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Half Empty Paperback – September 6, 2011
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Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
When I first started reading this book, one thing became apparent immediately: Mr. Rakoff can write, most of the time. Yes, he sometimes seems to go on, allowing sentences to continue far past the point at which they should have died had nature been allowed to take its course, but there was, for me, a clear sense of someone with great skill with words at work here. This is not, as William Tapply called it, invisible writing. Rather, the writing itself is part of the pleasure of the book. I am certain that I did not catch all the allusions, but I like writing that challenges, that sometimes goes beyond what most readers are able to absorb easily.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Rakoff's writing style is very dense and may put some people off. He goes off on many tangents within his paragraphs, and I found myself having to re-read pages several times, but the payoff was worth it for me. I like to read prose that is not dumbed-down for me, that requires some effort to get to the heart of it, and Rakoff exemplifies this style. His work is slightly similar to the writer David Sedaris, but with a more detailed and finely-wrought hand rather than Sedaris's broad stroke.
Rakoff's narrative reads like a long conversation with his audience, curious readers who have never read his previous works or long-time fans. Indeed, each chapter is a string of ten essays that look at the big picture of how negativity affects those who encounter it, including himself, that appear a little less myopic and narrows towards a microcosm of his own experiences of possibly why he wrote the book. And one word describes the series of references that he makes throughout his stories, popular culture, or he holding the television remote control that switches from everything that he has taken in from childhood to the present, from literature, gender issues, history and science, to philosophy that has been embedded within his memory; not intensely metaphysical but comprehensible for any reader to digest.
There is no doubt that Half Empty is a laugh a minute type of book. For readers who are familiar with other satirical writers, David Sedaris, Sarah Vowell, and Bill Bryson, there is plenty of kick in your pants commentary and underneath it all, Rakoff provides a unique form of contemplation with the old adage that laughter is the best medicine.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
in the same vein as David Sedaris and Jon Ronson. Very enjoyable storytellingPublished 4 months ago by T. Tamsen
Some bits very good, others like he swallowed a thesaurus and a trivia book. Loved the heartfelt chapter on cancer.Published 5 months ago by bookman
I read it slowly because there won't be any more delightful stories and insights from this masterful writer.Published 14 months ago by Deborah M. Alexander
I was expecting short stories, not essays. It was okay. The author had some personality and a few interesting ideas.Published 15 months ago by S. Lewandowski
David Rakoff's essays were always complex and enjoyable to read. I have given copies of his books as gifts continuously.Published 20 months ago by lpvl