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He Makes Us Look at Truth,
This review is from: Half Empty (Hardcover)
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Reading David Rakoff's new collection of essays, "Half Empty" reminds me of this Czeslaw Milosz quote: "In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot." Rakoff is so good at pointing out the truth in a way that clobbers you over the head with the realization of how blind you've been.
Rakoff is my favorite contrarian. And I have a soft-spot for those who admit to being a dilettante - being a bit of one myself. I adore his cynical pessimism and his struggles with his dark nature, and boy do I love his wit! Right off the bat in the first essay, "The Bleak Shall Inherit", Rakoff paints a vivid picture of pre-9/11 society with the dot.com bubble millionaires and a "self-help" book that MIGHT expose the inefficacy of eternal optimism. Of course, things don't turn out. For Rakoff, they never do.
And much as I love the musical "Rent", thanks to Rakoff's, "Isn't it Romantic" deconstruction, I'll never be able to look at it/hear it quite the same again. I love the way he cuts to the heart of the cultural views of "art and artist" and right through the BS. Another essay is a hilarious explanation of the complicated relationship between Jews and pork.
The middle set-piece, "A Capacity for Wonder - Three Expeditions", has Rakoff striving to show that he isn't allergic to adventure by exploring three places of "wonder": First it's the Disney House of the Future - basically a trade-show with a creepy fake family. Rakoff exposes it as the "dog-pile of consumerism" it is. Next Rakoff walks the Hollywood Walk of Fame - Hollywood is easy pickings for a satirist but he brings us FRESH hypocrisies at which to marvel. And interestingly, the third "adventure" is Utah, specifically Salt Lake City, where he stays in a hotel that "Edward Hopper never felt bummed out enough to paint".
In "I Feel Dirty" we are treated to a singularly un-sexy look at the porn industry: prepare to cringe.
The last essay, "Another Shoe" will have you riveted. It's powerful and no way will I spoil it. Don't read it first; he put it last for a reason.
Rakoff lovers will not be disappointed in this set of essays, and new readers who discover his unique style of humor and truth will want to read his previous two collections. Mazel Tov, David.