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Fraud: Essays

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  7,867 Ratings  ·  354 Reviews
From This American Life alum David Rakoff comes a hilarious collection that single-handedly raises self-deprecation to an art form. Whether impersonating Sigmund Freud in a department store window during the holidays, climbing an icy mountain in cheap loafers, or learning primitive survival skills in the wilds of New Jersey, Rakoff clearly demonstrates how he doesn t belon ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published April 23rd 2002 by Anchor Books (first published 2001)
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Jul 19, 2008 Rebecca rated it really liked it
It's unfortunate that my first impulse, one common to many readers, is to compare David Rakoff to David Sedaris. Because compared to Sedaris's winning alchemy of wit and absurdity, Rakoff's stories at first seem a little wan. To the hearty comedy that is "Me Talk Pretty One Day," "Fraud" might be a bitter, hemophiliac sibling. But I think I might prefer Rakoff for exactly this reason. Rakoff is less interested in mining a situation for its inherent inanity than he is in investigating his own cyn ...more
Aug 07, 2007 Melissa rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book. Honestly, I really did. I love Rakoff's work on NPR's This American Llife, so I was really surprised as to how unlikeable this book was. At this point, the author had as of yet to cement his persona as a loveable curmudgeon, and instead comes off as cranky and self righteous. He also seems to be pre-occupied with the task of impressing the audience with his vast vocabulary, instead of drawing the reader into his work. Long story short, the subtext of this book ...more
Oct 31, 2007 patsy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Snarky Mc Snarkington, Fudgy McPacker, & Jewy McHebrew
I was lucky enough to meet David Rakoff when I hosted him for a bookstore reading. Along with David Sedaris & Sarah Vowell, he was on an NPR speaking tour. He is definitely as entertaining as the aforementioned authors; seeing the 3 of them in a group reading was a highlight of my literary life.
His essays could best be characterized as lefty whining, but with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Hard to pick just one favorite in this collection, but the Steven Segal/Buddhist workshop piece is pre
Justin Hudnall
Dec 17, 2007 Justin Hudnall rated it liked it
Recommends it for: The patient
One thing needs to happen before I can say I like David Rakof without wincing:

Some kind hearted thief needs to steal the man's thesaurus. I'm all for the three dollar words, but this man's vocabulary earns the adjective "audacious." To hear him read his work, when he trips over one of these little jewels, his voice slows to purr over it like a deer on a salt lick, and the effect is sickening. It's a shame, considering he is really funny and a true wit, when not mining his own prose with the lite
Andrew Breslin
Oct 18, 2011 Andrew Breslin rated it liked it
I pity David Rakoff. It must be tough to go through life as a witty and urbane gay writer of amusingly embellished autobiographical essays frequently featured on This American Life named David, unless you are the other one. I'm not even going to say the other one's name, because I'm sure 90% of the reviews on here already mention it, and I want to stand out from the crowd.

(Hint: it ryhmes with "Ted, wear this.")

Yes, it's very well written and quite funny, but it's not fall-off-your-chair-laughi
Sep 01, 2012 Rose rated it really liked it
While I secretly like to pride myself on a well-endowed disinclination toward celebrity reverence and any urge to wed, I realized at some point along these (or maybe it was that other book's) delightfully self-deprecating, melodramatic pages that, nope, I only misunderstood. Actually, I simply want to be—or, failing that, marry—a very specific, gay, deceased man.

He runs around a makeshift Colosseum (it looks a lot like a bathroom because it's his bathroom) shouting to himself, "ARE YOU NOT ENTE
Aug 12, 2013 Rick rated it it was ok
Shelves: essays
This is the late essayist and NPR (This American Life) contributor’s first book. Two more followed in his too short life-span—he died in 2012 at 47. The cause was his second battle with cancer. A recounting of the first, when he was in his young 20s, closes this collection. A posthumous verse-novel has since been published to strong praise. The buzz for the novel and my own optimistic compulsion to begin at the beginning, assuming a good thing would only get better, led me to start with this vol ...more
Apr 27, 2013 Ensiform rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A collection of humorous essays, both autobiographical and based on journalistic assignments. A homosexual and a Jew, Rakoff plays up his neuroses and fears as he discusses his early career in publishing as the bottom rung of the assistant ladder; the cancer that forced him to leave Japan where he worked as a translator; his work as a bit actor in television. He’s self-effacing and funny, but also startlingly perspicacious; his insight on how teachers think (in his piece on Austrian cultural-exc ...more
Feb 18, 2012 J.P. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, lgbt, essays
I think I wanted to say something about how reading David Rakoff's work expands my brain and my emotions, but after finishing the last essay in which he talks about searching for 3 sperm samples he gave before going through the chemotherapy in 1987 that would eventually lead to the cancer that killed him just a few days ago...I find myself expanded by the experience of him and his writing, but at a loss at the blindness we each suffer from in our lives. Of course, Rakoff couldn't have known that ...more
Aug 16, 2012 Lois rated it it was amazing
I first heard of David Rakoff after his death. An interview he had with Terry Gross was played in his memory on Fresh Air. It was an intriguing interview where he talked about the loss of his arm and at that time was hopeful that his cancer was not progressing. His way of speaking made me want to read his books and I'm so glad to have started with Fraud.

Fraud is a collection of Essays David wrote. Each one is fun and tells a story from a looking back perspective. You will laugh frequently while
Nov 04, 2007 Paula rated it it was amazing
Shelves: autographed
How did I forget I actually read all of this book? As soon as I started pretty much every essay, I knew what I was in for--and that I would like it.

I don't find Rakoff to be as overly erudite as others plainly due--especially in comparison to his friend Patty Marx and her book (Him Her Him [Again:] The End) I read (somehow) last year. In fact, recognizing most of his references made me feel smart! I also enjoy his almost-restrained humor that percolates itself lightly into each piece. Ah, the th
Jason LeRoy
Aug 28, 2012 Jason LeRoy rated it really liked it
"What remains of your past if you didn't allow yourself to feel it when it happened?" This is one of several particularly haunting passages from the final essay in this, David Rakoff's first collection. At the time of his passing, I mistakenly thought I'd read all of his books, but it turned out I actually hadn't read the first. It was a bittersweet delight to be able to immerse myself in these impeccably written, exquisitely funny stories, having wrongly thought I'd already exhausted his catalo ...more
Feb 09, 2011 Marcelo rated it liked it
Enjoyed it, didn't rock my world though - I think "Don't get too comfortable" which had more thematic cohesion is an overall better book. Having said that, I do like Rakoff's take on the world around him, especially on his travel pieces: he is able to take what is alien or strange and point out how this actually just comes from a perception or view of the world, not from the thing itself. And by engaging the world outside and not just doing a personal memoir (and, let's say it, bypassing some of ...more
Carol Jean
Jul 25, 2013 Carol Jean rated it it was amazing
I mentioned that I laughed until I cried at one of Rakoff's other books. From the first essay in this one, I offer two GORGEOUS quotes:

"His voice is velvet soft and Atticus Finch authoritative, but there's a sad whiff of mortality -- a smell of old leaves underneath everything he speaks of: the solitude of retirement, the nomadic life of the career renovator, the trial and test of faith that is building a butcher block island with sink, work area, and recessed halogen light fixtures. It's a bit
Mar 01, 2009 Alex rated it liked it
Meh. Got it hoping it would be Sedaris-y, and while the guy is obviously very smart and a good writer, this is what got me from really liking the thing: Okay, so his shtick is that he's a gay angsty New Yorker who's terribly lonely and sad and a perennial outsider, possibly because he's too much of a clever smartass to bear. HOWEVER! When you finally finish the collection you find that he has like, 200 people who he thanks in his acknowledgment section, which COMPLETELY negates the persona he's ...more
Aug 19, 2016 Erin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very enjoyable. I especially enjoyed the essays about learning Buddhism from Steven Seagal, posing as a "Christmas Freud" for the window of Barney's, and interviewing teachers who were imported from Austria to teach in NYC public schools. My favorite line from that last essay I mentioned: "People keep asking us where we are from. We tell them Austria, they say, 'Oh Australia.' And we say, 'Austria,' and they say, 'Oh, but we call it Australia.' I tell them, 'No, it's absolutely different,' and t ...more
May 07, 2014 Penny rated it it was ok
Ok, let me start off by saying that I made a somewhat valiant effort not to compare Rakoff to another NPR essay writing David. But it was quite difficult to make a conscious effort not to make a subconscious comparison (how's that for clear writing!) It was the same when I read Sloane Crosley's stuff. It just seemed . . . lacking. In Fraud, there was a little too much snark for me. And when the self-effacing light bulb did turn on, I thought, "too little, too late."

This is not to say that Rakoff
Jan 01, 2008 Alex rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: David Sedaris & Amy Vowell fans
David Rakoff is funnier than David Sedaris. His collection of essays reveals him to be a wannabe NYC cynic who can't quite seem to shed his aw-shucks, nice guy Canadian roots. He has the ability to see the ridiculous side of every situation without forgetting that he himself is as fallible as the rest of us. This book made me laugh out loud (Sedaris and Vowell will occasionally make me crack a smile). I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys the essay format.
Chris Norton
Oct 13, 2012 Chris Norton rated it liked it
One of my all-time favourite short films is The New Tenants, in which David Rakoff has a supremely world-weary role. Fraud is a collection of essays - quite diverting and enjoyable for me because I can hear his distinctive voice. A light read but with some laugh-out-loud moments and occasional flirtations with profundity.
Greg Fanoe
Feb 28, 2012 Greg Fanoe rated it did not like it
Shelves: nonfiction
Casually pretentious, in exactly the way that makes his radio stories great, but it really makes a whole book of stories pretty tiresome. There's only so many stories about how above it all the author is that one can take in a single sitting.
Jordan Pelavin
Honestly, I'm basically over books of essays by male writers. I read this because I was gifted a copy, but it's not something I would have picked up on my own. It was fine.
May 10, 2008 Doug rated it really liked it
The unrelenting sourness can be hard to withstand at times, but how can you say no to a man who spent his time at the Aspen Comedy Festival "wheezing like a mid-coitus Nelson Rockefeller"?
Jan 30, 2009 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Right now all I do is wallow around listening to books on CD, occasionally lifting my head up off the pillow to drink some tea. It's a blizzard!
Daniel Hoffman
Nov 18, 2016 Daniel Hoffman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This level of restraint! After making it cover to cover, David Rakoff lets you in on all of about three personal details in this book. While I recognize this was a collection of essays, I can't deny that I had wanted to hear more about David, just in the Sedaris manner; you know, unabashed and personal. Tell me about the intricacies of your life, David! By staying so far removed you may have just turned me into one of those obsessive fans. Maybe in your next book I'll find out what caused you to ...more
ABC challenge, Determination plus challenge, off the stack challenge.
Gentleman challenge, NTM author

Not my usual read. But it was okay. Glad I finally read it.
Ace McGee
Dec 01, 2016 Ace McGee rated it did not like it
Shelves: auto-bios
Sorry, not interested in why author's life is filled with bad experiences.
Dec 27, 2012 Daniel rated it really liked it
Shelves: essay, 2013
These essays constitute David Rakoff's first of three collections, and are a mix of personal history and reporting assignment. If I were to compare David's style to that of David Foster Wallace, I would say that he's a funnier, less analytic and more personal/emotional version of the man.

In the first essay, "In New England Everyone Cals You Dave" he goes on a journalistic assignment to climb a Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire. It sets the tone well for both the book and Rakoff as an author: a tim
Shannon Chapel
Feb 15, 2012 Shannon Chapel rated it did not like it
I purchased this book after hearing the author, David Rakoff, interviewed on NPR. He was witty, funny, and I couldn't wait to start reading.

I was profoundly disappointed.

Despite being a brilliant writer, I found this collection of essays to be one hateful diatribe after another. He states "I have yet to meet anyone outside of the press room, however, who does not actively revile Robin Williams," referring to him as "the Billy Joel of comedy, accessibly catchy in the initial moment, but with the
Carolyn O
Aug 07, 2013 Carolyn O rated it really liked it
Shelves: american, essays
Happily, the other thirteen essays live up to the wry promise of "In New England Everyone Calls You Dave" and "Including One Called Hell." The essays are from Rakoff's point of view, but oriented outward, whereas, for example, David Sedaris's essays (at least to me) are engaged with the world but oriented inward. I'm not knocking them; they've made me guffaw on the porch so hard that the neighbors probably thought my personal clock was set to five p.m. I think Rakoff's brand of humor is quieter, ...more
Adam Dunn
Sep 27, 2013 Adam Dunn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: glbt
I read this book for my book club.

I didn’t find the book humorous, a couple of times I thought to myself, that was smart, but I don’t think I really laughed.

The highlight of the book is the author describing the origin of the term “23 skidoo” which I never knew.

The book is a series of unrelated essays, some on elves in Iceland, others on cancer, others on nature retreats.

I think my biggest problem was the author and I don’t think the same way. I don’t know of anyone who thinks this way though.
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David Rakoff (November 27, 1964 – August 9, 2012) was an essayist, journalist, and actor. Originally from Canada, Rakoff was a graduate of Columbia University, he obtained dual Canadian-American citizenship in 2003, and resided for much of his life in New York City. His brother Simon is a stand-up comedian.

Rakoff wrote for the New York Times Magazine, Outside, GQ, Vogue and Salon. He was a frequen
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“What remains of your past if you didn't allow yourself to feel it when it happened? If you don't have your experiences in the moment, if you gloss them over with jokes or zoom past them, you end up with curiously dispassionate memories.” 25 likes
“Not being funny doesn’t make you a bad person. Not having a sense of humor does.” 13 likes
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