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Publisher's Summary

Wherever he is, David Rakoff is a fish out of water. Whether impersonating Sigmund Freud in a department store window during the holidays, climbing an icy mountain in cheap loafers, playing an evil modeling agent on a daytime soap opera, or learning primitive survival skills in the wilds of New Jersey, Rakoff doesn't belong. Nor does he try to. Still, he continually finds himself off in the far-flung hinterlands of our culture, notebook or microphone in hand, hoping to conjure that dyed-in-the-wool New York condescension.

And Rakoff tries to be nasty; heaven knows nothing succeeds like the cheap sneer, but he can't quite help noticing that these are actual human beings he's writing about. In his attempts not to pull any punches, the most damaging blows, more often than not, land squarely on his own jaw - hilariously satirizing the writer, not the subject. And therein lies David Rakoff's genius and his burgeoning appeal. The wry and the heartfelt join in his prose to resurrect that most neglected of literary virtues: wit.

©2001 David Rakoff (P)2001 Random House, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"A talented new humorist...Rakoff has a rapier wit." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Suzn F
  • Fletcher, VT, US
  • 08-16-12

OMG Laugh Out Loud

I am so very glad I downloaded this book, sadly however because we've just lost this great humorist. And now I've just found his books. I've heard him on "This American Life" and loved him. This book had me embarrassing myself laughing loudly while walking in to work. The first half was best but the whole book very worthwhile. Enjoy!!!!

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Mark
  • Warner, NH, USA
  • 08-16-03

A View Off Skew

"This American Life" has exposed us to so many superb essayists that it's hard to lift one above the crowd, but David Rakoff is one of the best. He presents himself unapologetically and with just enough of a sense of self-absorbtion that any apology would seem, well, fraudulant. Rakoff's tight writing, keen observation, and wry wit combine to produce a work of self & social satire that stands with the best. I wish I could give 4 1/2 stars instead of 4, because a 5 star rating is just too much, implying perfection. The imperfection of the presentation is only that it's abridged.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

No as funny as Sedaris

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

I did not finish the book. I have listened to the first hour or so and then got really bored with it. I listened while driving and my mind would just drift away. The stories were not engaging or funny. It's witty at times, but too self-absorbed and self-centred. If you like Woody Allen's comedy, you may like this. It was not for me.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

You must HEAR these stories

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.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Rick
  • Urcuquí, Ecuador
  • 02-16-17

Writing Worth Relishing

David Rakoff, an eviscerating humorist, writer, and public radio essayist, seems to place himself purposely in situations and locations that New Yorkers like him find uncomfortable. This man, who swears he avoids even going outdoors if at all possible, is sent (or sends himself) on assignments wildly unlike the familiar urban comforts of Manhattan.

He is a city dweller, on assignment behind enemy lines.

In this highly listenable collection of musings, Rakoff climbs a New Hampshire mountain on Christmas Day, attends a week-long Buddhist retreat featuring a vainglorious Steven Seagal, tours the anemic tourist traps around the Loch Ness in Scotland, and joins a kind of wilderness survival camp, Tom Brown’s Tracker School, where he learns how to forage for food and make clothing from animal pelts.

“Amazingly, almost nothing is better at turning rawhide into supple leather than the lipids in the animal’s own brain, worked into the skin like finger paint. A further beautiful economy of nature is that every single animal has just enough brains to tan its own hide.”

He is a penetrating observer whose deadly and deadpan commentary pops the pretentious conceits of every treasured culture and conviction like soap bubbles. He frequently skewers himself in the process.

“I am disheartened to learn that the place where I’ll be staying is a bed and breakfast, not a hotel. My heart sinks. That means there is probably neither television nor phone in my room. And I have very little patience for what is generally labeled ‘charming.’ In particular, ‘country charm.’ I have an intense dislike of flowered wallpaper, ditto jam of all sorts. The former is in all-too-abundant evidence when I enter the inn, and the latter, I’m sure, lies in ominous wait, somewhere in the cheery kitchen.”

The final meditation is titled, “I Used to Bank Here, But That Was Long, Long Ago.” He refers to a Toronto sperm bank, which he describes as “the conflation of climax and commerce.” He recounts his struggle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma at the age of 22, “the dilettante cancer,” he calls it, fairly easily cured. “I was a cancer tourist.” We learn that he is writing this essay at age 35, describing his successful treatment of the disease that would return to kill him in 2012, at age 47.

No narrator could improve upon the delivery of the author himself, whose nuance of expression intensifies the finely honed scalpel of his writing.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • K2
  • 07-09-15

Miss him

This book makes me miss him even more. He had a way with words that was simply elegant.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

A brave and gentle man.

Listening to someone courageous enough to tell the truth,and so very kind was a pleasure. Four more words yes

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • rocky
  • tobaccoville, NC, United States
  • 05-12-15

Such joy.

I really miss Rakoff.
Always fun to listen.
What can I say, he was completely different from me, yet I feel like I know him.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

This book may be a fraud, I was looking for funny

If you could sum up Fraud in three words, what would they be?

Gay NYC Jewish Humor

What did you like best about this story?

I'm 75, female,straight, from a tiny. 2000 population, Southern town, The first adult book I ever read when in the third grade, (my poor little elementary school didn't have a library) was my mother's book club edition of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I learned that a book can carry you to another world, country, city--into another's mind. I loved it.

So here is a story by a Gay Jewish Man who hates dogs, knows nothing about the outdoors I have loved, doesn't enjoy Christmas or quaint B&Bs in New England, yet, the third time I heard it, we connected. I grew to like the book and him, although I'm sure that had we met in an elevator last December in Rockefeller Center, he would have ignored me as I managed a sideways peek at him. It would have been a longer peek had I known he was an author--but then this book--while a BOOK is still sort of a fraud, as he well knows.

Still he chose to climb a mountain in December for a magazine article. Was horribly out of comfort and place, But he did it, and shared the experience.

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

Immediacy.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No

Any additional comments?

This book was out of my comfort zone. I began feeling sorry for this sad man, and ended understanding that people are different, They have different life experiences. Different approaches to life. I found that he and I share many values, drreams, and goals. Hear the book.

5 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Honest

What I love about this book is David's Honesty. He weaves funny tales in with painful ones. As an avid listener of TAL i enjoyed him as much throughout this book as i did, listening to his stories on the show. It was a short and great listen.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Rhubarb, Rhubarb
  • 04-13-13

Similar to Sedaris - just slightly sadder

Great discovery - though lay enjoyed - you will love it if you enjoy David Sedaris

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-19-15

Fascinating. Hilarious.Utterly brilliant wordsmith

Would you consider the audio edition of Fraud to be better than the print version?

Rakoff has a delivery that hammers home the nuances of his writing, so this is a great candidate for an audiobook. Also, being a series of short essays, it is more forgiving to listen to in sections than one long novel.

What other book might you compare Fraud to, and why?

Rakoff gets inevitably compared to Sedaris, being another NPR star, and Sedaris being one of the most popular humorous essayists of the past decade. That said, I'd take Rakoff any day of the week if I had to choose. Sedaris is wonderful, but doesn't have the sharply honed and polished prose that Rakoff exudes on every page.

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

His delivery heightens the self-mockery, and mock horror he feels about himself and the world. Conversely, when he makes a really thoughtful and touching point, he can switch to being very sincere without it being a jarring moment.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

It's a book I would listen to in sections or whole - it's simply that wonderful.

Any additional comments?

If your humor is dark, dry, savagely self-deprecating and cerebral and you don't already have this, buy it now and savor its genius.