A new essay collection from David Rakoff!
I love, love, LOVE David Rakoff. I love him like I love William Langewiesche; without reservation but with more than a smidgen of awe. Whenever people extoll the virtues of David Sedaris, I always take care to suggest Rakoff to them as well--I like Sedaris, but for my money, Rakoff is the superior stylist.
You only have to look at the cover of Rakoff's new book, Half Empty, to know that it will be a pessimist's dream: there's a warning printed right on it that says "No inspirational life lessons will be found in these pages." The essays contained within vary by subject--from Rakoff's stature as a small child to his attendance at a porn convention to a bout with cancer (his third)--but they are all beautifully written.
The writing is one thing, but I also love Rakoff's tone. His book jacket declares that he's the guy who looks at things "through a dark lens," but I think you'll find that even at his bleakest he has a surprising gentleness. Consider this thought, as he muses on the things that people say to him when they find out he's being treated for a tumor:
"But here's the point I want to make about the stuff people say. Unless someone looks you in the eye and hisses, 'You fucking asshole, I can't wait until you die of this,' people are really trying their best. Just like being happy and sad, you will find yourself on both sides of the equation many times over your lifetime, either saying or hearing the wrong thing. Let's all give each other a pass, shall we?" (p. 217.)
The last paragraph of that essay's even better, but I won't spoil it. If you've never read him, it's time.