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Half Emptyby David Rakoff
Synopses & Reviews
The inimitably witty David Rakoff, New York Times bestselling author of Don’t Get Too Comfortable, defends the commonsensical notion that you should always assume the worst, because you’ll never be disappointed.
In this deeply funny (and, no kidding, wise and poignant) book, Rakoff examines the realities of our sunny, gosh everyone-can-be-a-star contemporary culture and finds that, pretty much as a universal rule, the best is not yet to come, adversity will triumph, justice will not be served, and your dreams won’t come true.
The book ranges from the personal to the universal, combining stories from Rakoff’s reporting and accounts of his own experiences: the moment when being a tiny child no longer meant adults found him charming but instead meant other children found him a fun target; the perfect late evening in Manhattan when he was young and the city seemed to brim with such possibility that the street shimmered in the moonlight—as he drew closer he realized the streets actually flickered with rats in a feeding frenzy. He also weaves in his usual brand Oscar Wilde–worthy cultural criticism (the tragedy of Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, for instance).
Whether he’s lacerating the musical Rent for its cutesy depiction of AIDS or dealing with personal tragedy, his sharp observations and humorist’s flair for the absurd will have you positively reveling in the power of negativity.
"[F]rom the mordant mind of one of our funniest writers" People Magazine
"Rakoff has a self-awareness that could be recreated only by a team of geneticists working in a lab. The conviction with which he writes is, at the risk of blowing his jacket, uplifting....Writing like this can only be a positive experience for all concerned....To file Rakoff under 'essayist, brilliant' would be to overlook his formidable gifts as a reporter" New York Times Book Review
"An anthropologist's eye for the irrational...finely sharpened sarcasm that makes our collective stupidity seem so comically pathetic...powerful prose....As Rakoff tenderly probes his fears, he makes clear...he is part of our tribe. He's just funnier" The Miami Herald
"Dry, sardonic wit" The Daily Beast
"Some people believe in the power of positive thinking. The rest of us believe in David Rakoff...sharp-tongued, self aware...you won't be disappointed" Daily Candy
"A collection of humorous — albeit pessimistic — essays on humankind’s incalculable foibles....Throughout the book, the author hones in on this disconnect, debunking the myth of the power of positive thinking while arguing that 'the bleak' (not the meek) will most likely inherit the earth. Rakoff manages to make pessimism sexy, whittling optimism into little more than an irresponsible fad, a modern opiate of the masses....The author regularly employs non-sequiturs as a literary technique, casting his arguments to the fringes of possibility before reeling them back in. His droll humor proves an asset when describing humankind’s failures, allowing readers to roll their eyes while empathizing with the argument....While Rakoff seems to revel in his role as a modern-day Thomas Hobbes, it’s evident that he remains responsible in his critique, never trouncing a subject without provocation while simultaneously opening the reader’s eyes to everyday lunacy. An unsentimental comic depiction of our inability to recognize our own short-sided logic." Kirkus Reviews
"Maintaining his signature and singular charm, Rakoff analyzes the heck out of common- (and not-so-common) place culture....Rakoff is so keenly observant and dead-on [with the]...elegant, smart conclusions he draws...a writerly collection to make giddy even the most erudite lover of words." Booklist
In this deeply smart and sneakily poignant collection of essays, the bestselling author of Fraud and Don’t Get Too Comfortable makes an inspired case for always assuming the worst — because then you’ll never be disappointed. Whether he’s taking on pop culture phenomena with Oscar Wilde-worthy wit or dealing with personal tragedy, Rakoff’s sharp observations and humorist’s flair for the absurd will have you positively reveling in the untapped power of negativity.
About the Author
David Rakoff is the author of the books Fraud and Don’t Get Too Comfortable. A two-time recipient of the Lambda Literary Award, he is a regular contributor to Public Radio International’s This American Life. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek, Wired, Salon, GQ, Outside, Gourmet, Vogue, Slate, Harper’s Bazaar, and the New York Observer, among other publications, and has been included in Da Capo’s Best Music Writing, The Best American Travel Writing as well as The Best American Non-Required Reading. He can be seen in the movies Capote (fleetingly), Strangers with Candy (fleetingly; mutely), and, most recently, he adapted the screenplay for and starred in Joachim Back’s film The New Tenants, which won the 2010 Oscar for Best Live Action Short.
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