"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”
“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”
“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."
"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"
"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."
Rakoff is well known for his humorous essays (Fraud; Don't Get Too Comfortable; Half Empty) and appearances on the radio program This American Life. In his newest book, a novel in verse, Rakoff displays great facility with rhyme and meter without losing any of his signature droll sense of humor. The book collects stories of characters and place thematically woven and punctuated by illustrations; they are biting (of course!) and mostly light, with a striking gentleness in the narrator's voice. In one story, a man sits with his aging mother, who doesn't recognize him: "He'd thought that her being alive would defray/ His sadness, but all this goodbye without going away/ This brutal, unsightly, and cold disappearing/ Was so beyond what he'd conceived ever fearing;/ A stupid, but not less dispiriting coda/ To be slapped by his mother, who wanted his soda." In another, a runaway learns that the cruel world contains kindnesses. And those are just two! VERDICT Verse seems the perfect style for the trifecta of Rakoff's humor, intelligence, and humanity. Readers who prefer their prose without stanzas may want to experiment by starting here. [See Prepub Alert, 1/25/13.]—Stephen Morrow, Hilliard, OH
This short novel of rhyming verse might be better read aloud, if only the author were still alive to read it. The late essayist for NPR's This American Life, Rakoff (Half Empty, 2010, etc.) was accustomed to writing for the ear, but never has his writing seemed more designed to be heard than here. The posthumous publication provides a fitting memorial to a humorist whose embrace of life encompassed its dark side and who died of cancer in 2012 at age 47. Written in anapestic tetrameter--most familiar from " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas" and most commonly associated with light comedy--this novel of interlocking stories nevertheless deals with rape, abortion, adultery, homophobia, AIDS, dementia and death. It's like a child's bedtime story that you would never read to children, yet it retains a spirit of sweetness and light, even as mortality and inhumanity provide a subtext to the singsong. "If it weren't so tragic, it could have been farce," he writes of an early blooming 12-year-old girl who attracts plenty of unwanted attention, including that of her brutish stepfather, and then finds herself blamed before escaping to something of a happy ending. The bittersweet center of the novel is a young boy who discovers both his artistic talent and his homosexuality, lives a life that is both rich and short, and dies just a little younger than the author did. Some of the rhymes read like doggerel ("crime it...climate," "Naugahyde...raw inside") and some of the laughs seem a little forced, but the author brings a light touch to deadly serious material, finding at least a glimmer of redemption for most of his characters. Strong work. It deepens the impact that this was the last book completed by the author.