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Misses the mark
on January 24, 2007
Fraud, David Rakoff's first book, was enjoyable, rewarding, and often very funny. This book is not as enjoyable, not as rewarding, and not nearly as funny. The essays in Fraud were so carefully constructed, and so observant, that I found myself going back to reread them over and over. They stood up to repeated reading because, as book nerdish as this sounds, I never tired of the witty, playful language, or the sense of being there, with Rakoff, sharing his experiences. Even the ones that fell flat were still worth reading, if for no other reason than that they had a unique viewpoint and were well-written.
The essays in Don't Get Too Comfortable, like those in Fraud, deal with topics that range from the prosaic to the truly outlandish. Unlike Fraud, the essays here feel unfinished, and frequently lack insight or focus. More than once, I asked myself, What was the point of that? I didn't know if I'd missed it, or if it just wasn't there to begin with.
Take, for example, Rakoff's trip to Arizona to visit the headquarters of a company that specializes in cryonics. It's all very ghoulish, and Rakoff does a good job of capturing the mundane and the bizarre, but it's not terribly insightful. Cryonics being such an easy target, I expected more. And that's the problem with this book, in a nutshell. While there are many easy targets here, and Rakoff tackles some large issues (Log Cabin Republicans, life in post-9/11 New York/America, Bush), he doesn't have much to contribute to the conversation that's new or novel. Which is a shame, given his wit, humor, and considerable talent as a writer.