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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 (452 )
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  •  
    Maeghan Montreal, QC, Canada 12-15-10
    Maeghan Montreal, QC, Canada 12-15-10
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Even better heard than read"

    David Rakoff's reading is so strong that to listen to him read this book aloud is actually a richer experience than reading it to oneself. I really enjoyed it, and highly recommend it.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rodney Buffalo, NY, United States 08-14-12
    Rodney Buffalo, NY, United States 08-14-12 Member Since 2002
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    "A Good Friend I Never Met"
    Any additional comments?

    When I heard of David's passing, it was a like a very close friend of mine had died. I never met him, but I knew him so well through his books. His essays take you along on the journey of his life with all its laughter, tears and ironies. Reading his own words, he takes you inside his head, and in this book, through his struggle with cancer that took his life. Don't be afraid to make David your friend, to laugh and cry with him as he exposes the absurdities of our culture with wit and insight. Read his works and he will always be with you.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    ferretk4 Chicago, IL USA 09-22-13
    ferretk4 Chicago, IL USA 09-22-13 Member Since 2010
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    "Witty, insightful, and darkly hilarious"
    Any additional comments?

    I already knew I liked David Rakoff's work from his contributions to This American Life; his essays here are even better. The longer format lets him stretch out with fantastic results. He is an astute observer of the world and a terrific writer, his use of language always inventive and interesting. The essays can be dark, which he addresses head-on in his first essay, about the need to temper the unwarranted optimism that is currently in fashion - but they leave you nodding in agreement and laughing. And example: when a friend asks him, "Don't you like ANYTHING?" he explains "I like EVERYTHING! ...I'm just also afraid of it." He then goes on to explain, among other things, that when he takes the subway under the water he pays attention to when the train passes the midway point in the tunnel, so that if some disaster occurs, "I'll know which direction to swim." Just good sense, really. (I'd compare the dark-but-hilarious tone to David Sedaris and Shalom Auslander; if you don't find them funny, then this probably isn't for you.)

    Rakoff visits The Home of the Future (or some such) at Disney Land and scathingly dissects it (e.g. "The kitchen computer, like all omniscient, benevolent, but lacking-decision-making-ability machines, is female"); he visits Salt Lake City and seems unexpectedly charmed by the LDS church. You can't predict where he will go in these essays, but it's always somewhere good.

    Audiobook is the ideal format for this book. Rakoff is a fantastic and hilarious narrator, absolutely the best person to read his coruscating sentences. You'll wish this book was longer - and, of course, that Rakoff was still around to grace us with his wit.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Scott Vann California, USA 03-03-13
    Scott Vann California, USA 03-03-13 Member Since 2010
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Outstanding and Funny"
    What does David Rakoff bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Listening to Rakoff made the book feel much more intimate and real. I don't think I would have read his cancer story the way he reads it, and it was touching, sad, and funny all at the same time.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    If you know David Rakoff's story, and are aware of his recent death, the book is heartbreaking and also a celebration of a great talent. Having heard him on This American Life many times, listening to this book was a great tribute to an amazing talent.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lisa Austin, TX, United States 11-22-10
    Lisa Austin, TX, United States 11-22-10 Member Since 2008
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    "Rakoff's best yet!"

    David Rakoff's writing and narration are delightful. I think this is the best of the three audio books he's published to date. Say yes to the power of negativity!

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ashton Mishima-gun, Japan 01-20-14
    Ashton Mishima-gun, Japan 01-20-14 Member Since 2013
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    "owner made"

    You know that feeling when watching a tv show where the actors are the producers and things just feel right. Well, this is the same. In more ways than one does the very sound of the narration sell the whole experience. Maybe sell isn't the right word.

    I was guided smoothly through the expertly crafted waters of this without boredom or drudgery. To me it wasn't funny rather tipsy.

    Negative comments in this review column are people that will never get this kind of art, so if you are not curious to hear about the life of a legitimately interesting person, go back to Dan Brown and stay the f away from me.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert Iris Houston, TX United States 08-28-13
    Robert Iris Houston, TX United States 08-28-13 Member Since 2011
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    "David Sedaris just does this sort of thing better"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    Depressed New Yorkers


    Has Half Empty turned you off from other books in this genre?

    I still enjoy the essay format, but looking for a more distinct voice.


    Who would you have cast as narrator instead of David Rakoff?

    I think he read his work perfectly, and that was sadly part of the problem.


    If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from Half Empty?

    I'm afraid none of the book stuck with me.


    Any additional comments?

    I wanted to enjoy the book because I saw a great review of some of his other work on the Daily Show, unfortunately it simply didn't work for me. Perhaps other titles or other readers will be better.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    nyog Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 04-16-13
    nyog Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada 04-16-13
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    "Read it, don't listen to it"

    David Rakoff as a narrator can only be taken in small doses; he is lugubrious, monotonous, boring. His writing, on the other hand, is lovely, challenging, and well worth the time.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    colleen Carthage, NY, United States 12-06-12
    colleen Carthage, NY, United States 12-06-12 Member Since 2010
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    "David Rakoff is a Genuis"
    Would you listen to Half Empty again? Why?

    Probably--it's a wittier version of Augustine Burroughs with no smut. But I like Burroughs--this is even better.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    David.


    What does David Rakoff bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    A wonderful inflection of voice.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Allen F. Schneider, Jr. Orbit 09-23-12 Member Since 2009

    Alien Observer

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    "One of the finest from a great humorist."
    Where does Half Empty rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This one ranks in my top 5.


    What did you like best about this story?

    David Rakoff is able to deliver a lighthearted take on his, seemimgly, innermost thoughts.


    Any additional comments?

    We lost Mr. Rakoff last month. While I never met him, through his books, I feel like I knew him and I will miss him and his works.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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