Audie Award Finalist, Narration by the Author or Authors, 2014
From the incomparable David Rakoff, a poignant, beautiful, witty, and wise novel in verse whose scope spans the 20th century.
Through his books and his radio essays for NPR's This American Life, David Rakoff has built a deserved reputation as one of the finest and funniest essayists of our time. Written with humor, sympathy, and tenderness, this intricately woven novel proves him to be the master of an altogether different art form.
Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish leaps cities and decades as Rakoff sings the song of an America whose freedoms can be intoxicating, or brutal.
The characters' lives are linked to one another by acts of generosity or cruelty. A daughter of Irish slaughterhouse workers in early-20th-century Chicago faces a desperate choice; a hobo offers an unexpected refuge on the rails during the Great Depression; a vivacious aunt provides her clever nephew a path out of the crushed dream of postwar Southern California; an office girl endures the casually vicious sexism of 1950s Manhattan; the young man from Southern California revels in the electrifying sexual and artistic openness of 1960s San Francisco, then later tends to dying friends and lovers as the AIDS pandemic devastates the community he cherishes; a love triangle reveals the empty materialism of the Reagan years; a marriage crumbles under the distinction between self-actualization and humanity; as the new century opens, a man who has lost his way finds a measure of peace in a photograph he discovers in an old box - an image of pure and simple joy that unites the themes of this brilliantly conceived work.
Rakoff's insistence on beauty and the necessity of kindness in a selfish world raises the novel far above mere satire. A critic once called Rakoff "magnificent", a word that perfectly describes this wonderful novel in verse.
©2012 The estate of David Rakoff (P)2013 Random House Audio
"Mesmerizing... Combines his wit and his gravity....Astounding." (Publishers Weekly)
"A fitting memorial to a humorist whose embrace of life encompassed its dark side...[the book] retains a spirit of sweetness and light, even as mortality and inhumanity provide a subtext.... Strong work. It deepens the impact that this was the last book completed by the author." (Kirkus Reviews)
Short, Simple, No Spoilers
Can a novel composed in iambic pentameter be relatable, detailed, and meaningful? The answer is a resounding yes! Rakoff's lyrical rhyming composition doesn't detract or sacrifice story. It's not just a novelty for he packs each character's storyline with ironic and heartbreaking realism. A girl suffers a tragic event only to be dismissed by insecure mother; a secretary navigates a sexist boss in a loveless affair, and many other stories and scenarios I won't spoil.
This novel is brief, yet loaded with satirical and tragic tales of ordinary people dealing the hand they're dealt. It's heartbreaking, yet beautiful. The vocabulary, turn of phrase, and irony transform this "poem" to a higher level. Felt I needed to revisit the 500 core GRE words to keep up! Listened on 1X to absorb the meaning and paused frequently to take in all the information. Short, yet thought-provoking and sad this is his last work. If you enjoyed this, check out another of his books, "Fraud."
Writing novels too easily? Try this parameter…
Write it all in anapestic tetrameter
“’twas the night before Christmas” in rhythm and rhyme,
But thoughtful and searing. Disturbing. Sublime.
And how like this author, this thoughtful word dancer
Who as he wrote fought his last battle with cancer,
To write resolutely with head in the noose,
And bolster himself with the rhyme scheme of Seuss.
If you read this book (and you must) be beguiled!
Tales worthy of Dickens, wit wondrously Wilde.
Some Thurber and Twain, (sorry… now I digress...
This novel inspires literary largesse.)
His instinct with rhyme is inherently true.
Not at all like a limerick - more like haiku.
His word choices fit like a key in a lock,
The drawings of Escher, the great fugues of Bach.
At once ominous, funny, then caustic, then sweeter.
The achingly personal couched in a meter
That makes it so eloquent - thrilling to follow.
A pill of hard truths you’ll be eager to swallow.
So go read this novel. You heard me, now go!
We all miss you David, we all miss you so.
Although the author has written this novel in verse, the story and the flow of the language are not limited by the rhymes. Wise, knowing, humorous writing. Characters I wanted to spend more time with. Vignettes that felt true and real, told in the most beautifully elevated yet natural way. From meatpacking workers in the early part of the 20th century (?) to San Francisco in the 1980's, we enter the characters' little worlds and get to know them, briefly but deeply. The best poetry, of course, can condense language and make it powerful. I think Rakoff has succeeded beautifully here.A word on the narration: the author apparently felt strongly about reading his own book despite being weakened by cancer. It's true, the voice is a little frail, a little breathless at times. To me, it only added to the poignancy. Hearing this story read to me felt like a gift. I didn't find it hard to hear or understand, and I easily adjusted to the style.
I love the whole story of Cliff.
So sad this author is gone.
My two cents!
I am very sad to find that the author is no longer with us. I actually found the rhyming of this book to be lovely and it takes more time and effort and just plain smarts to write a book that also 'rhymes'. Mr. David Rakoff has departed this world, leaving his mark behind with one last heartwarming and heartwrenching, humorous, intelligently clever, forlorn and brilliant novel. David's own voice reading this story makes me long for his return - but is a reminder that our last words spoken are forever a part of this world. Especially now that we can put our words into recordings. Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish: A Novel, are short stories in verse form which are an absolute treat to listen to, and a reminder that the spoken word lives on.
Yes, I haven't read the print version, but hearing this in Rakoff's voice with its pauses and inflections really brought out the beauty and craft of the verses.
I'd heard him read an excerpt from it before on NPR, a wedding toast given by a betrayed lover, but I was skeptical, thinking a whole novel in rhyming verse would feel contrived. I was captivated from the start, his voice low and tender as a secret, drawing you in to the threads of multiple characters and the points where their narratives cross through decades. The stories are short but compelling, his language so precise and evocative (especially in the delicate tremble of the author's own voice, recorded weeks before he died) that even in the telling of life's disappointments they seem to soar. Ok, I did listen to this in the throes of major PMS so I'm in an extra-suggestible state, but I think I would still recommend this audiobook anytime.
I made myself draw it out and savor it over a few days.
It's a little quiet at times and really deserves your attention, so I would recommend listening to it somewhere where you aren't too distracted and there isn't too much ambient noise. I tried to listen to it while I was driving but felt like it didn't do the work justice.
I feel like I am stomping on the author's grave, but I found the rhyming couplets to be too much. It seemed the story took a back seat to the poetic form. Finally, it is simply boring.
The author's struggle to bring the book to life is apparent in the reading. David was in his final days during the recording of the reading, and the pains of his struggle are in every breath. There have been many times David's voice has brought me great insight and joy. I wish that his voice was not silenced, for I did not find this work worthy of his final breaths.
David Rakoff's delivery.
The interweaving stories and rhyme scheme.
The wedding scene.
This is a beautiful book. Sad, made sadder by the knowledge that Rakoff died shortly after this recording.
The only criticism I have is that it felt unfinished.
I love to be read to!
The reading voice of the author is very hard to hear. The tone is low and very bassy and I could not follow at times...many times.
The performance while hearfelt did not work for an audiobook. I could not hear him.
I would caution your readers before spending on this book.
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