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Half Empty | [David Rakoff]

Half Empty

In this deeply funny (and, no kidding, wise and poignant) book, Rakoff examines the realities of our sunny, gosh­ everyone-can-be-a-star contemporary culture and finds that, pretty much as a universal rule, the best is not yet to come, adversity will triumph, justice will not be served, and your dreams won’t come true. The book ranges from the personal to the universal, combining stories from Rakoff’s reporting and accounts of his own experi­ences....
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Publisher's Summary

The inimitably witty David Rakoff, New York Times best-selling author of Don’t Get Too Comfortable, defends the commonsensical notion that you should always assume the worst, because you’ll never be disappointed.

In this deeply funny (and, no kidding, wise and poignant) book, Rakoff examines the realities of our sunny, gosh­ everyone-can-be-a-star contemporary culture and finds that, pretty much as a universal rule, the best is not yet to come, adversity will triumph, justice will not be served, and your dreams won’t come true.

The book ranges from the personal to the universal, combining stories from Rakoff’s reporting and accounts of his own experi­ences: the moment when being a tiny child no longer meant adults found him charming but instead meant other children found him a fun target; the perfect late evening in Manhattan when he was young and the city seemed to brim with such pos­sibility that the street shimmered in the moonlight—as he drew closer he realized the streets actually flickered with rats in a feeding frenzy. He also weaves in his usual brand Oscar Wilde-worthy cultural criticism (the tragedy of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, for instance).

Whether he’s lacerating the musical Rent for its cutesy depic­tion of AIDS or dealing with personal tragedy, his sharp obser­vations and humorist’s flair for the absurd will have you positively reveling in the power of negativity.

©2010 David Rakoff (P)2010 Random House Audio

What the Critics Say

"A collection of humorous—albeit pessimistic—essays on humankind’s incalculable foibles......Throughout the book, the author hones in on this disconnect, debunking the myth of the power of positive thinking while arguing that 'the bleak' (not the meek) will most likely inherit the earth." (Kirkus Reviews)

"Maintaining his signature and singular charm, Rakoff analyzes the heck out of common (and not-so-common) place culture....a writerly collection to make giddy even the most erudite lover of words." (Booklist)

“Rakoff’s strength is the turn of phrase that deftly and wittily dissects its subject at a stroke.” (Chicago Tribune)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (471 )
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4.4 (323 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Christopher Houston, TX, United States 09-21-12
    Christopher Houston, TX, United States 09-21-12 Member Since 2012
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    "Embrace the Negative side of things!!!"
    Any additional comments?

    I can see how this might not be a book for everyone. Make sure to listen to the sample before buying. David Rakoff had a most unique voice and I loved it but it can be grating to some people. Also optimistic or sunny happy people might not love the dark negative betty loveliness that David just embraces fully and completely. He was an artist and the world is a little less bright because he is gone.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Edmond Clement NY, NY, United States 09-17-12
    Edmond Clement NY, NY, United States 09-17-12 Member Since 2011
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    "A treasure"
    Would you listen to Half Empty again? Why?

    How good it is to have the late David Rakoff reading his own revealing, acidly funny essays. The man was an actor as well as a brilliant, insightful humorist, and there is no better way to be introduced to him and his work than by listening to this priceless recording.


    What other book might you compare Half Empty to and why?

    Rakoff is not to be lumped in with Sedaris. His tone is far more dark, and his love of the English language leaps to the fore. People don't write like this anymore; the elegance of his style and the aptness of his observations put one in mind of Robert Benchley.


    Have you listened to any of David Rakoff’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    This was a first for me. I wish he were around to give us more.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    It's a collection of unrelated essays, so this question is not germane.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Paul Bangkok, Thailand 09-10-12
    Paul Bangkok, Thailand 09-10-12 Member Since 2006
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    "Perfect Narration"

    It's unusual that works read by the author actually turn out well. Rakoff 's (RIP) reading of Half Empty added and did not detract from the overall enjoyment of the book- a collection of hilarious essays on issues of the day. Rakoff's droll narration matched the witty and enjoyably cynical commentary.

    Rakoff is much like the other "David", David Sedaris, who has entertained us for years on NPR.

    This is a quick and enjoyable listen.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Betty 05-28-12
    Betty 05-28-12
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    "Great listen!"
    Would you listen to Half Empty again? Why?

    I often listen again to chapters in this audio book. David Rakoff's humor and presentation are priceless!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Howard Gutowitz 05-21-12
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    "Listen if you're into Rackoff/but not the first"
    Would you try another book from David Rakoff and/or David Rakoff?

    Read/listen to Fraud and Don't get too comfortable first.There is some very funny/interesting stuff here. But do not recommend it as first experience of Rackoff. Once you're hooked, get this.


    What about David Rakoff’s performance did you like?

    I wouldn't have anybody but Rackoff himself read his work. An essential part of the experience.


    Could you see Half Empty being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    Sure. American Splendor-ish.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dennis Washington, DC, United States 11-03-10
    Dennis Washington, DC, United States 11-03-10

    Tell us about yourself! I am a former high school history teacher and now, a semi-retired physician assistant.

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    "Totally Empty"

    David Rakoff talks about everyday things with in a "isn't that always the way?" or "people do the darnest things," or "aren't things just so fake?" manner. Of course, his reflections are meant to be ironic, satiric, and funny, but they come off as curlish and so too too. I was unable to finish the book because after a few chapters, I was running on empty.

    3 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    C. Farmer 07-30-12
    C. Farmer 07-30-12
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    "Too negative for me."
    What disappointed you about Half Empty?

    I found no humor and a lot of sarcasm.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    I don't know, I couldn't listen to all the whining.


    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    GreatSantini II 08-04-11 Member Since 2009
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    "What was it that I just heard?"

    I didn't get the point of the book, I really didn't. Was it a life story? Observations which lead us to a conclusion? A comedy (albeit ironic) sketch?


    I thought it was none. It really is a conversation, ramblings really, as personal as diary entries. Every chapter should be titled something like "here's something else people do that annoy me personally. Except that entries are by a person I don't care about and wouldn't know if he hadn't appear on Jon Stewart. If you already are fan of Mr. Rakoff and you are looking for his insight into mundane, then this book might have been written for you.

    I gave it two stars for his warm voice and artful writing. The writings read like poetry but there was nothing of substance to it.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alexander Jackson Heights, NY, United States 10-19-10
    Alexander Jackson Heights, NY, United States 10-19-10 Member Since 2004
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    "Self-indulgent ramblings"

    Mr Rackoff is the most intelligent man in the world. He uses long words and turns many clever phrases. He is also a very unfortunate man whose life is undeservedly harsh and he is keenly aware of its bleakness.

    if this engages you, the book is definitely for you.

    I listened to the first few chapters, then began skipping and taking a brief listen to every episode, then deleted the whole sad mis-shapen opus from my ipod. I thought I heard it say thank you.

    2 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William Butler, PA, United States 11-05-10
    William Butler, PA, United States 11-05-10 Member Since 2010
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    "Completely Empty"

    This book is far from the psychological rebuttal to the hyper-optomistic personality types that it claims to be. The author takes the reader on a meandering disconnected journey from somewhat universal topics of human nature to mundane personal incidents with absolutely no underlying theme. Sure, the narrative is sometimes witty and clever. But most of the time the story (if there is one) is so buried in such contrived descriptions it becomes totally lost. I stopped listening as he was going on and on about some trade show for adult sex toys.

    1 of 7 people found this review helpful
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