A posthumous, clearinghouse collection by the writer and NPR humorist.
When Rakoff died of cancer in 2012, he achieved an even higher profile with the publication of his well-received novel in verse, Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish (2013), in which much of the bittersweet power stemmed from the fact that the author was in the midst of contemplating his own mortality. The original Kirkus review said that it “provides a fitting memorial to a humorist whose embrace of life encompassed its dark side,” and it is republished in its entirety as the closing piece here, comprising almost a quarter of this collection’s contents. A couple of lengthy interviews with NPR’s Terry Gross also fill a large portion, as Rakoff discusses collections or pieces that aren’t in this “uncollected” anthology. There are also transcripts from a few of the author’s This American Life contributions, with one finding him responding with the verse of Dr. Seuss to Kafka’s Gregor Samsa on his plight as a cockroach (which now seems like a prelude to the verse novel). The rest of the collection is scattershot—travel pieces, op-eds, memoir, one fictional short story, an online diary. Perhaps the best of these stand-alone selections is “The Love that Dare Not Squeak Its Name,” originally from Salon, in which Rakoff’s interpretation of E.B. White’s Stuart Little as a seminal gay icon will make it difficult for readers to see the mouse-child in any other light. In the interviews with Gross, she stresses how “really funny” Rakoff is, and his performances with her confirm it, but humor is rarely the focus of the written pieces and only occasionally the byproduct. Rakoff completists will want this, even though it’ll give them two copies of the novel that they already own.
A hit-and-miss selection that is more of a footnote to Rakoff’s career than a summary of it.