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Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish

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Goodreads Choice Award
Nominee for Best Poetry (2013)

From the incomparable David Rakoff, a poignant, beautiful, witty and wise novel in verse whose scope spans the 20th Century.

David Rakoff, who died in 2012 at the age of 47,  built a deserved reputation as one of the finest and funniest essayists of our time.  This intricately woven novel, written with humour, sympathy and tenderness, proves him the master of an altogether different art form.

Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die; Cherish, Perish leaps cities and decades as Rakoff, a Canadian who became an American citizen, sings the song of his adoptive homeland--a country whose freedoms can be intoxicating, or brutal. Here the characters' lives are linked to each other by acts of generosity or cruelty. A critic once called Rakoff "magnificent," a word which perfectly describes this wonderful novel in verse.

115 pages, Hardcover

First published July 16, 2013

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About the author

David Rakoff

14 books427 followers
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 frequent contributor to the radio program This American Life on Public Radio International.

Rakoff's essays have been collected in the books Fraud and Don’t Get Too Comfortable and are largely autobiographical and humorous. He was openly gay, and his writings have been compared to those of essayist and friend David Sedaris. Rakoff was even mistaken for Sedaris once while performing in a storefront window; both authors have written about this incident in their books.

Rakoff was featured in the This American Life episode 305, the holiday show on December 23, 2005, and episode 156, "What Remains", broadcast 21 March 2000. He was the only individual to host in place of Ira Glass a This American Life episode (Episode 248 - "Like It Or Not"). Rakoff made several appearances on the The Daily Show, and voiced the reading part of Thomas Jefferson for Jon Stewart's, America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction.

Rakoff's acting roles included the Off-Broadway comedy play, The Book of Liz, authored by friends David and Amy Sedaris, the film Strangers with Candy, also co-written by Amy Sedaris, and a cameo in the film Capote.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,025 reviews
Profile Image for Stephanie *Eff your feelings*.
239 reviews1,195 followers
June 7, 2014
Many of these reviews are in iambic pentameter
I was steadfast in my refusal
To follow the crowd in this banter.

I found it impossible to anything but
I apologize profusely, drink wine that I must
Without it I’d find I’m in a deep, hollow rut.

This book has confounded me to my very core
Listening I was lost
On some far away shore.

‘What the fuck is going on?’
I ask no one in particular
Aloud in public attracts looks unfamiliar.

There’s a girl with red hair, and somehow that’s evil
Is her name Charlotte?
Mabel or Sybil?

“I don’t understand!”
I yell a half an hour in
Fortunately I’m at home without witness to this sin
‘I’ll start over once more’ I think to myself
‘I’ll finish straight through before it goes on the shelf.’

‘It’s only two hours; how hard can it be?’
I returned a bad book….so it’s practically free.

I followed the story the best that I could
after fifteen minutes I knew where things stood.
Proud of myself, I moved doggedly on
‘I got this.’ I thought
Hell, I’m mentally strong!

There was some asshole named Frank, and a dress in blue
A person named Josh
Who was he? I never knew

An artist name Clifford realized his sexuality
During a life drawing class
‘Being straight is insanity!’

There were trains, and AIDS
And stories about Alzheimer’s
‘Fuck. Am I on drugs?’
I asked a stranger in Kroger’s

At home with my Pinot I realized my mistake
What’s needed is wine
And a big slice of cake

Half in the bag, all came through crisply
If you don’t have some booze
Maybe some weed would nicely

‘Why the four stars?’ the trolls will ask angrily
‘You were completely confused, and reviewed it hatefully.’
It’s hard to explain….It’s so breathtakingly beautiful
I don’t hate this book, I love it
I hope this is suitable

‘No, you missed the point! You’re opinion is wrong!’
Types the troll from his basement
Wearing only a thong…….

I really enjoyed this. I think I may give it another listen, but I’ll have a martini first, close my eyes and focus. I've heard this author on This American Life, with shorter stories….and I can follow them in smaller bits like that. I think when a story is stretched out in prose, the mind (mine anyway) can’t stay with it for too long before completely losing track.

Listen to this in audio if possible…..it’s beautiful to hear.
Profile Image for Jan Rice.
523 reviews444 followers
February 9, 2017

David Rakoff (right) and friend, from this Huffington Post article

David's an author of whom I'd not heard;
He blew me away with his use of the word.
He plaited and wove them; he worked and he played
Until such a beautiful story he'd made.

It isn't simplistic but quite complicated.
With all sorts of cultural meaning 'tis freighted.
He's covered our mores from the '20s til now
In gems of stories. He's got us--and how!

He eyeballs the hatred of red-headed ladies;
He's there at ground zero--AIDS hits in the '80s.
From immigrant to the "me generation:"
A panoramic peregrination.

Stay alert to the clues of the author's selection
So you'll catch on when he makes a connection.

Just got here, just met him, don't want it to end.
At least just this one small love letter I'll send.

We strut and we fret our hour on the stage,
Fingers on keyboards, words on the page,
And then all goes silent before you e'en know it--
Yet life's still a tale told by a poet.

Life's a bitch, then you die, I've heard people say.
Here's to the shelter found 'long the way
Where there's talk and there's cheer and many a friend.
C'mon where we're going, up 'round the bend!

Be of good courage. Don't give in to fears.
True art will ripple all down through the years.

David Rakoff was a writer and performance artist who died of cancer last year at age 47. His novel and narrative poem, Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish was published posthumously. It was his first novel, and I first read about it in this review, which made me like it so much that I...recommended it to someone else. After it grew on me a little more, I wanted to read it myself. His little book is a message in a bottle he left behind for those of us who happen to find it, and maybe an ode to joy, too.

Janet Maslin, writing in the New York Times review I linked to in the first paragraph, had this to say about the form of poetry he chose:

Anapestic tetrameter is a much cheerier form of verse than its name suggests. Yes, each line has four feet, and each foot has three syllables, two unstressed and the third delivered with a beat. It is less solemnly known as the singsong meter from “ ’Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house” and Dr. Seuss’s “Yertle the Turtle,” and it is playful almost by definition. This is a way of saying that David Rakoff’s first novel, completed only weeks before he died last year at 47, is much sunnier and more heartening than it has any right to be.

The meter is so tricky and incongruous that it becomes this sly, bravura book’s main witticism. In this 113-page, book-length narrative poem, a marvel of gamesmanship, Mr. Rakoff describes hardship, illness, death and depravity, knowing how ingeniously his book’s style and substance would fight each other.

I thought this could be a way to overcome my poetry avoidance. By that I meant avoidance of reading poetry. Hmm.

(Edited Nov. 9, 2013 to add image and put the more interesting part first)
Profile Image for David Katzman.
Author 3 books451 followers
August 2, 2018
An elegy for himself, an ode to the capriciousness of life infused with the profound poignancy that David Rakoff died soon after he completed this work. In fact, he had cancer and knew that he was going to die while he was writing this. Which he did at the age of 47.

This is a wonderfully unique book. A poem-novel. Admittedly, the rhyming couplet is not the most elevated form of poetry. It has an inescapable relationship to the limerick. But Rakoff manages to use it in a way that transcends the limitation of that scheme. He embraces the innate "low" humor of the rhyming couplet to provide a sense of humor to the saddest of stories. It is without a doubt a heartfelt expression of his own spirit, finding the humor in tragedy.

He manages quite inventive and unexpected rhymes, and while there is an occasional awkwardness in the meter, it is rare, and for the most part, so smooth you barely notice the cadence. He wisely and frequently breaks the repetitive meter found in stereotypical rhyming couplets to produce something of great sophistication.

And beyond the language, the characters presented are masterfully real and sensitively rendered. One might quibble that this isn't quite a novel, rather a series of interconnected short stories. But so what? You follow a character for a chapter and then follow another one for a chapter whom the previous had encountered in some fashion and then another that the previous had encountered and so on. It is rather a human chain of relationship that while tenuous at best (sounds like real life, no?) is all we have in this world. There is modest intertwining of the stories, but primarily they are individual journeys. And the consistent theme seems to be that life always takes you somewhere you didn't expect or plan. You just never know what will happen so you might as well live your life as fully as you can and don't let it pass you by.

So, as Thoreau suggested: live deeply and suck out all the marrow of life. For tomorrow, you might have a brain tumor.
Profile Image for Michael.
218 reviews44 followers
July 23, 2013
He did it quite well and to splendid effect --
Anapestic tetrameters? Oh, what the heck!?
And why not write a novel in couplets that rhyme?
The author was dying, but he still had the time.
The meter’s more suited for light-hearted verse,
While these stories often may end with a hearse.
Some rhymes were chosen with a throw of the dice --
For how else could “lice” (pubic) pair with “paradise”?
But I couldn’t put down this rhyming romance --
Poor Clifford, if only he’d zipped up his pants!
And Margaret, the sweetheart of the slaughterhouse floor –
How unjust of her mother to call her a whore!
I could go on, but you should read it yourself --
For this isn’t a book to be left on the shelf.
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,484 reviews29.4k followers
December 11, 2013
When I heard David Rakoff's book was written entirely in verse,
I thought to myself, "Could there be anything worse?

"Trying to ascertain plot from each rhyming couplet,
Would it be good enough to be worth all that trouble?" It

Seemed an idea that was rather pretentious,
And struggling with verse can be rather contentious.

But the critics they raved, hailing the book's success,
Saying this was Rakoff at his very best.

The glory of this triumph was somewhat diminished,
By the fact that Rakoff died shortly after it was finished.

But now that I've read it, and allayed my fears,
I can say it amused me and moved me to tears.

The writing insightful, the characters complex,
And it amazed me how well their stories intersect.

It was a quick read, 'though I savored each word,
I can't believe I ever thought this idea was absurd.

I loved the way these characters' lives unfolded in stages,
A novel's worth of plot and emotion in just a few pages.

So if, like me, you're skeptical about this book,
I can assure you it's definitely worth more than a look.

It's a book you'll want to recommend to your crowd,
And it's infinitely more fun if you read it aloud (even to yourself).

Don't worry if poetry's not your idea of fun,
You'll feel tremendously fulfilled when you're all done.

I really loved this, and I'm completely sincere,
When I say it's one of the best I read this year.

So thank you for enduring my attempts at a tribute,
Clearly rhyming is not my strongest suit.

Ahem. I couldn't resist.

This is a phenomenally written, emotionally compelling book, one of the most unique I've ever read, and I loved every minute of it. David Rakoff has created a masterpiece of interconnected stories-in-verse about characters in some sort of emotional flux. Some of the connections come as an utter surprise, but the emotions they generate are truly genuine. As the title suggests, Rakoff's characters are involved with all of those verbs in some way, and I only wish he had lived, because I'd love to read more about them.

Believe me, I was truly skeptical of this concept, but I am so glad I gave it a shot. And you should, too.
Profile Image for Martha Garvey.
Author 4 books18 followers
July 15, 2013
A beautiful heartache of a book.

Full disclosure, I was lucky enough to be one of David's many friends.

His wit, his kindness, and his gimlet eye are all much in evidence in this book. The book, which spans barely a hundred pages and nearly a hundred years, tells the story of immigrants, nouveau riche, artists, real estate vultures...all, in the end, riven by illness, restored by art. I wish it were longer. I wish David were here. #DavidRakoff
Profile Image for jordan.
190 reviews45 followers
August 28, 2013
ovels in verse don't come around often
Some imagine Homer put the idea in a coffin.
Sure there was Milton and Pushkin oh dear,
The very idea strikes readers with fear.
But the truth is that long form verse
Can be fun, poems need not be terse!
The werewolves of "Sharp Teeth" proved awfully fun,
As a gift that's one book I've given away a ton,
And not one receivers ever complained,
Or about joy it delivered just merely feigned.

As for Rakoff's novel, readers shouldn't feel fright
When it comes to this volume which delivers delight.
Sure it can be silly, its verse a bit Seussian,
But the joy of this book glows with trans-luc- iance!
Quite striking, beneath the story's guffaws
Emotion and pathos await with strong maws
Snapping up readers and holding them tight
More than one will finish this story in only one night.

Yes, at times Rakoff can feel a mite pithy,
But here is a writer who worked like a smithy,
And at the end of the story one might even cry
Realizing how much time passed on the fly,
For the author's talent just shines on these pages,
But now, alas, he belongs to the ages.

Rakoff'll have you jumping from laughter to weeping,
But you'll want to finish his book before you go sleeping.
As a novel, "Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish"
Comes as a work that every reader can cherish.
Profile Image for Janet.
698 reviews
November 28, 2021
As a book—an object—this is wonderful. The design was done by Chip Kidd, with illustrations by the cartoonist Seth. It's beautiful to look at, and the illustrations of the characters at the beginning of each section are lovely and help you navigate the story.

The eccentricity of writing a novel in verse is staggering, and the result is delicious. I tend to read too fast, gulping down the words to follow the plot. This style slows me down, and makes me appreciate the book more. The vignettes of characters are wonderful.

I guess it's no surprise that it's not a conventional novel. The story jumps from character to character, but converges. It covers a dizzying amount of time in remarkably few pages. The cover is a portrait of a woman. There are holes drilled in it, which reveal letters on the next page which spell out the title. The book is rather like that. The story covers decades, but does it by giving you glimpses of short, vivid scenes.
Profile Image for Matthew Fitzgerald.
197 reviews6 followers
September 28, 2013
I don't know if I can divorce myself from the knowledge that this is Rakoff's last book; from the emotion of knowing I can't bear to listen to the audio book, and hear that pithy, keen, lively voice I loved on This American Life shriveled into the breathy, cancer-sick narrator of this final volume. I'll gladly settle for the dead-tree version, and hear the timeless vigor of Rakoff's voice in my head.

And what a voice! I never would have imagined I'd enjoy a book in rhyming couplets, but Rakoff pulls it off marvelously. He paints so many loving, heartfelt portraits of so many characters in this book, people both inflicting and suffering emotional stings and long-lasting pain; lives short and long, lives lived and others merely existed, working with such attention to words that the act of reading is as joyful as it is following the thread of these characters and seeing the portrait of the world the author is creating. The couplets add greatly to the entire experience, complimenting stories about America and Americans that ring as true and full as anything Joyce wrote in Dubliners.

What gets me the most about the book, though, is the quietly draining hourglass feeling I get reading it, a sadness stemming from the if-but-for-a-minute-more-ness to it all. Many of the character arcs are tragic, death or a quiet empty future or another form of oblivion, and I'm left wanting Act VI, where tragedy + time transmutes it all into comedy. I'm left desperately wanting the author to come back and shine his smile and light and wordplay just a little bit more to show us a happier ending for these wonderful characters, these wonderful poems. But like the author himself, and the mortal deadline he was writing under, that's just not possible. It's ending, so bittersweet and sad, so wonderful and witty and fleetingly happy, it's ending and it's over, and to find a book that captures all of that with such grace, wit, charm, and heart, makes the world a better place, even though we're all the poorer without Rakoff in it.
Profile Image for Dianah.
588 reviews48 followers
October 29, 2013
A novel told in verse? This type of thing usually makes me want to claw my eyes out. I'm a serious skeptic: is this a gimmick? -pretentious? -a plea for attention? Normally, I'd say yes, but Rakoff is amazingly magical here. The story of several folks who are loosely connected, these short pieces have the feeling of pulling back a curtain in order to sneak a peek into someone else's (sometimes intensely) private moments.

The verse form itself requires an unyielding, unforgiving adherence to language, structure and syntax, which Rakoff skates through with remarkable insight (and a sly nod to Jerome Kern here and there!). It is both hilarious and heartbreaking, and unbelievably -- to this curmudgeon -- this tiny book is perfection.
Profile Image for Conor Ahern.
657 reviews189 followers
November 29, 2018
When our book club proposed this book, I initially voted for it. When I came to this website and saw that it was in verse, I immediately recanted my vote.

But, when it won out anyway, I read it (while also listening to it to establish the stanchion), and really liked it. So did everyone else. Do yourself a favor and read this charming, short book!
Profile Image for Dennis Diehl.
83 reviews5 followers
July 21, 2013
I suggest reading this beautifully rendered, breathtaking mosaic of a novel (in verse) in one sitting. David Rakoff could not have left us with a more fitting gift.

As the pages grow thin and in sets the pain,
One must come to grips that dear David is gone once again.
Profile Image for J.P..
250 reviews69 followers
September 8, 2013
Other than being familiar with Rakoff's essays and his style of writing - I guess somewhat familiar - I had no expectation of this. I didn't know what to expect: not only is this different in that it is fiction, it's also rhyming couplets. I worried that the style would detract from my enjoyment - that I'd be so focused on the format that I'd miss the story. I didn't and I wasn't.

I don't know if this is relevant, but every few pages I'd turn to the author image at the back. David painting something and smiling, and I'd think what a beautiful man he was and how much I'd miss him. Yes, I acknowledge that I hardly know him. And that is a slippery slope I'm walking on when I assume I know a person when I've read his or her word.

LDMDCP is basically about the interconnectedness of our stories, and to me this points out the author's compassion. Even the couple of characters it seems he wants you to dislike (or allows you to dislike), he forces you to like. To not see them as facile images of good and evil or in a more mundane sense good and bad, but complex people with lives and layers.

It is redundant to say I highly recommend LDMDCP, as I highly recommend all of David's work. I'm just grateful that I don't recall whether or not I finished Don't Get Too Comfortable nor have I read all his work he did for This American Life or that I've seen him in the short film he was in. I am grateful that I have something to look forward to; that I'm not done with him. Though I doubt I ever will be.
Profile Image for Cynthia.
633 reviews43 followers
August 18, 2013
This is a disturbing book. There's wit but it's biting and often bitter. The same could be said for Rakoff's humor. His writing is psychologically insightful yet condemnatory but there are some attitudes that should be condemned. He tells his stories in sly verse; his rhymes are purposely bad at times, the cadence forced and the topics crude even close to pornographic. Many have compared his wit to Oscar Wilde's and that's apt though I've never enjoyed Wilde's wit and didn't particularly enjoy Rakoff's . Most of his characters are people who are isolated and socially out of step which isn't always a bad thing but their sadness compounded by their bitterness begins to feel unrelenting when each vignette is piled one after the other. There's also beauty in his writing and the situations he portrays. I can see how his writing is relevant and important. Just don't expect a cozy read with "Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish. The title says it all doesn't it?

*Please note I'm reviewing the text only. The advanced reader's copy did not include any artwork.
Profile Image for Mara.
400 reviews280 followers
September 6, 2014
David Rakoff's remains the only "celebrity" death over which I have shed actual tears. There is something about his work (especially when listened to) that just made me feel this absurd connection with someone who I, in reality, knew not at all. As a result, it took me a while to be able to read this posthumously published collection.

In rhyming meter Rakoff tackles everything from cuckoldry, to sexual assault, homophobia and the AIDS epidemic. His reflections on death are made all the more poignant in knowing what he was facing at that time:
The facts were now harder, reality colder
His parasol no match for that falling boulder.
And so the concern with the trivial issues:
Slippers nearby and the proximate tissues
He thought of those two things in life that don't vary
(Well, thought only glancingly; more was too scary)
Inevitable, why even bother to test it,
He'd paid all his taxes, so that left ...you guessed it.

David is clever as ever in bringing together a form that ill-fits the seriousness of its content, but in a way that makes the discussion of dark matters somehow more palatable. (In a similar sort of way, David Sedaris's dark, macabre stories in Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary are given some levity in being presented as animal parables.) This was my first time not getting to hear him read his work aloud and my internal cadence just couldn't match his delivery. A poignant collection from an author who is sorely missed.

Profile Image for Lisa.
1,953 reviews
July 26, 2013
I got this in the mail today and am so excited! I love the unique cover and am glad I opted not to get the e-book version. This is right up my alley; I love rhyme and this is a whole story told in verse. It looks like the kind that's better when read aloud...

Update: I loved this! I'd write this review in verse, but I'm still in awe of Rakoff's accomplishment. I'm heartbroken that there won't be any more from this talented writer, as he died of cancer after finishing this book. He tells a story over the course of several decades; each can stand alone, but characters are linked. The story opens with Margaret and ends with someone else. I wish there had been a stronger connection. A few rhymes don't quite work, but the scope is impressive and all are lovely. Who can say they successfully started a chapter by rhyming Manhattan and satin?

Here's one part that I really liked, about a woman pouring coffee:

"She pours out a cup, adds a stream of cold milk
And smiles as it swirls just like taffeta silk."

The language and tone even change with the times, and the constant theme of art and how it elevates the human spirit is a universal one.

I'll be reading this over and over again.

Profile Image for Courtney.
223 reviews13 followers
October 2, 2013
David Rakoff was a bright writer, still finding his way, when he died. "Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish" was published posthumously. I can't help but wonder if that may be responsible for the many glowing reviews this disjointed little book has received. Perhaps its rhyme scheme helped, too.

Rhyme scheme? That's right. "Love, Dishonor ..." is written in rhyming couplets, though without any of the other conventions that I associate with long works of poetry. No consistent meter, no assonance, no alliteration. This work also lacks conventions that I associate with books. No character development. No plot, at least in the conventional conflict-climax-resolution sense.

"Love, Dishonor ..." instead comprises a series of awkward, incomplete, badly metered and oddly rhymed vignettes that occasionally overlap and build up to an incomplete story over the case of 113 pages.

At least the illustrations are interesting and the book is short.

David Rakoff died too young. If he'd had more time perhaps he'd have finished the draft this work appears to be. If you'd like to remember his better work, I recommend checking out his contributions to This American Life or his personal essays, and skipping "Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish."
Profile Image for Lorri Steinbacher.
1,450 reviews48 followers
July 21, 2013
I can't say I wasn't skeptical: a novel written in rhyming couplets? Sounds corny. Granted, if anyone could pull it off it would be David Rakoff, but still, I was scared knowing that this was the last thing I would read from him, knowing that I wanted so very much to love it...and yet still doubting. Doubting was wasted energy. Not only does this work, it is sublime. He packs more love and understanding of human nature in one couplet than some writers manage in a career. his love of language is apparent, his wry sense of humor, his voice is all there. Which is not to say that there aren't some clunky moments. There are, but it makes the novel all the more real and lovely. And if you have lingering doubts, I cannot stress this enough: get your hands on the audio version and after you've read it once, listen to it read in Rakoff's voice. It is as near to perfection as you can get in a literary experience, IMHO. I will go back to this book again and again. It opened up a part of me that I didn't even know existed.
Profile Image for Joe.
Author 1 book17 followers
July 18, 2013
I "read" this book by attending a marathon reading of it by more than 60 of David's friends and family. Of course, it was a moving event, but what it showed me about the book was how much joy and laughter was in it, even though it is so brief and mournful. I thought, foolishly, how easy it must have been to write a book of simple rhyming couplets, but now I realize that one must be a master of all language to do it with such ease.
Profile Image for Juliana Gray.
Author 10 books33 followers
January 13, 2015
Ugh. There's a line between "clever" and "smug," and this book crosses it. I could practically feel the author smirking as I endured some of these rhymes (and the sentence fragments, and the run-ons). The best thing I can say about this book is that it was short.
Profile Image for britt_brooke.
1,288 reviews96 followers
June 19, 2020
Overlapping vignettes in rhyming verse; a quite clever and entertaining commentary on 20th century life. This book was posthumously published, but fortunately for us, Rakoff recorded the audio in the This American Life studio - with Ira Glass - prior to his death.
Profile Image for David Hallman.
Author 7 books43 followers
August 16, 2013
August - the month from heaven and hell for David Rakoff and me.

I write this personal reflection on the late gay writer David Rakoff's final book in a month of anniversaries in Rakoff’s life and my own.

David Rakoff died of cancer on August 9, 2012 at the age of 47. His novel, the brilliant “Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish” written entirely in rhyming couplet verse, was published posthumously and became available in August 2013. He was working on this book, in which he invested so much of his literary aesthetic and tender yet acerbic humanity, right up to the final weeks of his life. Rakoff approached his impending death with a profound sense of satisfaction that he would be able to finish this book, his most ambitious piece of writing, and bequeath it to the world as his final testament and gift.

As I laughed and cried my way through it, exactly a year after his death, I found myself stunned by the vibrancy of the characters, the scope of the inter-related story lines covering almost the whole of the twentieth century, and the incisive analysis of individual and political conflict, all depicted through witty and (for the most part) exceptionally well-crafted poetry.

Paul Rudnick’s review of the book appeared in the New York Times on August 1st. In a NYT’s podcast the following day, Rudnick referred to the title as depicting how Rakoff’s novel “deals with all the great verbs of life.” I agree with Rudnick. Indeed, despite the book’s slimness at only 117 pages, “Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish” is a magnum opus of most of our personal and societal life experiences, values, traumas, hopes, disappointments, joys, and despairs.

We all share these superficial and profound dimensions of life. As I read the book, they came together for me with particular poignancy given the number of anniversaries in my own life that fall in August:
• August 7, 2009 – the date on which my long-term gay lover Bill was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer;
• August 11th – the birth date of my younger brother who committed suicide six months before Bill’s death;
• August 13th – my parents’ wedding anniversary, now both deceased;
• August 17th – the date on which Bill and I always celebrated our anniversary, a tribute to the occasion of our first romantic date in 1976;
• August 23, 2009 – the date that Bill died, sixteen days after his diagnosis.

I have commemorated Bill’s and my life together and the story of the two weeks of his dying in the memoir “August Farewell – the last sixteen days of a thirty-three year romance.”

August - the month from heaven and hell for both David Rakoff and me.

* * *
For information on David Rakoff’s “Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish” see: http://amzn.to/12btywJ

For information on my memoir “August Farewell” and my novel “Searching for Gilead,” see my website: http://DavidGHallman.com
Profile Image for John.
60 reviews9 followers
November 9, 2013
Many people have attempted it, but David Rakoff actually did it. He has written the proverbial "Great American Novel." What's more, he has written it in verse. Even more, he has written it in verse that actually rhymes. And still more, the verse is not knowing, or tendentious, or cynical, but human and funny. Move over Fitzgerald and Nathaniel West. Make room on the shelf for a new classic.

Hemingway instructed that to write you must first "write one true sentence." I never understood what Hemingway meant until I read this. This book, as poetry, is distilled truth from beginning to end. But the truth is cloaked in sympathy for those who have to endure it and learn from it. The language is pure and tender, even as the many stories told are poor, brutal, confused or lost or occasionally salvaged. The story itself sweeps across years and family histories that you find in Franzen and Wolfe, but in a fraction of the words. The stories of the characters interweave, uniting many stories into one. And like I mentioned before, the stories rhyme.

I raced through this novel in one afternoon, just to see what would happen next to characters you can't help but love, because they are your own family and friends. But to tell you the truth, that was too fast. This is a book I will go back and read again and again.

By the way, I will second what another reviewer said: the cover and art of the book itself is amazing. This book is as much a pleasure to hold and look at as it is to read.
Profile Image for Erin.
2,078 reviews71 followers
September 4, 2015
Cheers to those who managed to do their reviews in verse as well. I'm not quite so ambitious, but I absolutely adored this beautiful, witty and ultimately heartbreaking "novel in verse".

I first heard Rakoff use this trope on a "This American Life" where he played the role of Dr. Seuss exchanging letters with Gregor Samsa about Samsa's plight. Obviously Seuss spoke only in verse and the effect was absolutely charming. I had my doubts about whether it would transfer to novel form, but Rakoff nails it.

The format begs you to read it aloud, or, at the very least, read it aloud in your own head so that you pick up all the cadences and fun - definitely take the time. Within the story itself Rakoff follows the lives of a number of loosely related characters and it's a credit to the author that the form doesn't completely overshadow the lovely stories and the reader will fall in love with Clifford, Nate, Helen and the others. Rakoff also uses the book to come to terms with his serious illness and there are many beautiful, poignant lines, "He'd thought that her being alive would defray/His sadness, but all this goodbye without going away/This brutal, unsightly, and cold disappearing/Was so beyond what he'd conceived ever fearing..."

Just lovely and highly recommended to anyone who even thought for a second he/she might be interested in reading it.
Profile Image for Ed Erwin.
929 reviews99 followers
August 31, 2018
Loved this! Read it twice in a row (partly on audio, partly in text). Don't really know what else to say!

I'm not big on poetry, but the concept of a serious novel written entirely rhyming couplets with the same beat scheme that Dr. Seuss frequently used was just too strange to pass up!

I often have trouble with poetry because I get so caught-up in paying attention to the beats and rhymes that I lose track of the story. That never happened here. The scheme is simple enough to not distract me.

I don't keep most books I read, but I love this so much I'll probably buy a copy. I'll get the same edition that I've already read because it is very nice, with images by Seth, (even though there is a typo on page 60 where one whole line is missing.)

The author knew he was dying as he raced to finish this, and that adds another layer of sadness to the story which already has several sad parts.
Profile Image for Jorge.
33 reviews
July 16, 2013
David's best work of prose.

A brief yet humanistic story told in the classic style of Fitzgerald with the prose of a Shakespearean couplet.

The book is a touching story with rhyming prose laden with humor and humanity.

Sad to think what else he could have produced had he lived longer.
Profile Image for Virginia.
44 reviews
December 4, 2013
Instead of finding the book's verse alarming
the author's paired couplets were utterly charming
the rhythm keeps beating inside of my head
after reading; this is nothing to dread
Profile Image for Kate Quinn.
Author 52 books558 followers
August 14, 2013
I didn't know who David Rakoff was until a few years ago when I was driving around on a Saturday afternoon flipping through the radio stations. I know what to expect from NPR during the weekday rush hour (mostly news) and on weekend mornings (Wait Wait Don't Tell Me and Car Talk), but maybe their weekend afternoon schedule is less nailed down, or perhaps I am just incapable of absorbing it, but when I flipped to NPR and heard someone talking I wasn't sure what exactly I was listening to. Fingers hovering over the buttons, waiting to flip to something else, the words slowly penetrated my weekend fogged brain. It was a poem. A rhyming poem in one of those patterns that Shakespeare used and had something to do with the emphasis put on different syllables and I had never been able to truly understand how they worked. That didn't matter. This poem was perfect and so sharp it sliced right through me.

So, of course, I went home and began to hunt it down on the internet. When the poem was finished Ira Glass started talking about how NPR and This American Life were able to provide this kind of programming because of the donations of listeners like me. I'm not sure what he said after that cause I changed the channel (Sorry NPR and Ira, pledge drives are the worst, although, I have donated since then and will again, cause damn if those monthly? bi-annual? who knows how often then are, but they certainly are effective because whenever they come on I feel SO GUILTY for not giving more money). Eventually I found a typed out transcript of the poem (and put it on my blog too http://katekaryusquinn.blogspot.com/s... cause I had that EVERYONE MUST KNOW ABOUT THIS!!! feeling.) and I hunted down the This American Life episode it was in (#389 Frenemies) and downloaded that and burned it to CD. I read it again. I listened to it again. And every. single. time. it sliced right through me.

This sounds uncomfortable, I know. But it wasn't at all like reading some terribly depressing news story and having a sick heavy feeling comparable to what you feel after eating too much cheesecake (except without the fun of eating the cheesecake!). I actually think the poem is ultimately not depressing and to my (perhaps rose colored) view actually uplifting.

None of this review so far is about the book. Except that it is, because that poem is part of this book, which is why I bought it. I bought the paper version and read it in one sitting. I am going to have to buy the audio version because my reading did not do the poems justice, (there is a rhythm necessary to the reading which goes back to the whole Shakespeare thing I never understood, and I tried to get it going in my head, but I am a pretty fast reader and usually that is great but it can be a negative when you actually want to slow down and get the full experience of something that is not meant to be read in a big rush.) and I don't know if that poem I heard on NPR would have had the same effect if I'd experienced it on paper the first time instead of having it enter my brain through my ears.

So to bring this sort-of-review to a close: The poem I first heard years ago was still my favorite part of the book, but I think upon listening to it (I have a road trip to Cleveland coming up that this would be perfect for! Um, this is mostly a note for myself so feel free to disregard.) that I will probably love other parts as much or more. Still, I think it was worthwhile to buy the paper copy because I did enjoy reading it (and will no doubt re-read it one day) and it is also beautiful to look at, which is a nice little bonus.
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