pages of his new, realish book, When You Are Engulfed in Flames, details the author breaking his habit, which involves him spending $23,000 and relocating to Hiroshima. Fortunately, it’s old news — a condensed version appeared in the New Yorker a while back — and anyway The New York Times doesn’t think it’s his best work, wondering if he exhaled his muse with the smoke of his last cig. We, however, remain stuck in the wonderful first half of the book. It’s a comfortable place, like finding yourself next to a man on a park bench who leans over and says, “You won’t believe what happened to me this morning,” then proceeds to tell you something astonishing. In the case of Sedaris and Flames, that consists of spitting a lozenge on the person sitting next to him on a plane, buying drugs in a mobile home, and trying to make coffee when the water is off.
Thu., June 26, 7 p.m., 2008

 
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