1 book I read―Fraud by David Rakoff
2 words that describe the book―Humorous Essays
- David Rakoff, our narrator, has a wonderful habit of getting himself into situations where he doesn’t really belong. (Hence, the name of the book.) But how wondrously funny these “fish out of water” essays are! From attempting to climb a mountain in inappropriate shoes from Payless or faking it at an outdoor survival school, I was ready to follow him anywhere. Many of his stories came about from magazine assignments, and Rakoff had the opportunity to meet a variety of colorful characters this way.
- Steven Seagal is perhaps best known as a Hollywood actor who starred in a variety of action films. But in the Tibetan Buddhist community, he is also known as Rinpoche (which means “Esteemed Sir” or “Precious Jewel” in Tibetan) and is believed to be an incarnate lama from a past life. In this particular essay, Rakoff travels to the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies to hear Seagal speak on Tibetan Buddhism. The result is a surprising view of a star that I know next to nothing about except for an occasional glimpse of his movie trailers.
- Tom Brown is a name I recognized from books my dad had when I was younger. Brown is the author of The Tracker (as well as sixteen other books) and a renowned tracker who has helped law enforcement agencies tracking criminals and missing people. He now runs a Tracking and Wilderness Survival School, which Rakoff attends with frequently hilarious results.
4 things I liked or disliked about the book:
- Rakoff is completely endearing about his own faults and foibles, yet his sharp observational skills and ability to wring a “moment of truth” from his experiences make for essays that have a bit of weight to them as well. I’m a huge fan of humorous essays, and Rakoff is a master of the form. (I hate to say it, but I enjoyed these essays more than I enjoyed Sloane Crosley’s recent books.)
- Rakoff’s essays cover a wide range of topics—investigating the Hidden People in Iceland, checking out the Loch Ness monster, acting on a soap opera, staying at increasingly bad hotels in Tokyo, tracking down his donation to a sperm bank, performing as Freud in a Barney’s department store during the holiday season, reminiscing about a teenage job working in an ice cream shop—so I never grew bored and the writing never felt stale (which can start to become a problem in a collection of essays).
- I so enjoyed Rakoff’s writing. He has a wonderfully sly and subtle sense of humor that made for such pleasant reading. Here are some examples.
Describing a hotel room in Tokyo: My room is a riot of color: taupe, buff, sandstone, wheat, parchment and cream.
While staying at a bed and breakfast: I return to the inn, now wreathed in the kind of Christmas-in-New-England-Warm-Hearted-Cheery verisimilitude that Ralph Lauren would burn down a synagogue to achieve.
Describing Steven Seagal: Precious Jewel eventually does arrive some forty-five minutes late. What turns out to be Seagal Standard Time. He is in a large phase, with a bit of the late-model Brando girth about him, a dividend of a long time off from making movies. His narrow eyes, sleek ponytail, and variations on traditional Tibetan attire—an aubergine skirt and saffron-yellow satin jacket—lend him the air of a Mongol potentate. He shambles in, displaying a kind of bewilderment, walking slowly, as if this temporal world were too jarring and suffused with craving and pain for him to absorb just yet.
- My only dislike is that I didn’t read this book earlier! I’ll definitely be seeking out more of Rakoff’s books. How did I—a lover of humorous essays—overlook this writer for so long?
5 stars or less for my rating
I’m giving the book 4.5 stars. As I mentioned several times, I’m a huge fan of humorous essays, and this collection was quite a find. I enjoyed it immensely and would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who enjoys the work of David Sedaris, Sloane Crosley or the like. (But even if you don’t like Sedaris or Crosley, give Rakoff a try anyway.)
The Whys and Wheres: My copy of the book came from Paperback Swap after I came across it in the “Members Who Requested This Book Also Requested These Books” section.