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Half Empty by David Rakoff

Half Empty (original 2010; edition 2011)

by David Rakoff

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4371224,058 (3.77)15
Title:Half Empty
Authors:David Rakoff
Info:Anchor (2011), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 240 pages
Collections:Your library

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Half Empty by David Rakoff (2010)



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First off, I really like the cynical (in all senses) and pessimistic (in most senses) point of view that Rakoff brings to most subjects. I enjoyed Don't Get Too Comfortable quite a bit.

So, having presented my credentials :), I must say that this collection was definitely weaker. The essays seemed to all follow a similar pattern of "90 degree turns": he will jump setting/subject/anecdote abruptly, half way through (and perhaps more than once) before bringing things to a close. And he does wrap things up rather than just leave you hanging; he is a skilled writer. As a device here or there such jumps are acceptable, even adding style; as a stylistic tick or habit, however, it gets a bit annoying.

The final essay is not at all pessimistic; it is real, raw even, and 'touching' (a word I don't think I've ever actually used before.) That essay, and my overall like for his conversational style, gives this collection three stars rather than two. ( )
  dcunning11235 | Oct 17, 2016 |
Beautiful personal essays. By turns hilarious and heartbreaking, and sometime both at the same time. I can't recall being more moved by a book. The audio was read by the author and really worked for me, but I expect this would be as good in written form. ( )
  Narshkite | Mar 20, 2016 |
A collection of articles and essays by David Rakoff on subjects including a visit to a porn expo, the complicated relationship between Jews and pork, and the way people seem to regard him as a safe receptacle for their secrets and confessions.

I have such mixed feelings about Rakoff's writing. My first impression was that it was intelligent and fairly clever, but also annoyingly pretentious. As I read on, though, my feelings softened a bit, and I began to appreciate the glimpses of human vulnerability visible underneath all that determinedly witty cynicism and gosh-aren't-I-so-neurotic self-deprecation. The final essay, about his diagnosis with a rare form of cancer, had an especially moving and honest feel about it, made all the more painful by the fact that I went into it knowing that the cancer had eventually taken his life. That piece was, for me, by far the best in the collection, in its own sad way. But as for the rest of it... I don't know. Rakoff, despite the fact that he's originally from Toronto, writes with this sort of uber-Manhattanite sensibility that I have trouble connecting to. He's sort of like a gay Woody Allen. (Y'know, minus the skeevy aspects.) And, just like Woody Allen, I can sort of see how many people might think he's hilarious and brilliant, but for me personally, his stuff is probably best encountered in small doses. ( )
  bragan | Jul 26, 2015 |
I think this is what I wanted Barbara Ehrenreich's "Brightsided" to be. Lovely, bleak, sad, and gorgeously written. ( )
1 vote usefuljack | May 17, 2013 |
Dunno. I enjoyed listening to this while I was listening, and found much of his writing and phrasing clever--but I don't know how much of it I'll remember even a week from now.

This could say more about me than it does his writing. It's nothing personal, Mr. Rakoff. ( )
  librarybrandy | Mar 30, 2013 |
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If there was nothing to regret, there was nothing to desire. - Vera Pavlova
For Patty Marx, Kent Sepkowitz, and Bill Thomas
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We were so happy. It was miserable.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385525249, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:18 -0400)

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The witty David Rakoff defends the notion that you should always assume the worst, because you'll never be disappointed.

(summary from another edition)

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