Monday, September 06, 2010

David Rakoff,
      Fraud 2001
      Don’t Get Too Comfortable 2005.

I reread Don’t Get Too Comfortable, which book I first blogged about in April of 2007, and then read Fraud. Such marvellous vacation reading. I won’t quibble with what I wrote previously about DGTC — it’s a marvellous collection. The distinction I tried to make, three years ago, about acerbity without meanness is well captured in Ira Glass’s blurb for Fraud:
It’s hard to come up with a pithy remark for the back of this book, knowing that the author could — in half the time and a third of words — come up with something funnier, more piercing, and more deeply revealing. Like a whore with a heart of gold, David Rakoff says all the nasty things we want to hear and then reveals, after we’ve paid our money, that actually it’s all about love.

Glass captures it: while bits and pieces that I read aloud variously made my beloved laugh, or frown and say “he’s kind of a jackass”, Rakoff is always striving to show us more about ourselves and our habits. If you read an entire piece, you never leave it feeling he's a jackass — rather, I came to admire an honesty I wish I was better at mustering. I think that his especial skills is revealing and then mocking the habitual ways of perceiving the world that we take for granted, unwilling or unable to see that there are other avenues to experience what is around us. Fraud is less polished, and has more clever ideas that seem clever (I want to visit the Christmas Freud, and tell Rakoff what I want for Christmas only to be told in return the ways my “wishes are unhealthy or wished for in error”) than is DGTC. Both are so readable, so illuminating, that I kept wanting to read just one more essay before bed.

Rakoff's new book, Half Empty, is due out on September 21st: I’m looking forward to it.

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