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. Read more...
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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 each other by acts of generosity or cruelty. A daughter of Irish slaughterhouse workers in early-twentieth-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.
"From the Hardcover edition."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2014-01-06
- Reviewer: Staff
The late Rakoff’s novel swoops through 20th-century America—depicting a turn-of-the-century slaughterhouse in Chicago, hobos traversing the nation during the Great Depression, the confusion following the Great War, the casual sexism of the 1950s, the ravaging of communities by the AIDs epidemic, the flaunting of wealth of the 1980s, and a whole lot more. Rakoff’s book is written in rhyming couplets—this, and the knowledge of the authors’ recent passing after a battle with cancer, give this audio edition an eerie, haunting quality. Rakoff’s years in radio make him an adept performer, but those familiar with his work will be stunned when they hear this reading: it is clear he is very ill. Yet there’s an incredible power to the narration, and this will resonate with listeners. A Doubleday hardcover. (July)
Louise at her best
“Old sins cast long shadows,” but Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté de Québec knows how to cut through the darkness and he does just that in How the Light Gets In, Louise Penny’s satisfying, suspenseful ninth Gamache novel. I’m hooked on this series and on the wise, intrepid Inspector, the agents he works with and the wonderfully conceived oddball inhabitants of Three Pines, the secluded village that has featured so prominently in most of these novels. Life has become grim for Gamache; his highly-thought-of homicide department has been wrecked by his Chief Superintendent, who wants him out, and his beloved second-in-command has turned on him, succumbing to drug abuse. But Gamache soldiers on, battling deep-seated corruption in the highest echelons of Québec’s government and solving the strange murder of the last of the famed Ouellet quintuplets (think of the Dionnes). Ralph Cosham narrates again, his voice now truly Gamache’s and his pace perfectly matched to Penny’s graceful prose.
A NEW GUMSHOE
The cat’s out of the bag and won’t go back in—Robert Galbraith, whose debut mystery, The Cuckoo’s Calling, got excellent reviews when it came out this spring, is not a promising new kid on the block: “He” is J.K. Rowling, the mega-selling author of the Harry Potter books. So it’s hard to listen to this well-written, tautly plotted crime novel, full of vivid characters with great backstories, set in posh, moneyed London, without looking for hints of Harry and Hogwarts. But, aside from the hero’s vague resemblance to the powerfully built Hagrid, Rowling proves herself a master of a new genre, creating a tough-tender, viscerally smart, Chandler/Hammett-esque private eye with a seedy office and a clever, shapely Girl Friday. Cormoran Strike, said P.I., who lost a leg in Afghanistan, is down on his luck when the brother of an old schoolmate asks him to investigate the death of his sister, Lula, a gorgeous supermodel high atop the celebrity hierarchy and plagued by paparazzi. Suicide or murder? By the time you find out, you’ll be as involved with Cormoran as he is with Lula and her possible killers. And Robert Glenister’s virtuoso performance gives Rowling’s players an extra dimension. Sequel, please!
TOP PICK IN AUDIO
Anapestic tetrameter is not a rare disease. It’s that cozy, singsong verse form we all know from “The Night Before Christmas.” David Rakoff’s posthumously published novel (both his first and his last), Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish, written in anapestic tetrameter, will alter that “cozy” perception forever. If you were reading the book, you’d find yourself reading aloud to get the meter right and to revel in Rakoff’s slyly brilliant rhymes—but in this amazing audio, the author reads himself. His voice is scratchy and illness-worn (he succumbed to cancer days after he finished recording), but his expressive, wryly humorous style, so familiar to his “This American Life” audience, is as wonderful as always. Starting in the 1920s and hopscotching through time to the present, Rakoff creates vignettes of oddly linked characters drawn in the quick, vibrant strokes that poetry allows. He’s witty, smart, an extraordinary dissector of the human condition in all its refracted angles and a bittersweet joy to listen to. This is an audiobook to savor and to share.