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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (2,350 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: David Rakoff Narrator: David Rakoff Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: September 2010 ISBN: 9780307738851
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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. Download and start listening now!

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Quotes & Awards

  • Combining journalistic tenacity, literary smarts, and a talent for gut-busting one-liners . . . His blend of withering wit and self-effacing humor makes these essays soar. Entertainment Weekly
  • “Rakoff possesses a sociologist's eye for places where today’s consoling myths reside. New York Times

  • Winner of the 2011 Thurber Prize for American Humor

  • [F]rom the mordant mind of one of our funniest writers People Magazine, 4/4 Stars
  • Rakoff has a self-awareness that could be recreated only by a team of geneticists working in a lab. The conviction with which he writes is, at the risk of blowing his jacket, uplifting....Writing like this can only be a positive experience for all concerned.....To file Rakoff under 'essayist, brilliant' would be to overlook his formidable gifts as a reporter New York Times Book Review
  • Rakoff knows the incantatory power of a story well-told, the art of keeping words aloft like the bubbles in a champagne flute. He possesses the crackling wit of a ’30s screwball comedy ingenue, a vocabulary that is a treasure chest of mots justes, impressive but most times not too showy for everyday wear. Los Angeles Times
  • “There’s another side to Rakoff the Outraged. In spite of himself, a sweetness comes through . . . He can make you laugh, and then, suddenly, there comes a passage that touches you with wonder. Gotham magazine
  • “Rakoff’s strength is the turn of phrase that deftly and wittily dissects its subject at a stroke. Chicago Tribune
  • Write[s] beyond irony and ridicule to the solemnity of wisdom and meaning....Brilliant.....writes movingly....astute observations of the American scene, funny , clever....often wise.....For the sake of the future, come back soon, David Rakoff. Be scathing, biting, outrageous, savage. Be brave. America needs you. San Francisco Chronicle
  • An anthropologist's eye for the irrational.....finely sharpened sarcasm that makes our collective stupidity seem so comically pathetic.....powerful prose.....As Rakoff tenderly probes his fears, he makes clear....he is part of our tribe. He's just funnier The Miami Herald
  • Dry, sardonic wit The Daily Beast
  • Some people believe in the power of positive thinking. The rest of us believe in David Rakoff....sharp-tongued, self aware....you won't be disappointed Daily Candy
  • 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. Rakoff manages to make pessimism sexy, whittling optimism into little more than an irresponsible fad, a modern opiate of the masses. .....The author regularly employs non-sequiturs as a literary technique, casting his arguments to the fringes of possibility before reeling them back in. His droll humor proves an asset when describing humankind’s failures, allowing readers to roll their eyes while empathizing with the argument.....While Rakoff seems to revel in his role as a modern-day Thomas Hobbes, it’s evident that he remains responsible in his critique, never trouncing a subject without provocation while simultaneously opening the reader’s eyes to everyday lunacy. An unsentimental comic depiction of our inability to recognize our own short-sided logic. Kirkus Reviews
  • Maintaining his signature and singular charm, Rakoff analyzes the heck out of common- (and not-so-common) place culture....Rakoff is so keenly observant and dead-on [with the]....elegant, smart conclusions he draws....a writerly collection to make giddy even the most erudite lover of words. Booklist
  • Rakoff is especially adept at weaving gratifyingly gloomy tapestries from the loom of bad judgment and calamity.... The Advocate
  • Rakoff dissects a variety of cultural phenomena....with insight, sharp wit, and deep wariness. Tablet Magazine
    Praise for David Rakoff
  • A cannily satirical tour guide. New York Times Book Review
  • To be sure, Rakoff can issue a withering snark with the best of them. But once his rapier wit has sliced the buttons off his target’s clothing, revealing the quivering, vulnerable mass within, his fundamental sense of decency gets the best of him. Salon

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Steven | 2/6/2014

    " Funny, as always. His essays about being a person whom people feel the need to tell secrets to and the final essay about his experience with cancer were particularly good. An excellent, excellent writer. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ke Huang | 2/1/2014

    " I really liked the movie and literary references in the essays. Though I didn't understand everything that happened to the author nor his descriptions, I think I learned a lot from this book (e.g. about Mormons, the porn industry, the musical Rent, etc). "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Molly | 1/21/2014

    " This was fun to listen to as an audio book because it was read by the author. I hadn't read, or heard of David Rakoff before I popped this in the CD player, but by the end I felt like we were old friends. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Keith | 1/1/2014

    " After reading both "Fraud & Half Empty" I came to the realization that listening to David is much more enjoyable for me. When you hear him speak, his inflections, intonations and cadence are what makes him a humorist and down right funny. Unfortunately for me, as I read these 2 works, at times he came off as a stereo-typical pretentious, bitchy queen which I abhor. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 sam | 1/1/2014

    " If I read this in the future, it'll quite possibly be a 5-star. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 James | 12/25/2013

    " Knowing that he has passed as I read added great pathos to a wonderfully descriptive and controlled writer. There is currently a largish stack for 3 or so bucks at Half Price Books. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rebecca Belknap | 12/7/2013

    " This was a departure for me since it was a compilation of essays. I enjoyed it very much, particularly because it so far removed from my life experience that it is an eye opener. Listening to the author's voice on the audio is especially poignant as he did pass away recently. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Andrew | 11/12/2013

    " I wanted a good laugh after reading a book that was very violent. This one the Thurber award. It could have been funny by taking a negative view of people and behavior. But it misses the mark. The writing is awkward and the tone acerbic. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Rachel Bayles | 10/17/2013

    " This book blew me away. I couldn't put it down. Another great recommendation from the staff at Books and Books. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rich Thomas | 10/15/2013

    " It was OK. I think it would be much better as an Audio Book. I could hear David Rakoff perform it in my head, but it lacked something. I think his writing is not as good as him performing his writing. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ula | 6/5/2013

    " There are few writers that can use multiple multi-syllabic SAT words per sentence and not sound terribly pretentious. David rakoff is one of those writers. Ive been in love with his writing from his This American Life stories andthis book lives up to his high standards. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Tina | 4/12/2013

    " better than David Sedaris and as good as Jonathan Ames "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Ken | 4/6/2013

    " though there are good passages, the essays are difficult to follow and tend to be a bit diggresive, so i found myself skimming through the entire book. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Andrea | 3/3/2013

    " I thought the first and last chapters were very powerful, and could have stood alone. I got bogged down in the middle chapters. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jessica | 11/18/2012

    " This is actually more like 3.75 stars, but I want to make clear that this is by far my favorite of his books. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Joey Sayers | 4/17/2012

    " His funniest book yet, by far. His writing has gotten better, more mature (in a good way - less problematic writing). "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Hollie | 4/3/2012

    " Didn't finish it...but I'm done. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Siobhan | 4/3/2012

    " Love this book. He's soulful and incisive, thoughtful and smart. Refreshingly not snarky. One of those essayists who gives articulation to my own half-formed opinions. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bridgid | 11/28/2011

    " I am usually amused by Rakoff's sardonic wit. This is a darker book and at the mid point I almost put it down for cruel humor. It does take a poignant turn and the collection of essays achieves balance. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Teri | 11/21/2011

    " His wicked sense of humor and his wonderful voice...a great listen! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Hannah L. | 9/9/2011

    " Very funny, pretty dark, not an ounce of hopeful, cliche fluff. Personal essays that are perfectly crafted, and an author who doesn't kid himself about his life's poetry. Real and dripping in irony in all the right moments. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kate | 6/28/2011

    " I've always liked him. All of his essays are just flawless. Unrelentingly bleak, but flawless. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Wils | 4/22/2011

    " Always entertaining to read someone's essays when they have the same perspective as you. It felt like Rakoff reached into my brain and wrote out many of my thoughts for me. Thanks David! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michael | 4/13/2011

    " Just finished. Probably his best collection yet. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jessica | 4/10/2011

    " This is actually more like 3.75 stars, but I want to make clear that this is by far my favorite of his books. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Christopher | 4/6/2011

    " Rakoff’s writing, for how delightfully pessimistic he is, shines. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Teri | 4/4/2011

    " His wicked sense of humor and his wonderful voice...a great listen! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Celeste | 4/3/2011

    " Funny, angry rants written by a gay Jewish man who hated the musical Rent. Slightly pretentious, but what gay Jewish New Yorker isn't? "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kean | 4/1/2011

    " It's a fairly slow burner and a little hit-or-miss, but there were a couple of standout sections (his rant on "Rent" certainly springs to mind).

    I was pleasantly surprised to find how nicely things came together in his final (and by far the best) essay. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Stephanie | 3/28/2011

    " Very good so far but I had to take it back to the library. Rakoff is such a good writer...biting, but really not that negative. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Brent | 3/27/2011

    " You win some and you lose some. This one lost for me. There's a lot of books in the world and this one wasn't worth me pushing through - I didn't finish, but I'm done. Sorry. :( "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ian | 3/26/2011

    " Funny, thoughtful, and just plain illuminating essays about... 'stuff'. "

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About the Author
Author David RakoffDavid Rakoff has written for numerous publications, and is a regular contributor to Salon, Outside, and the radio program This American Life on WBEZ in Chicago. He is also an actor in his free time.