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Half Empty by David Rakoff

Half Empty (original 2010; edition 2011)

by David Rakoff

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3921127,329 (3.76)11
Title:Half Empty
Authors:David Rakoff
Info:Anchor (2011), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 240 pages
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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 | Jul 12, 2014 |
I think this is what I wanted Barbara Ehrenreich's "Brightsided" to be. Lovely, bleak, sad, and gorgeously written. ( )
  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 |
I love Rakoff's style. He's articulate, witty, and self-effacing. He's got a larger vocabulary than I have, although not so large that I had to use a dictionary. I knew the meaning of all of the words, I just don't use them on a daily basis. This left me feeling alternately pleased that I know the words and slightly concerned that the fact that I don't use them might be proof that I'm not as smart as I think I am. He gives voice to many of the fears I have about myself and how people perceive me. I wonder if I met him if we'd be friends or if we'd just annoy each other.

I enjoyed all of the essays in this book, but my favorites were the first (which dealt with Julie Norem's book about "defensive pessimism," The Positive Power of Negative Thinking) and the one about Utah. It was pleasant to hear that someone else shares my experience of Utah as a place of an oppressive number of possibilities. I'm the kind of person who likes CSAs not so much because I like to buy local produce, but because I like my options to be limited so it's easier for me to decide what to cook for dinner. Utah is wide open geographically (except for the mountains, which are vast in and of themselves and so not much help in limiting me) and was founded by people who rode out here buoyed by optimism, bent on discovering/creating the Promised Land. I find this to be a lot of pressure.

The only problem I had with the book was the cover art. Every time my sixteen-month-old found the book lying around, he saw the cartoon animals and thought it was a book for him. He would ask me to read it and then get very, very angry at me when I didn't comply. While it's kind of cute and funny when a toddler throws himself on the floor and cries, it does get a little old after a while. ( )
  ImperfectCJ | Dec 31, 2012 |
easy to listen to and focus on. not as funny as previous collections but entertaining or perhaps i'm not as funny? ( )
  mahallett | Jan 21, 2012 |
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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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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:45:40 -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.

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