Thursday, February 28, 2013

Audiobook Review: Half Empty and Don't Get Too Comfortable by David Rakoff


So you may have noticed that my posts were all up and down for the past week or so.  I started feeling bad last Friday and it's been up and down and finally this morning I sucked it up and went to the doctor and I have bronchitis.  Nothing world-ending, but super uncomfortable and the reason I haven't been as bloggy lately as I usually am.  On to the books...

These are two audiobooks by David Rakoff that are similar enough to each other to go ahead and review jointly.  Both are collections of essays concerning popular culture, current events, society, and Rakoff's own personal life, in the style of David Sedaris.  He's sarcastic and caustic and has no qualms about naming names and ruffling feathers.  His major attacks go toward all things superficial and excessive, particularly those that are quintessentially American.

Writing
Hilarious.  His sense of humor is very much like mine.  I like his use of dry wit and sarcasm and I greatly appreciate that is more frequently than not the butt of his own jokes.  Self-deprecation is important to me in humor, especially when your humor is meant to attack the excesses of popular culture.  Jokes regarding the over-indulgence and consumer-driven society made by anyone who is currently reaping the benefits of that excess (myself included) must have some sense of self-deprecation or they come across as insincere or uninformed.

Entetainment Value
Again, I identify with Rakoff's sense of humor and found myself laughing throughout.  My one problem with Rakoff is that I feel like he occasionally crosses the lines of taste.  He's unapologetic about his dislike for the Republican party and his particular hatred of George Bush (these books were both written during the end of the Bush administration/early days of the Obama administration).

I want to be clear that I'm ok with hearing my political opinions skewered.  And I didn't find all of his jokes about conservatives to be tasteless or even entirely off the mark.  But I also found some remarks to be too much for me, even in non-political references.  For instance, the author uses a particularly offensive word for women in his descriptions of both the first lady and just a random woman on the street.  It almost undermines the joke to me.  Describe why you think they live up to that word, make the joke based on their actions or insensitive comments, but don't just use one pejorative word for female anatomy to make your remark funny.  I think Rakoff is smarter than that and it bothered me to see him use that word.

Narration
Rakoff narrates his own books and I found his voice easy to listen to.  Hearing him tell his own jokes with his own inflection added to how funny I found them to be.  Again, the use of nasty words to describe women was somewhat  unsettling to hear in audio.

Overall
I think they're certainly worth listening to and I'd be interested in reading more of his essays in the future.  If you like Sedaris, I really think you'll like Rakoff as well.

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