Rakoff (Fraud, 2001) targets cultural excess in this humorous essay collection.
There’s something in the haute bourgeoisie obsession with “authenticity” that can quickly drive one to distraction, if not maddening fury. There has rarely been a better take on this trend than in “What is the Sound of One Hand Shopping?” in which he ponders the burning question, “just how fucking good can olive oil get?” This piece is the best example of a point of view returned to time and again in this impulsively readable volume, that is, a welcome level of intellectual disgust directed at the upper end of our nation’s socioeconomic demographic. The rest of the book, including pieces previously seen in magazines or heard on NPR’s “This American Life,” is equally biting: Rakoff discusses what it’s like to fly Hooters Air; the sad spectacle that is the Today show’s live audience; and the overwhelming greed of Paris fashion shows, which he witnessed firsthand. Although prone to deflating the aspirations of the enlightened elite, Rakoff is hardly a right-winger taking the mocking tone of a David Brooks or Tom Wolfe. “Beat Me, Daddy” is one of the smarter examinations available of the curiously masochistic position that the Log Cabin Republicans have placed themselves in, by supporting a party that not so secretly despises them. As a gay liberal, Rakoff finds himself first baffled (“I am a veritable Darwin in the Galapagos, slack-jawed in the presence of this confounding genus, a creature that seems to invite its own devouring”), then sympathetic, and finally baffled again, and a little angry. There are times when you wish Rakoff would have given himself more room, but there’s something to be said for a writer who refuses to pad.
The self-lacerating wit of David Sedaris mixed with the biting commentary of Dan Savage—only completely and utterly original.