Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish
I first encountered David Rakoff on This American Life, as I’m sure many others did. A frequent contributor to the popular public radio program, his piece made me laugh so much that I went out to the bookstore and bought one of his essay collections, Fraud. I was not disappointed to find that his written essays were every bit as enjoyable as his spoken piece I had heard. I enjoyed them so much that I lent the book to a friend and recommended him to others.
Tragically, Rakoff passed away in 2012, at the age of 47, after a long bout with cancer. During his final days, he wrote a novel in verse, the brilliant Love Dishonor Marry Die Cherish Perish. It was his first, and last, work of fiction, and it’s just as much a knockout as his nonfiction.
Believe me, I was hesitant about reading a novel written in verse. And to be fair, I didn’t exactly “read” it per se. Instead, I had the extreme good fortune of attending a marathon reading of the book last week, where over 60 of Rakoff’s friends, family, and colleagues read the book aloud. The list of readers was varied and impressive, and included: Ira Glass, Sarah Vowell, Martha Plimpton, Leanne Shapton, Simon Doonan, Jon Glaser, and Augusten Burroughs, just to name a few.
It was the kind of reading that all readings should aspire to be–dynamic, funny, and moving. Despite the many readers and potentially difficult format, I found myself riveted to the story, not so much for the plot (the novel consists of 12 loosely connected vignettes that span the 20th century) but for the sheer joy contained in the language. Rakoff really demonstrated his mastery of language in this book, pulling off a feat of such linguistic gymnastics that it would have left even Shakespeare impressed.
He is sorely missed. If you haven’t read or heard any of his work, I highly recommend that you check him out, especially if you appreciate a good laugh.
*image via David Rakoff’s Facebook page