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on July 25, 2013
If I told literary types I wasn't a fan of Rakoff
They'd probably swear and tell me to back off
`He's truly amazing, we all agree, can't you hear us?'
I'd argue that he's a little too much like Sedaris

But this novel, for some reason, it grabbed me
I read it all night, losing sleep gladly
Rakoff crafted something unique and quite new
A true work of art before the his final adieu.

It's hilarious, saddening and at times quite revealing
Though written in form I find unappealing
`The whole thing rhymes?' I thought with some horror
From cover to cover - I didn't think that I'd bother.
And the premise - well, I thought that it'd tank
Or at worst descend into faux-literary wank
But herein lies the books true art -
Its clever and witty without being smug or too smart.

This bit is the worst, and it really does pain me,
That I should go to greater lengths explaining
In the middle it dragged and my attention, it waned
Feeling a little verbose and a little bit strained.

But truthfully it shouldn't detract
From a wonderful read that compelled me, and that
I will read again, admittedly, not the whole thing
But select chapters, which are nothing short of amazing.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
David Rakoff was a wonderful voice--witty, wise, wry, sardonic and satirical, he saw through so much of the nonsense in contemporary culture and was able to cut through to core truths while still maintaining a sense of humor. He could be hopeful and cynical in the same sentence. Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish: A Novel is a novel told in verse that Rakoff finished just before his death in the summer of 2012. The verse form freed him to focus on tiny details that communicate much more than pages and pages of descriptive paragraphs would have been able to communicate. I am disappointed that the review copy I have does not include the Chip Kidd illustrations, which I am sure will be wonderful when final version is published. For now, let me say that this novel is many times brilliant and sometimes, a little less than brilliant, but always clever, always heartbreaking. In most instances, the stories Rakoff tells of Americans over many years are sad, but the way he tells these stories is wonderful, there are always parts that are uplifting because the characters are so human. This novel is brief, barely over 100 pages and the verse form will allow the reader to savor every image, every clever word trick. The verse form is different and I think you have to be in a bit of a contemplative mood and in a quiet place when you read this novel. You won't be disappointed. Enjoy!
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VINE VOICEon July 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
After finishing this all too slim but huge novel, I immediately mourned the death of its author. I have not read David Rakoff before. I believe I heard him narrate stories on This American Life (although I admit to not knowing one off the top of my head). But after reading this breakthrough novel (breakthrough on so many levels) I wished he were still here, to create more, to create another.

Rakoff encapsulates so many aspects to life, the title absolutely makes sense. He weaves the stories of a group of people, subtly and sometimes surprisingly connected, throughout the American 20th century. He hits on themes of loss, love, longing. Most poignant for me was the character of Clifford, with whom we spend much time, as see him grow up to navigate this world, as he creates the central image of the story. The book itself takes about an hour to read (once you get into the rhyming patterns) and is filled with so much much-ness that I found myself slowing down to absorb.

Not only to absorb the content, which at times is pointed, painful and all together truthful. He is a master of language. The rhyme scheme sometimes forces his hand into having to select words that you cannot think possibly could be rhyme, but not only does he rhyme them, but he makes it fun. I found myself lost in his words from time to time, just enjoying his use of them. Several passages require reading aloud, for their sound and their humor.

Dear Mr. Rakoff, wherever you may be right now, know that your final novel, that you wrote as you were dying, will be remembered as a hallmark of literature, and a personal favorite of mine for this year, if not my life.
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on July 18, 2013
I have just finished listening to the audiobook version of LDMDCP, and am wiping the tears from my eyes. All I can say is, thank you, Ira Glass, for helping Mr. Rakoff complete this work in the last weeks of his life, and for making it possible for his fans and friends to hear this book the way it needs to be heard. For a particular group of us, David Rakoff became over the years,a patron saint of sorts. He provided us with the validation that yes, we could be sarcastic, ironic and at times a bit indignant, without simultaneously forsaking our humanity. He proved that these competing qualities could indeed find a comfortable home within ourselves, and that we needn't chose to be either completely bitter or 100% virtuous. We could in fact, be both, and somehow work it all out into a cohesive package. David Rakoff framed the dichotomy of the human condition better than any other writer of our time.

Regarding the controversy of the delivery method of this final work, written in anapestic tetrameter (two unstressed syllables, followed by one stressed); it's a form of rhyming used by Dr. Seuss, Clement Moore, Lord Byron and Eminem, so how "inaccessable", or off-putting can it really be? As I listened, the power of the story overtook the conceit, and the analysis provided by his editor, Bill Thomas, in an interview with the New York Times was borne out:

"What is so special to me about the book," Mr. Thomas said, "is that it is the purest distillation of David's belief that we live in a world that is essentially cruel and indifferent, but there are remedies for that. And the remedies are kindness and beauty. It's very clever and erudite, and it's very, very funny, as David was, but fundamentally it is a brief for kindness."

David Rakoff was truly one-of-a-kind, and he was our kind. His voice, and the depth of his humanity will be forever missed.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The first thing that will strike most readers about Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish, aside from its unusual title, is that it is written in rhymed couplets, most lines being ten, eleven, or twelve, syllables, some jogtrotting regularly, others hop-skipping, many of the couplets ending in striking and witty rhymes, almost Byronic in their inventiveness. On the other hand, as is so much the fate of poets writing in English, most of the rhymes just happen, self-effacing, and we move along almost without noticing them. All this (and it is a lot) adds to the pleasure of reading the linked narratives that make up, in the form of brief chapters, this novella (really it is not sufficiently developed, even with its sweep across a couple of centuries, to be called a novel).

David Rakoff's "novel in verse" is not as formally uncommon as many readers might think. Long narratives--both fictional (novels?) and nonfiction (historical, autobiographical, biographical)--have been a small but steady presence in the literary world. (David Mason, Ludlow; Ruth Padel, Darwin: A Life in Verse; Daryl Hine, In and Out; Vikram Seth, Golden Gate, are just a few book-length works in a variety of genres, but all written in verse.) It is difficult, in fact, to define or even identify a "novel in verse" that could not just as easily be called a "long narrative poem" (one thinks of William Morris's saga of Jason and the Argonauts, for example), though comparison with the Brownings' big poems--Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh or Robert's The Ring and the Book, might open some parameters. Even Herman Melville's Clarel might offer some points of reference, but the better point of comparison would probably be Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology.

Rakoff develops several characters, somewhat linked by encounter or even ancestry, with the most prominent being Clifford, Helen, Susan, and Josh. Their stories occur in brief episodes with some linking exposition, and though the characters are interesting, sympathetic, the incidents of their lives, presented in such condensed and fragmentary form, are unfortunately cliched and too familiar. The novel opens with the tale of red-headed Margaret, a child who is beautiful, abused, sent away to escape the predatory man--her mother's lover--who has raped her. Terrible events and wrenching drama do not necessarily make for depth or weight, and that is the problem with this novel.

David Rakoff died much too young, and though he might have felt this novel was "finished," it feels like a bunch of preliminary notes toward what might have been a powerful exploration of changing social and moral values as well as portraits of the courage and persistence of people affected by unfair or even tragic events. But it hardly happens in this novel. When Clifford, the gay man, dies of AIDS, the event is sad, but no more (nor less) meaningful than any other account of the effects of "the plague," since it has little context and very little development. Of course, there are novels composed of sequences of brief episodic narratives, with little explanatory or developmental linkage, written so that the reader is obliged to make the connections or at least be alert to those embedded in the sections. Quite a few contemporary novels ignore chronology but link sections by referring to events or characters in earlier sections, and these can be either tricksy and cute or sometimes profound and moving. But when this approach to structure fails to work as intended, the result is disappointing.

I would have liked to be enthusiastic about this novel for several reasons, but the experience of reading it does not stimulate enthusiasm--just a sense of regret at opportunities missed and the pain of loss of a writer who had much to offer, but not enough time.
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on December 11, 2013
When I heard David Rakoff's book was written entirely in verse,
I thought to myself, "Could there be anything worse?

"Trying to ascertain plot from each rhyming couplet,
Would it be good enough to be worth all that trouble?" It

Seemed an idea that was rather pretentious,
And struggling with verse can be rather contentious.

But the critics they raved, hailing the book's success,
Saying this was Rakoff at his very best.

The glory of this triumph was somewhat diminished,
By the fact that Rakoff died shortly after it was finished.

But now that I've read it, and allayed my fears,
I can say it amused me and moved me to tears.

The writing insightful, the characters complex,
And it amazed me how well their stories intersect.

It was a quick read, 'though I savored each word,
I can't believe I ever thought this idea was absurd.

I loved the way these characters' lives unfolded in stages,
A novel's worth of plot and emotion in just a few pages.

So if, like me, you're skeptical about this book,
I can assure you it's definitely worth more than a look.

It's a book you'll want to recommend to your crowd,
And it's infinitely more fun if you read it aloud (even to yourself).

Don't worry if poetry's not your idea of fun,
You'll feel tremendously fulfilled when you're all done.

I really loved this, and I'm completely sincere,
When I say it's one of the best I read this year.

So thank you for enduring my attempts at a tribute,
Clearly rhyming is not my strongest suit.

Ahem. I couldn't resist.

This is a phenomenally written, emotionally compelling book, one of the most unique I've ever read, and I loved every minute of it. David Rakoff has created a masterpiece of interconnected stories-in-verse about characters in some sort of emotional flux. Some of the connections come as an utter surprise, but the emotions they generate are truly genuine. As the title suggests, Rakoff's characters are involved with all of those verbs in some way, and I only wish he had lived, because I'd love to read more about them.

Believe me, I was truly skeptical of this concept, but I am so glad I gave it a shot. And you should, too.
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VINE VOICEon June 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book put me through the ringer before I even began reading it. I'm a fan of David Rakoff's work (and my wife is a super-fan), so there was an attachment to the sadness of reading his last work. I was surprised (and, at least initially, not in a good way) to discover that "Love, Dishonor, Die, Cherish, Perish" is written in verse. And I was disappointed that my Vine copy did not include Chip Kidd's design or Seth's cartooning.

While there is still some sadness knowing that it's the last new Rakoff I'll ever read, it's soothed by this being a great example of the sarcastic yet empathetic worldview I've always appreciated in with his work. And while I think there may have been some places where he might have tightened up the rhyming prose had he the time to do so (the occasional passage comes across as writing exercise more than finished product), it has its purpose. The criticism digs and the laughter resonates a little deeper as a result of the style choice.

So that leaves the only remaining disappointment - that I have not yet seen the book in the final format in which his collaborators will soon present it to the world. But I loved it enough that I know I will be buying a copy of that version shortly.
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on August 19, 2013
I love verse but it is hard to find good verse, never in the form of a novel. I was hoping after reading some of his prose that I would be amused but this or even like it, but I was overweled by the beauty of Rakoff story, characters and verse. I wanted more and am all to sad that Rakoff has passed and will not give us more.

The verse is very good and not a distraction (I am a classist I read a lot of long works in verse.) It fits what Rakoff wanted to do and he succeeded in his aim. I think this was a labor of love that needed to be finished before he died but it has no sense of being unfinished or incomplete. All that is needed is there and with good verse there is little extra unneeded on the page.

The book is phyiscally beautiful and a pleasure to sit back and read.

Rakoff read all of his own books and this is maybe the gem of the lot. His reading voice is weaker because of the cancer that is doing him in but the love and passion for the book comes out so well as he reads it. I know from his reading that Rakoff answered his question of what is worth doing in your last days. For Rakoff it was making sure this book existed in a form that would satify the reader and the listener.

I recommend all his books.

Half Full is my second favorite of his works.
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on December 22, 2013
I picked up Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die....after seeing it on the NY Times Notable Books of 2013 list. It most definitely is notable but i can't say I found it to be the most enjoyable book I have ever read and as a result I can't highly recommend it. The book is written as a poem which I found to be pretty distracting--always having this sing-song rhyme in my head. I enjoyed the characters Rakoff described in the book. For such a short book there were several heated moments and several tear-jerkers as well. Perhaps the description of the man dying of AIDS was the most poignant set of pages in the work. The secretary being harassed in times where people didn't even think twice about harassing women was tough to take as well. Rakoff is certainly a good author and has made his mark on NPR. I have enjoyed listening to him over the years. But there were times that I just couldn't get the rhyming out of my head and as a result didn't enjoy the book as much as I probably would have otherwise.
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on December 13, 2013
Oh David. My heart is broken for losing you so soon. I put the audiobook on my iPod and took this hard copy to the park and listened to you read it to me while I read along and looked at the pictures. You are one of my all time favorite writers and the more I found out about your life the more I mourn losing such a bright star. I wish I had been lucky enough to know you IRL. I hope wherever you are that you're happy. You brought so much joy into my life with your work. I'll always cherish having this book. You were one of the greats.
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