Posts Tagged ‘David Rakoff’


Not so many summers ago, we loaded the grandchildren into the car, drove down past Holden Tipple, over the river and through the woods, to the little town where the Volunteer Firemen were putting on the Fireworks for the Fourth. It’s a pretty little town from another century, like others I guess, a big old brick place on the outskirts, then the town itself, a half-dozen well-kept yards, big porches. Then, a derelict storehouse–three stories, big as a bank, but decrepit, waiting for a big storm to take it down. Turn there, and as you go toward the PO, the road begins to give way, til at last you’re at the interstate exit, which means abandoned gas station, green-swagged with junipers and yews gone wild. The concrete crumbled with weather and disuse, but the Sky opens up here, above the truck lanes and the no-man’s land of the medians. This is the place – with room for the scores of cars and pickups – where we all wait for the dark to arrive.

What can I say about David Rakoff’s last book, Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish, (Doubleday, 2013), recommended to me by Charles, thank you, Charles.

Why does this book remind me of the spangles of that fireworks night, all our collective gasps, and shrieks with each new blooming glittering display that builds and builds, the black sky as we waited for the next, and at last, the night sky with ancient billion stars still there at its end. Rakoff’s astonishing brio and imagination at what was the end of his wild journey infuses every piece of this raucous, intense set of portraits (in verse no less, but don’t let that put you off) that make up this novel. It’s novel alright, but seems a book beyond any such familiar categories–part ballad, part sentimental education, part picaresque, part memoir–all amazing. And it’s a book that builds and builds.

Far from despair or morality tale–the book, published after his death, fairly jumps with his fertile imagination and memory. Though it opens with the Dickensian tale of Margaret, her innocence and its aftermath, Rakoff uses his close look at Margaret, her mother, and then charactert after arriving or reappearing character, Josh, Clifford, Aunt Sally, and others–to knit together his wild tale of life. His portraits just skirt the sentimental, yet like all writing that moves us, never fears it. Rakoff gives us just enough of the outrageous to be true to his youth–and again and again, the very tenderness that saves our time on earth. I think now of a title from Maxine Kumin, Our Ground Time Here Will Be Brief. Rakoff’s life force going full-out even at the close–that’s what stays with me: this writer like a glorious Roman cnadle giving forth rush after rush of spangled glories, before the quiet night. Even the title feels finallyy like a reduction-to essentialsw, that is. All this and yes, in verse, -some of his rhymes astonishing! -as if he wanted to give all and try all. This is a book not afraid above all to cherish these particular characters, to hold them up to the light, their histories, his memories, right til the end of time. Judy Rock

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