The Uncollected David Rakoff: Including the entire text of Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish (An Anchor Books Original)

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9780307946478: The Uncollected David Rakoff: Including the entire text of Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish (An Anchor Books Original)

Bestselling and Thurber Prize–winning humorist David Rakoff was one of the most original, delightfully acerbic voices of his generation. Here, in one place, is the best of his previously uncollected material—most never before published in book form.
 
David Rakoff’s singular personality spills from every page of this witty and entertaining volume, which includes travel features, early fiction works, pop culture criticism, and transcripts of his most memorable appearances on public radio’s Fresh Air and This American Life.

These writings chart his transformation from fish out of water, meekly arriving for college in 1982, to a proud New Yorker bluntly opining on how to walk properly in the city. They show his unparalleled ability to capture the pleasures of solitary pursuits like cooking and crafting, especially in times of trouble; as well as the ups and downs in the life-span of a friendship, whether it is a real relationship or an imaginary correspondence between Gregor Samsa and Dr. Seuss (co-authored with Jonathan Goldstein). Also included is his novel-in-verse Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish.
 
By turns hilarious, incisive and deeply moving, this collection highlights the many facets of Rakoff’s huge talent and shows the arc of his remarkable career.

With a foreword by Paul Rudnick.

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About the Author:

David Rakoff is the author of four New York Times bestsellers: the essay collections FraudDon’t Get Too Comfortable, and Half Empty, and the novel in verse Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish. A two-time recipient of the Lambda Literary Award and winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor, he was a regular contributor to Public Radio International’s This American Life. His writing frequently appeared in The New York TimesNewsweekWiredSalon,GQOutsideGourmetVogue, and Slate, among other publications. An accomplished stage and screen actor, playwright, and screenwriter, he adapted the screenplay for and starred in Joachim Back’s film The New Tenants, which won the 2010 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short. He died in 2012.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

"Goodbye to All of You"

There is an unwritten social code that I learned at university. It is uniquely suited to the archi­tecture of a campus, with its walkways and quadrangles, but it has proven to have universal application. The law is the fol­lowing: If, when you returned after the summer break, you ran into someone on the footpath whom you knew—anyone from casual-nod-hello acquaintance all the way up to and includ­ing actual-yet-temporary friend—and you did not speak the first time you saw each other that semester, you never had to speak to that person again. Ever. You could nod, you could suck in the necessary breath for the possibility of expelling it in greeting, you could even chuckle at each other in recogni­tion, but if you actually didn’t say anything, you were rid of that person. Thereafter, for the rest of your lives, you could engage in the most wonderful, revisionist estrangement; you had never known each other. You could allow yourselves to be introduced to each other at parties and affect a disingenuous, doe-eyed, first-meeting “Hi.”

This capacity and desire to slough people off is no less a paradigm for real life than it was for college. Admittedly, in one’s student days, it happened far more frequently, casting about furiously for identities as we all were. How embarrassing it was to have come back to school affecting an Urban Marxist People’s Poet demeanor only to be confronted with one’s old friends from the Gilbert & Sullivan Society. Life is like a flight. Sometimes you sit beside someone and tell them too much about yourself. Unlike a flight, however, life goes on and on and you can’t change planes in Grand Rapids so some­times you just have to change seats. There is no one more worthy of our contempt than somebody who reminds us of who we used to be. Conversely, a true friend is someone who knew you when and doesn’t hold it against you.

There is also a less Stalinist reason for these passive purges: You run out of time as you get older. I have been accused by many friends, as well as by my therapist, of being “suspiciously social.” This doesn’t mean that they think I’m a climber, or an Eve Harrington manqué. They know I’m not that. What “suspiciously social” means is that I am perceived to know and maintain too many relationships with people. If one is friendly to everyone, one is friendly to no one. Of course, this is not actually true. I have a very significant core group of friends who, despite transoceanic migrations, etc., remain the most cohesive social network of my adult life.

In fact, the bonds get stronger as my social world shrinks. There are, how­ever, many people whom I consider friends who, due to their being single and miserable like myself, spin at high velocity and bump together about once every three months. There are laws that apply here, as well. If, for instance, you have a cold and reschedule once, add three months, and then if the other person gets food poisoning, add three more. There is a quantifiably infinitesimal chance that a third rescheduling will actually bear fruit. This is true for most grown-ups I know.

Like all good theories, though, there is a seemingly contra­dictory and simultaneous aspect to the rule. If you really want to get rid of someone, a friend who has revealed an unfor­tunate penchant for psychotic episodes, say, or someone who responds to “It’s such a beautiful day” with “Thanks, I’ve been feeling really attractive,” you cannot. It is said that tragedy is sympathetic but chronic problems are alienating. Late-night, ear-bending, soul-baring conversations with friends who tell you that “nobody understands me as you do” get hard to take as they move into their second decade. It is nice to be needed, but like shelter in a storm, not like dental floss or a really good vegetable peeler. And so, you call less. You reschedule and cancel. You try to create distance. You are a fool, playing a losing game. A game governed by the you-forgot-to-tell-me-that-you-switched-jobs-and-your-home-phone-number-but-I’m-glad-I-finally-managed-to-track-you-down principle.

I can hear the voice of Jane Darwell as Ma Joad here, wondering when I got so hard and mean. It’s not meanness that makes me or anyone terminate relationships; I’ve been gotten rid of, too. Countless times. When I first moved to New York, I maintained my contacts in Canada steadfastly, but it’s not true what they say: Absence doesn’t make the heart grow anything.
Absence makes you forget. I had a new life that was admittedly more exciting than my old one. I came out, which distanced me yet further, and my friends back home responded in kind, having lives of their own.

I did have one friend, however, who used to call me, her voice fairly sawtoothed with umbrage. The very existence of my new life constituted a betrayal. I superegotistically back­slid and apologized for years, terrified that I was in fact guilty of her silent accusation that I now felt myself to be superior. I, in turn, would roll my eyes on the other end of the phone at her anecdotes about the same old people, her inertia, the smallness of her dreams, the Narrowness of her Worldview (I really did use these terms—I’m not proud, I’m trying to be honest). But one day, I just stopped. I took the note of contri­tion out of my voice. I talked about my life without trying to mollify her by disqualifying its importance to me. It is only years later that I see that at the same time I stopped apologiz­ing, she stopped trying to exact those assurances from me that our relationship had not changed. We both knew it had and we both were finally comfortable about it. Recently, on a trip home, I called her. Not to make plans to see her—I didn’t have time, nor did she—but simply to say hello. After years of avoiding walking by her house when I visited my parents, I got over my narcissistic fantasy that she was inside, sobbing, lying in wait so she could heap upon me recriminations of neglect and heartlessness. For the first time, I did not feel like I had wounded her when I put the phone down.

A boyfriend once explained to me his leaving New York for Los Angeles this way: “You know when Joan Didion has that man say in ‘Goodbye to All That’ that there comes a time in New York City when you’ve slept with all the women in the room and borrowed money from all the men? Well, that’s why I have to leave, but I’ve borrowed money from all the women and slept with all the men.”

When he told me this, I could only focus on the part about him having slept with all the men, but I know now what he means. It doesn’t necessarily make one a bad person to lose touch with someone or leave them behind, no matter what the emotional or carnal bonds once were between you. Peo­ple get used up. It sounds horribly callous, but it’s true. The term is “tossed aside like an old shoe”—not a bad shoe, just an old one. There’s a false moral component operating here. It’s hard enough to simply grow up; don’t confuse the issue by not allowing yourself to lose contact with people who have now become strangers to you. The movies lie: sometimes you won’t always have Paris, and what’s more, you’ll neither of you particularly care.
Although there is an occasional attendant sorrow, it’s evident the art of losing’s not too hard to master.

I was recently walking one Saturday morning and passed a store I had been inside a few hours previously. I looked through the plate glass and there, like a flimsy plot device in a bad movie, I saw an ex-friend looking around. I don’t mean an old friend, which is how I refer to people in Toronto. He is my only true ex-friend, and there he was in the housewares section of Barneys.
When we first became close, several years ago, he issued me a warning:

“I get tired of people after two years or so. I get really inti­mate, and then I get tired of them. I’ll probably get rid of you, too.” He laughed and covered his mouth, mock-shocked at his own cynicism.

I issued the counter-warning that he wouldn’t be able to dismiss me so easily. I liked this banter. It had a Hepburn-Tracy antagonism that I enjoyed and it felt like he was laying down a romantic gauntlet to me, which may well have been the root of my problem. His lover was sick, and I felt needed and up to the challenge of proving him wrong and sticking around for the long haul.

We became good friends. We filled niches in each other’s lives that seemed dangerously close to the role of soul mates or lovers. In very little time, our discourse consisted almost entirely of inside jokes, catchphrases, and partial aphorisms. I would pick up the phone at work, and he would be saying in his best Ruth Draper, “My dear, this is not for the children’s ears. Meet me at the Royalton.”

We cared for his dying boyfriend. I sat with him in the church at the memorial service, when his in-laws would not acknowledge him. And then something soured. It was pre­cipitous, this disaffection. Maybe it had been developing all along but, if so, it had been concealed, occupied as we were with caring for his lover. But suddenly, there it was: biting into a perfect-skinned apple to find it full of rot. Both of us felt unacknowledged, censored, unrespected, and unloved by the other. Perhaps, in the absence of a shared crisis, we battled each other. But I actually think I had reached a point of satu­ration with my role as the subordinate caring one. Or maybe I was just angry he hadn’t fallen in love with me. We spoke about it one night and agreed we would have to work harder at the friendship. We came away from that evening unconvinced and dissatisfied. I then went away for a weekend. I didn’t call before I left and didn’t call when I got back. We haven’t con­tacted each other since. I don’t feel gotten rid of in this case. It is both our faults. His two-year prediction of expiry was merely an unfortunate coincidence.

I watched him looking around the store, unaware of me. I had no discernible feelings watching him, none of the nausea of seeing an old boyfriend, for example. I was Stella Dallas minus the rain and the handkerchief between my teeth. And then, as if he had seen me through the glass earlier that morn­ing when I had done the very same thing, he stopped in front of a bowlful of red-and-yellow parrot tulips. Among shelves of overdecorated vases, trays, crystal, and other articles of house­hold pornography, he leaned in to them, closing his eyes, con­centrating on the one real thing that was there.

[Out, May 1994. This is a longer, unedited version of the published piece.]

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Descripción Anchor Books, United States, 2015. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Bestselling and Thurber Prize winning humorist David Rakoff was one of the most original, delightfully acerbic voices of his generation. Here, in one place, is the best of his previously uncollected material most never before published in book form. David Rakoff s singular personality spills from every page of this witty and entertaining volume, which includes travel features, early fiction works, pop culture criticism, and transcripts of his most memorable appearances on public radio s Fresh Air and This American Life. These writings chart his transformation from fish out of water, meekly arriving for college in 1982, to a proud New Yorker bluntly opining on how to walk properly in the city. They show his unparalleled ability to capture the pleasures of solitary pursuits like cooking and crafting, especially in times of trouble; as well as the ups and downs in the life-span of a friendship, whether it is a real relationship or an imaginary correspondence between Gregor Samsa and Dr. Seuss (co-authored with Jonathan Goldstein). Also included is his novel-in-verse Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish. By turns hilarious, incisive and deeply moving, this collection highlights the many facets of Rakoff s huge talent and shows the arc of his remarkable career. With a foreword by Paul Rudnick. Nº de ref. de la librería ABZ9780307946478

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Descripción Anchor Books, United States, 2015. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Bestselling and Thurber Prize winning humorist David Rakoff was one of the most original, delightfully acerbic voices of his generation. Here, in one place, is the best of his previously uncollected material most never before published in book form. David Rakoff s singular personality spills from every page of this witty and entertaining volume, which includes travel features, early fiction works, pop culture criticism, and transcripts of his most memorable appearances on public radio s Fresh Air and This American Life. These writings chart his transformation from fish out of water, meekly arriving for college in 1982, to a proud New Yorker bluntly opining on how to walk properly in the city. They show his unparalleled ability to capture the pleasures of solitary pursuits like cooking and crafting, especially in times of trouble; as well as the ups and downs in the life-span of a friendship, whether it is a real relationship or an imaginary correspondence between Gregor Samsa and Dr. Seuss (co-authored with Jonathan Goldstein). Also included is his novel-in-verse Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish. By turns hilarious, incisive and deeply moving, this collection highlights the many facets of Rakoff s huge talent and shows the arc of his remarkable career. With a foreword by Paul Rudnick. Nº de ref. de la librería ABZ9780307946478

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