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Showing 1-10 of 16 reviews(1 star). Show all reviews
on August 19, 2012
Following the author's recent death, there was a lot of coverage of his writings. I was intrigued, as I had never read anything by him before, or so I thought. This turned out to be only partially true, as several pieces in this book had appeared elsewhere in slightly different form (such as in GQ Magazine, where I had previously read at least one of these essays).

Rakoff has often been compared with David Sedaris, who was apparently a mentor to him. I've only skimmed Sedaris, so I can't really judge if he was much of an influence. This book was described as comical, but Rakoff strikes me as more of a journalist than a satirist. He has a very detached observation style, good for a journalist, but not such a great gift for comedy. If the best comedy comes from pain and/or anger, Rakoff doesn't seem to have tapped into his.

The best pieces here, for me, were the more personal. A chapter on meeting Martha Stewarts "crafters" (the people who actually create the glittery "home made" items featured in Martha's magazine) is amusing, and segues off into an exploration by Rakoff as to what exactly happens to the art objects he's created and gifted to friends (this was the only time I actually laughed while reading this book). Martha herself never makes an appearance, which is a disappointment. A shortish piece on an over-engineered scavenger hunt in after-hours Manhattan struck a cord with me, as Rakoff apparently shared my own dim view toward all such overly elaborate attempts at organized "fun". The chapter describing a trek through Brooklyn's Prospect Park in search of "urban edlbles" (wild plants) is the most polished.

But other pieces (a visit to fashion runway shows in Paris, a trip on the now-vanished Concorde airplane) are pedestrian at best. The chapter where Rakoff goes "undercover" and works at a chi-chi hotel on Miami's South Beach had great promise but it's too journalistic and not very memorable. Ditto for an essay on the Broadway show "Puppetry of the Penis". Here, it would seem, would lie some comic gold, but Rakoff doesn't bring it off. Even his description of this absurd piece of commercial theatre is oddly flat.

Not realy my thing and I can't really recommend it. Rakoff was a clear writer, he has a trace of self-deprecating humor, but nothing here is particularly memorable or amusing.
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on February 5, 2016
Snarky, forced humor.
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on August 28, 2008
Not good. I actually stopped reading and returned it to the bookstore about halfway through. Most of it was just meaningless; I'd reach the end of a chapter and wonder "What was the point of that?" While there were definitely funny parts, they were too few and far between. I expected witty social commentary, but all I got was pointless anecdotes and pretentious language. If I could describe the book in one word, it would be "self-indulgent"; I suspect that Rakoff is the type of person who talks just to hear the sound of his own voice.
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on January 23, 2007
I read this book because it was recommended to fans of David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs. However, Rakoff should not even be put on the same playing field as either of those brilliant authors.

I was intrigued to read this book because of the reviews on the back cover - I really thought that I would get an outsiders view of Americans and our over-indulgent ways. However, I was mistaken. Yeah, Rakoff writes about getting citizenship and working in Miami - but the reader never really understands why he's doing all of this. The stories aren't funny because it feels like Rakoff is forcing them to be.

For example, Rakoff plainly states that he went to work for 3 days in Miami. It's not like he just chanced an encounter there and funny things happened...he made up his mind to go there, and barely stayed long enough to even get a good story.

All in all, I was happy when this book was over and I think that you will be, too!
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on August 25, 2013
I never got through this book, so I may have missed whatever may have been good about this book. Please keep that in mind. That said, what was supposed to be funny absolutely was not. I hope Rakoff has an experience being homeless some time. Perhaps then he will understand what is funny and what is absurd.
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on February 2, 2011
I did not enjoy this book. I gave up waiting for the "belly laughs" promised in the description about 1/2 way through. Maybe I don't get it, but this felt more like a collection of rambling diary entries than humor. Sorry.
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on January 15, 2013
This book was awful and I returned it! Poorly written and BORING! Especially boring! Don't waste tour time or money!
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on August 2, 2013
HE IS SELF IMPORTAWNT, ARROGANT AND PLAIN DUL AND HIS TOPICS ARE TRIVIAL BUT SELF-CONGRATULAATORY. It gave no new insights into his topics,
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on December 5, 2005
Rakoff comes off as trying to be a little too clever for his own good. His sentences are loaded with ten-dollar words that don't pay off. If it's wit you want, stick with Sedaris or Burroughs.
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on July 20, 2006
I was really looking forward to settling in with this book and having a good laugh. Instead, what I found was a pretentious book where the author tried way too hard to be funny . . . and very little of it actually was. The author definitely has a way of turning a phrase in an original way, but you cannot hang an entire chapter on one cute phrase. Reading this book was just way too much effort and not nearly fun enough. Yuck.
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