I first heard David Rakoff on NPR's weekly radio show, This American Life, as I'm sure many of his fans have. Once I had heard him tell several of his stories, I knew I had to have them on audio, not just as books in text.
Many other writers I've come to love are also people I first heard on This American Life, like David Sadaris.
I love David Rakoff's voice. It's soft,carefully articulated, and has a wry quality bordering on "droll" which he uses to great and sometimes very humorous effect. Some people might first think this man who "prefers the indoors" is an artist and intellectual that could be inaccessable, perhaps asuming he's a cynic, or a wild eccentric; hyper critical of all everyday experience or emotion.
Soon enough, you realize this storyteller is both uniquely himself, which is a gift, and sweet and compassionate and like anyone else you'd want to learn more about living a thoughtful life from. He's not afraid to let you in on what he thinks about the world, North America, our society and its leaders. Nor does he keep secret his direct observations about people, how they sometimes confirm his worst expectations, or his own mistakes, disappointments and self-doubts; but it's his immediate honesty inside the experience of all this that I find so resonant and redeeming.
Experience, observation, what is learned. Or at least he makes it seem like what he gives you is this simple. But this brilliant author knows the secret to all good works of art: the personal becomes the universal.
I suppose someone who's a Sidney Sheldon fan, or interested in his general (hugely successful) career path, from scriptwriter to screenwriter, to TV, and finally as a novelist, would find this interesting.
This book never delved into any real difficulty Sheldon's bi-polar disorder caused his professional or personal life. If this highly successful person could have opened up and offered readers a look at how his mental illness was problematic, and how he coped and overcame the obstacles he faced, the book could have been worth reading.
The narrator was ok, and even did a good job with a few Brooklyn and other colorful inflections. Perhaps the only problem with the narrator's work here is that he has to more or less recite in succession, at a predetermined clip - without much detail or emotion - all Sheldon's accomplishments and moves up the ladder to "the top."
I couldn't have been more disappointed with an audiobook. One thing it possibly shows -without saying as much - is that the mania of bi-polar can make some people extremely productive. Some even say bi-polar is the mental-illness of choice. So this book, by completely leaving out any difficulties at all this mental illness posed for its author, confirms that myth.
I love all this author's stories, which I must hear, rather than read, because his voice is so important to the personal quality of his work. I highly recommend all David Rakoff's print and audio books, but if you need to make a choice between this and his audio collection before this one, choose this one; it's a bit more full of the good stuff. He gets better all the time.
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