Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish by David Rakoff

Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish by David Rakoff

I’m not generally a poetry reader. I mean, I like poems if they happen to cross my path, but it’s rare that I would sit down and read a whole book of poetry. But I loved David Rakoff’s essay collections Fraud, Don’t Get Too Comfortable, and Half Empty, so I decided to pick up his last book, Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish, published posthumously. Love, Dishonor is a novel in rhyming couplets, and it follows a loosely connected group of people throughout the 20th century.

Fans of This American Life may recognize one of these chapters–Nathan’s chapter is a revised version of the “Scorpion and the Tortoise” story from the Frenemies episode. For those of you who haven’t heard it, it’s a toast being given by Nathan at the wedding of his ex-girlfriend Susan and his ex-best friend Josh. He tells the allegory of a scorpion who asks a tortoise to help him cross the river. The tortoise is hesitant, and the scorpion points out that if he stings the tortoise, both creatures will drown. Yet the scorpion still stings the tortoise halfway across the river, and as they’re both drowning, the scorpion says he couldn’t help it–it’s just his nature. Nathan concludes

So what can we learn from their watery ends?

Is there some lesson on how to be friends?

I think what it means is that central to living

A life that is good is a life that’s forgiving.

We’re creatures of contact, regardless of whether

to kiss or to wound, we still must come together.

So we make ourselves open, while knowing full well

It’s essentially saying, ‘Please, come pierce my shell.’

I loved that piece when I first heard it on the radio, and in the context of the book, where it’s preceded by Nathan’s breakup and followed by the story of what happens to Susan and Josh. The novel also branches out to characters who are more loosely connected. I won’t spoil it, but the way the final chapter makes the connections clear is beautiful.

The book also features bright, cartoonish illustrations by Seth, who illustrates the children’s book series All The Wrong Questions. I liked the style of illustrations–they were a good match for the way Rakoff’s verses provide a sketch of what each character’s personality is like.

The back cover blurb forĀ Love, Dishonor says, “Rakoff’s insistence on beauty and the necessity of kindness in a selfish world raises the novel far above mere satire,” and I fully agree. In the hands of a lesser writer, a novel written entirely in rhyming couplets could have been a mere gimmick. In Rakoff’s hands, it’s a thing of beauty.


Scary Books for People Who Don’t Like Scary Books

Happy Halloween! My favorite part of Halloween is always children and pets in cute costumes. A couple years ago I bought a costume for my cat, but he hates it more than anything in the entire world and wriggled out of it in 30 seconds flat. He’s selfish that way. Anyway. What I don’t like about Halloween are scary, gross things. For example, zombies. Zombies are disgusting. Everyone knows that, right? Does everyone like zombies because they’re disgusting? I don’t get it.

That said, despite my general aversion to the horror genre, sometimes I accidentally read scary books. Sometimes I even like them. Here are my favorite scary books. They’re spooktacular!! (They’re not really.)

Feed by M.T. AndersonEating Animals by Jonathan Safran FoerA Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill BrysonPreludes and Nocturnes by Neil GaimanZeitoun by Dave EggersBirds of America by Lorrie Moore

(See the rest of this list over at Rants & Raves, the Teen Scene blog!)


There’s a New Feature at Booktalking

One advantage to using WordPress is that we can now have polls. So I’ve set up our first ever poll. You’ll find it in the right hand column of the site. This month’s question: How do you like to read your books? You can choose audio, ebook, or traditional print. If you have another choice, please leave it in the comments. I’ll leave this poll up through the end of August., so please be sure and vote. Thanks!


Ideas for Reading

Every year I say to myself “I’m going to read more. I’m going to read better books.” Then I set up a reading plan that’s completely unsuited to my busy schedule. Of course, after a couple of weeks I’ve given up and gone back to my old habits. If you’re like me, you might want to read this short article on the weblog Book Group Buzz. It’s got some really good suggestions for following through with your plans.

Here’s a quick summary of the article:

  1. We all try to sneak a little reading in here and there, but we should try reading for longer periods occasionally.
  2. Try reading something new. Pick out a new author, or genre. You might be surprised what you find.
  3. Read one of the classics ever now and then. I’m determined to finish Virgil’s Aeneid this year.
  4. Sample some of the new writers. If everyone’s talking about them, it’s probably for a reason.
  5. I like to read books that are parts of series, but I jump around a lot and seldom read all of the books. I’m going to make an effort to finish one series in order this year.

Take a look at some of the comments others have made about this article. A lot of them have some really good ideas. If you have some ideas of your own, send them to me through this sites Contact page and I’ll add them here. I’m sorry that comments aren’t working right now. I hope to have the problem fixed soon.