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
"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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Depressed New Yorkers
I still enjoy the essay format, but looking for a more distinct voice.
I think he read his work perfectly, and that was sadly part of the problem.
I'm afraid none of the book stuck with me.
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.
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.
Probably--it's a wittier version of Augustine Burroughs with no smut. But I like Burroughs--this is even better.
A wonderful inflection of voice.
This one ranks in my top 5.
David Rakoff is able to deliver a lighthearted take on his, seemimgly, innermost thoughts.
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.
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.
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