Fraud: Essays

Fraud: Essays

From This American Life alum David Rakoff comes a hilarious collection that single-handedly raises self-deprecation to an art form. Whether impersonating Sigmund Freud in a department store window during the holidays, climbing an icy mountain in cheap loafers, or learning primitive survival skills in the wilds of New Jersey, Rakoff clearly demonstrates how he doesn't belon...

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Title:Fraud: Essays
Author:David Rakoff
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Edition Language:English

Fraud: Essays Reviews

  • patsy

    I was lucky enough to meet David Rakoff when I hosted him for a bookstore reading. Along with David Sedaris & Sarah Vowell, he was on an NPR speaking tour. He is definitely as entertaining as the aforementioned authors; seeing the 3 of them in a group reading was a highlight of my literary life.

    His essays could best be characterized as lefty whining, but with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Hard to pick just one favorite in this collection, but the Steven Segal/Buddhist workshop piece is pre

    I was lucky enough to meet David Rakoff when I hosted him for a bookstore reading. Along with David Sedaris & Sarah Vowell, he was on an NPR speaking tour. He is definitely as entertaining as the aforementioned authors; seeing the 3 of them in a group reading was a highlight of my literary life.

    His essays could best be characterized as lefty whining, but with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Hard to pick just one favorite in this collection, but the Steven Segal/Buddhist workshop piece is pretty great.

    He is deadpan, hilarious, and a great reader. His years as a soap opera actor have served him well!

    Bonus points for the illustrations of the author's own woodcuts.

  • Carol Jean

    I mentioned that I laughed until I cried at one of Rakoff's other books. From the first essay in this one, I offer two GORGEOUS quotes:

    "His voice is velvet soft and Atticus Finch authoritative, but there's a sad whiff of mortality -- a smell of old leaves underneath everything he speaks of: the solitude of retirement, the nomadic life of the career renovator, the trial and test of faith that is building a butcher block island with sink, work area, and recessed halogen light fixtures. It's a bit

    I mentioned that I laughed until I cried at one of Rakoff's other books. From the first essay in this one, I offer two GORGEOUS quotes:

    "His voice is velvet soft and Atticus Finch authoritative, but there's a sad whiff of mortality -- a smell of old leaves underneath everything he speaks of: the solitude of retirement, the nomadic life of the career renovator, the trial and test of faith that is building a butcher block island with sink, work area, and recessed halogen light fixtures. It's a bit like watching 'This Old House' hosted by Baudelaire."

    "In New England everyone calls you "Dave" regardless of however many times you might introduce yourself as David. I am reminded of those fanatically religious homophobes who stand on the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral during Gay Pride, holding signs that say "Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve!" I have always wanted to go up to them and say, "Well, of course not Adam and Steve. NEVER Adam and Steve. It's Adam and STEVEN."

    I weep for joy!

  • Rebecca

    It's unfortunate that my first impulse, one common to many readers, is to compare David Rakoff to David Sedaris. Because compared to Sedaris's winning alchemy of wit and absurdity, Rakoff's stories at first seem a little wan. To the hearty comedy that is "Me Talk Pretty One Day," "Fraud" might be a bitter, hemophiliac sibling. But I think I might prefer Rakoff for exactly this reason. Rakoff is less interested in mining a situation for its inherent inanity than he is in investigating his own cyn

    It's unfortunate that my first impulse, one common to many readers, is to compare David Rakoff to David Sedaris. Because compared to Sedaris's winning alchemy of wit and absurdity, Rakoff's stories at first seem a little wan. To the hearty comedy that is "Me Talk Pretty One Day," "Fraud" might be a bitter, hemophiliac sibling. But I think I might prefer Rakoff for exactly this reason. Rakoff is less interested in mining a situation for its inherent inanity than he is in investigating his own cynical reactions to those situations. Where Sedaris is brightly, eagerly funny, and forthrightly sets out to endear himself to his readers, Rakoff is caustic and dark. His jokes don't have punchlines, except where, through a combination of pomposity and self-flagellation, he is himself the punchline.

    One of many gems: "The average fertile thirty-five-year-old man has many million sperm, a few million of which are motile enough to knock someone up. When I get my results, I find that I have ten. Not ten million: ten. Three are dead in the water, and the other seven are technically motile but given a grade very close to dead... I come up with the idea of naming them. For all the male-of-the-species reproductive good they'll do me, I consider calling them all Janet. Then I settle on Radcliffe, Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Wellesley, Mount Holyoke, Smith, and Vassar."

    Not to be too distracted by the comparison between Sedaris and Rakoff, I do think it's worth noting that Rakoff's essays have a fuller roundness. Whereas Sedaris's stories ramble a little like an anecdote delivered to a friend, Rakoff's stories are tighter, each finding by the conclusion the thematic thread of its introduction. Of course, there's much more to them as well. There is greater loneliness in these essays. Epiphanic moments illuminate the most alienating situations. One such moment comes as the author returns from a lonesome trip to Scotland over Passover: "I retire to the dining car. I sit, smoking and drinking a stunningly expensive beer across from a man who tucks in to his plate of haggis and peas. I smile at him in greeting. He does not know it, but this is our silent seder for two."

  • rose

    While I secretly like to pride myself on a well-endowed disinclination toward celebrity reverence and any urge to wed, I realized at some point along these (or maybe it was that other book's) delightfully self-deprecating, melodramatic pages that, nope, I only misunderstood. Actually, I simply want to be—or, failing that, marry—a very specific, gay, deceased man.

    He runs around a makeshift Colosseum (it looks a lot like a bathroom because it's his bathroom) shouting to himself, "ARE YOU NOT ENTE

    While I secretly like to pride myself on a well-endowed disinclination toward celebrity reverence and any urge to wed, I realized at some point along these (or maybe it was that other book's) delightfully self-deprecating, melodramatic pages that, nope, I only misunderstood. Actually, I simply want to be—or, failing that, marry—a very specific, gay, deceased man.

    He runs around a makeshift Colosseum (it looks a lot like a bathroom because it's his bathroom) shouting to himself, "ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!", which begs the observation: what a generous gent. He then apologizes for shouting.

  • Justin Hudnall

    One thing needs to happen before I can say I like David Rakof without wincing:

    Some kind hearted thief needs to steal the man's thesaurus. I'm all for the three dollar words, but this man's vocabulary earns the adjective "audacious." To hear him read his work, when he trips over one of these little jewels, his voice slows to purr over it like a deer on a salt lick, and the effect is sickening. It's a shame, considering he is really funny and a true wit, when not mining his own prose with the lite

    One thing needs to happen before I can say I like David Rakof without wincing:

    Some kind hearted thief needs to steal the man's thesaurus. I'm all for the three dollar words, but this man's vocabulary earns the adjective "audacious." To hear him read his work, when he trips over one of these little jewels, his voice slows to purr over it like a deer on a salt lick, and the effect is sickening. It's a shame, considering he is really funny and a true wit, when not mining his own prose with the literary equivalent of rotten easter eggs.

  • Marcelo

    Enjoyed it, didn't rock my world though - I think "Don't get too comfortable" which had more thematic cohesion is an overall better book. Having said that, I do like Rakoff's take on the world around him, especially on his travel pieces: he is able to take what is alien or strange and point out how this actually just comes from a perception or view of the world, not from the thing itself. And by engaging the world outside and not just doing a personal memoir (and, let's say it, bypassing some of

    Enjoyed it, didn't rock my world though - I think "Don't get too comfortable" which had more thematic cohesion is an overall better book. Having said that, I do like Rakoff's take on the world around him, especially on his travel pieces: he is able to take what is alien or strange and point out how this actually just comes from a perception or view of the world, not from the thing itself. And by engaging the world outside and not just doing a personal memoir (and, let's say it, bypassing some of the more outlandish amplifications / distortions of experience that a David Sedaris or Augusten Burroughs can be guilty of) he is much more relatable. He is also, infallibly, kind to his subjects (that highlighted review out there that says he keeps pointing how everything sucks is completely off the mark - take a look at his depiction of a nature survival training course and you'll find nothing but admiration for those involved). Overall, a good collection that ends in a high note (the last essay is a standout).

  • Andrew Breslin

    I pity David Rakoff. It must be tough to go through life as a witty and urbane gay writer of amusingly embellished autobiographical essays frequently featured on

    named David, unless you are the other one. I'm not even going to say the other one's name, because I'm sure 90% of the reviews on here already mention it, and I want to stand out from the crowd.

    (Hint: it ryhmes with "Ted, wear this.")

    Yes, it's very well written and quite funny, but it's not fall-off-your-chair-laughi

    I pity David Rakoff. It must be tough to go through life as a witty and urbane gay writer of amusingly embellished autobiographical essays frequently featured on

    named David, unless you are the other one. I'm not even going to say the other one's name, because I'm sure 90% of the reviews on here already mention it, and I want to stand out from the crowd.

    (Hint: it ryhmes with "Ted, wear this.")

    Yes, it's very well written and quite funny, but it's not fall-off-your-chair-laughing-until-it-hurts-and-then crawl-back-up-and-read-the-same-passage-again-to-see-if-it-will-still-have-the-same-impact-and-it-does funny. It's just a chuckle-lightly-to-yourself funny, occasionally peppered with an observation that might be mildly interesting, but could not be described as "thought-provoking" unless your thoughts are Irish and drunk.

    When my niece was a baby, I looked a little bit like her daddy. At the time, we both sported bushy red beards and wore glasses. I recall an incident where she saw me and after a moment of joy, her face transformed into a gape of horror, followed by a wellspring of tears and screams. Because I looked enough like her daddy for her to briefly mistake me for him, but then she was crushed with disappointment at discovering an avuncular counterfeit.

    I expect Rakoff suffers a similar reaction from readers. His writing and persona are enough like something very familiar and beloved by many that its failure to duplicate cannot be forgiven. I'm sorry to say he will never ever escape the comparison and will never be judged fairly. My pity can only go so far. I can't imagine he'd be nearly as successful as he has been were it not for the association, and the other David has a blurb, right there on the cover, which should make it clear that he'd rather be rich than judged on his own merits. He may be a fraud, but he's not a fool.

  • Melissa

    I really wanted to like this book. Honestly, I really did. I love Rakoff's work on NPR's

    , so I was really surprised as to how unlikeable this book was. At this point, the author had as of yet to cement his persona as a loveable curmudgeon, and instead comes off as cranky and self righteous. He also seems to be pre-occupied with the task of impressing the audience with his vast vocabulary, instead of drawing the reader into his work. Long story short, the subtext of this book

    I really wanted to like this book. Honestly, I really did. I love Rakoff's work on NPR's

    , so I was really surprised as to how unlikeable this book was. At this point, the author had as of yet to cement his persona as a loveable curmudgeon, and instead comes off as cranky and self righteous. He also seems to be pre-occupied with the task of impressing the audience with his vast vocabulary, instead of drawing the reader into his work. Long story short, the subtext of this book is that the author is smarter and more cultured than you are. Skip this one and read his later works instead.

  • Rick

    This is the late essayist and NPR (This American Life) contributor’s first book. Two more followed in his too short life-span—he died in 2012 at 47. The cause was his second battle with cancer. A recounting of the first, when he was in his young 20s, closes this collection. A posthumous verse-novel has since been published to strong praise. The buzz for the novel and my own optimistic compulsion to begin at the beginning, assuming a good thing would only get better, led me to start with this vol

    This is the late essayist and NPR (This American Life) contributor’s first book. Two more followed in his too short life-span—he died in 2012 at 47. The cause was his second battle with cancer. A recounting of the first, when he was in his young 20s, closes this collection. A posthumous verse-novel has since been published to strong praise. The buzz for the novel and my own optimistic compulsion to begin at the beginning, assuming a good thing would only get better, led me to start with this volume of his essays, a vacation e-book purchase, but I was underwhelmed and I found nothing very much interesting here, mostly travel essays and a David Sedaris-like essay about posing as Freud for a clothing store’s holiday window display.

    They say he got better and to the degree that order of appearance in the book represents chronology of origin there is reason to believe that. Three of the four final essays were the most interesting. An essay about Austrian math and science teachers imported into the New York City public school system, a return visit to Tokyo a number of years after his first post-college trip had been cut short by illness (his first cancer), and an essay written when he’d thought he was long clear of cancer and was thus a mature man’s attempt at closure via a trip to Toronto to track down his pre-chemo sperm deposit.

    That essay was hard to read, particularly because at the start he discusses downplaying his bout with cancer, calling it “dilettante cancer,” partly because he feels guilty about being young and healthy again and partly because he had some denial about the seriousness of the illness, despite the chemo and its brutal side-effects. With the illness comfortably in his rear-view mirror he is ready to confront the reality of his experience, hence the visit to “his Eskimo Pie children.” The unintentional irony clouds the reading. The distraction of the irony, however, is about me, not him. And the irony is not serious, the cancer is. And even two seconds of thought makes you understand that it’s better that he thought he was done with cancer than expecting a sudden relapse every moment going forward, I found myself feeling as I read like someone in a movie theater wanting to yell at a character that Jason is right behind you. Stop talking and run! But the fool was me, not him, and I got through the essay thinking about what he likely did write in response to cancer’s return visit to him—how that would be sharp, funny, and likely courageous. It made me think that if I were to try another book by Rakoff it would be his third collection,

    . In any event, this first collection was the wrong place for me to begin my reading relationship with the author.

  • Xanthi

    I expected this to be hilarious. It wasn't. It was mildly amusing a few times. That was all. This is David Sedaris without the likability. And Rakoff's attitude to animals in general, is pretty off putting.

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