Sunday, August 19, 2012

6th Canadian Book Challenge: Half Empty - David Rakoff

I recently finished David Rakoff's book Half Empty, which I read for the 6th Canadian Book Challenge.  That's not exactly true.  I read it because Sarah Vowell urged people to do so in a heartfelt post soon after the 47-year-old Rakoff's death on August 9.  Rakoff, who also acted and did voice work, was one of the presidential assassins in the audio version of Vowell's Assassination Vacation.

 The clip above, in which Rakoff describes his writing process, is my favorite part of Half Empty, but it was difficult to choose just one part.  His writing is that sublime concoction of funny and bitter that has always had such resonance for me.  Most writers try to rein in their bitterness, but Rakoff didn't pander to the reader.  He was not afraid if the bitter hung out there much farther than the funny. Half Empty is a celebration/examination of some of the more negatively perceived emotions like fear, melancholy and pessimism, which Rakoff felt still could be useful "and even beautiful at times."

Other favorites in this volume are Rakoff's take on his abbreviated movie career and his trips to attractive but slightly-off tourist destinations like Disney World's Tomorrowland, Grauman's Chinese Theatre and The Hollywood Walk of Fame and Salt Lake City.

The last two essays in the book are less bitchy and witty and much more somber in tone.  The last essay, "Another Shoe" seems to start out in a frivolous vein, but readers (as well as Rakoff) are thrown a wicked curve.  By the last page, I wanted to bawl my eyes out.  RIP, David Rakoff.  I wish like hell you were still here.


Ryan said...

I love David Rakoff. He's like social media's Oscar Wilde.

Unknown said...

This is a very nice tribute to him. He was someone I enjoyed and will miss.