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Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish: A Novel Hardcover – July 16, 2013

4.1 out of 5 stars 206 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Rakoff, the best-selling author of Half Empty (2010), brings his thoughtful and tender perspective on life to this wonderfully funny yet heartbreakingly sad novel-in-verse. Throughout this rhyming novel, he crosses decades, telling the great American story through memorable characters loosely linked by acts of kindness or callousness. For example, a young runaway unfairly banished from her home finds unlikely comfort with a vagabond. Each chapter serves up a slice of life’s victories, discoveries, cruelties, and casualties, such as when a young man discovers sexual freedom in 1960s San Francisco only to later tend to friends ravaged by AIDS. This novel begs to be read aloud in the mode of Rakoff’s frequent and popular radio appearances on NPR’s This American Life. Although, sadly, we won’t be hearing new works from Rakoff, who died in August 2012, fans of the award-winning author will embrace with particular appreciation this final lesson on how to accept life’s blessings and blows. --Annie Suhy


"An extraordinarily and deliriously entertaining work....hearfelt, charmingly profound....[a] giddy, wistful triumph"
--Paul Rudnick, The New York Times Book Review

“Suffused with joyful invention. Readers may come to the book to pay their respects, but they will leave rejuvenated by the splendor of the warmth and wordplay. Composed a hand-span’s distance from death, it feels death-defying….irrepressibly funny, and even strangely uplifting, in jubilant verse….If this book must serve as his memorial, it’s at least as life-affirming as any that a writer has left behind
Wall Street Journal

"Sly, bravura....a marvel of gamesmanship, Mr. Rakoff describes hardship, illness, death and depravity, knowing how ingeniously his book’s style and substance would fight each other....gift for balancing truth telling and humor....future readers can turn to this book to remember why he was so widely appreciated and is sorely missed"
--Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“The literary rhythm captures the steady momentum of American progress….poignant….beautiful and melancholy….with a final image that made my eyes well up….funny and heartbreaking and, like Rakoff himself, not easy to forget”
--Entertainment Weekly, A
“Ingenius, delicately haunting…..probing, poignant, and wickedly funny….illuminate[s] the many stages of life”
--O Magazine

“It’s terrific: a sweeping narrative of the 20th century that encompasses personal tragedy, family secrets and broad social movements while going down as easy as a bite of crème brûleé”
—Gregory Cowles, The New York Times Book Review

“Reading the new novel in verse by David Rakoff, you can hear his voice again, wordy, so witty, a little worried, and always wise…..His mordant humor, his compassionate vision, his moral questioning, his sharp honesty, they’re all intimately wedded to the meter and the zestful diction of the book…..But the new direction he takes in “Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish” brings out the best in him, too, as he fits his voice into a tighter form without ever becoming a slave to that form. He is as vital, as blackly comic, as bursting forth with detail, as vernacular, and as poignant in metered verse as he is in his effortlessly long prose sentences. Each couplet here equally serves the structural rules, the story, and Rakoff’s matchless sensibility….The narrative is ambitious and has sweep…Agile, vivid, and entertaining”
Boston Globe

“Even at six vivid verbs, the title doesn’t do justice to the breadth of this short, acrid, elusive, entrancing book.”

"Inspired...accessible, delightful....powerful.... alluringly designed by Chip Kidd and illustrated by the cartoonist Seth, is filled with the sly, sharp social commentary that made Rakoff such a favorite....What shines through in this novel, even more than in his nonfiction, is a piercing, wistful appreciation for life, love and art....deserves to become a classic.....a rare bird: moving, amusing, lilting, crushing."
--Heller McAlpin, NPR

“I just marveled at his words….What he’s created in this book is Seussian”
—Ira Glass, in an interview with O Magazine

“Beautiful and heartbreaking....delightful.... hilarious and lewd and shot through with a longing for life”
--New York Times

“A novel in rhyming couplets narrated in iambic tetrameter? Why not?... Along the way, you can have a lot of fun, no matter how serious the subject — family, sometimes alienating, sometimes consoling — because of the rhymes. Rakoff makes such pairings as virago and Chicago, ceases and paresis, skittish and Yiddish, antelope and envelope, horas and Torahs, Alzheimer's and climbers, for 100 cleverly rendered and entertaining pages.”
—Alan Cheuse, NPR.org

"[A] tour de force novel-in-verse....It is hard not to feel celebratory over its heart-singing smarts, its existence as a fist raised against a life ending. What melancholia is there is confined to its characters — it’s a triumphant, moving work of true craft and wit."
--Austin American-Statesman

"Truly singular....There is so much bound up in the novel's singsong verse: stories about AIDS and Alzheimer's, altruism, art, lives linked together by buried incidents that spring up again to bear unexpected fruit."
--Ira Glass, The Atlantic

“Rakoff marries deft, humane observation with jauntily tripping verse structure — in places, you'll find yourself thinking of Dr. Seuss — to create a series of jewel-toned interlocking miniatures.”--NPR.org 

“[A] marvelously barbed novel in verse.”
–Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair’s “Hot Type”
"Mesmerizing....Combines his wit and his gravity....Astounding"
--Publishers Weekly

"A fitting memorial to a humorist whose embrace of life encompassed its dark side....[the book] retains a spirit of sweetness and light, even as mortality and inhumanity provide a subtext.....Strong work. It deepens the impact that this was the last book completed by the author."
--Kirkus Reviews


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (July 16, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038553521X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385535212
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (206 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,115 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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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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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
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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