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David Rakoff is not David Sedaris. That's not a problem.
on March 5, 2002
Other reviewers have invariably used David Sedaris as the benchmark to measure David Rakoff against. The two do, after all, share some qualities--they're both radio contributors to This American Life, they're both gay, and, most importantly, they're both wonderful writers.
The comparison between the two Davids is appropriate, but only to a point. Sedaris's genius stems from his ability to make you see things from his warped perspective. Rakoff isn't quite as eccentric, but he is just as observant, and his writing is always elegant, interesting, and often plain funny. My favorite parts of Fraud were a handful of travel essays--accounts of trips to Tokyo, Northern Scotland, and to New England for a Christmas Day mountain climb. I thought some of Rakoff's essays were better than others, but in the abridged audio version I listened to, there's not a weak one in the bunch.
For most people, I suspect, Rakoff is easier to identify with. When he tells you in a touching essay about his experiences as a 22-year-old cancer patient, you feel like you understand, even if you've never gone through such tragedy yourself. (As big a David Sedaris fan as I am, I simply can't relate to, say, his adolescent desire to sing commercial jingles in the style of Billie Holiday.)
So give Rakoff his due. Fraud is an interesting, literate collection of essays that deserves to be recognized in its own right--and not just as a book by that other gay This American Life contributor named David.