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Fraud: Essays

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  9,157 ratings  ·  399 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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Average rating 3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,157 ratings  ·  399 reviews

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Jul 19, 2008 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 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 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 pretty
Rakoff’s first essay collection, published in 2001, is a mix of journalistic fieldwork-type endeavors and personal stories. I love his wit and dark humor. The last essay was strongest, still funny, yet profoundly heartbreaking, as he touched on his radiation treatments. Cancer ultimately took him from the world in 2012 at age 47.
Justin Hudnall
Dec 17, 2007 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
Sep 01, 2012 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 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
Andrew Breslin
Oct 18, 2011 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
Feb 09, 2011 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 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
Left Coast Justin
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
All of the essays in this collection have merit, and the one that closes the book is...well, if a better essay has ever been written, I'd very much like to read it. This one tells the story of his 'dilettante' bout with cancer which, sadly, came back and killed him a couple of years ago. The story he tells of those years filled me with a deep, multilevel sadness, but also included a couple of genuine belly laughs. This is not an easy thing for a writer to do.

Two other essays that evoked similar
Jun 30, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I expected this to be hilarious. It wasn't. It was mildly amusing a few times. That was all. This is David Sedaris without the likability. And Rakoff's attitude to animals in general, is pretty off putting.
Daniel Eastman
May 16, 2020 rated it it was ok
Rakoff’s written voice is at worst curmudgeonly with a holier than thou demeanor toward his subjects. At best he’s sardonically gossipy and somehow not very engaging. The cleverest part of his writing is his vocabulary. So he gets points for owning a thesaurus, but it’s as if he’s simply flaunting his intellect the way he mocks subjects such as the men who’ve hiked the same mountain every day for x number of years. Voices like this are a dime a dozen nowadays. It’s a personal preference of mine ...more
May 13, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I found this collection to be pretty humorous but I think most of the essays were probably articles written for men’s magazines or similar? The set up: David goes to to Buddhist retreat; David goes to a Survivalist camp; David has a role on a Soap Opera; etc. I have also, no doubt, heard some of Radkoff’s contributions to This American Life without realizing it.

I particularly liked the essay titled “Lush Life” about his early days as a publishing assistant. It would make a great companion/supple
Jun 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
witty and captivating, it made me appreciate the power of specificity in word choice. specificity is good writing, but also key to elevating good writing to humor.

my favorite essays were the ones about the hidden people of iceland (and what it means to believe in a national myth (and believe in general)), christmas freud (david sits in the display window of a 5th ave department store playing the role of freud for a christmas promotion), and we call it australia (about the austrian teachers who
Len Knighton
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
I liked this book more than HALF EMPTY, the prize winner by Rakoff. With the exception of his essay on his travels in Japan, I found them entertaining and provocative. He finishes with the best, as he contemplates immortality via donated sperm, looking cancer in the eye. I finished the book while visiting my sister and her husband; cancer is staring at him but neither seem to be ready to return the stare. One does not read in a vacuum.

Four stars
Jan 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a bit of a time capsule, seeing as it was published in 2001, prior to the events of 9/11. It was a very different time, those days of economic boom. So it's a bit of a trip to read this 18 years later. Make mistake, David Rakoff is NOT David Sedaris, and that's ok. He's still hilarious, in his own dark, sad way. The unifying theme here is that one way or another, we're all frauds, pretending to be something we're not. And that, too, is ok.
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A dynamite essay collection. There are few writers out there that match Rakoff's distinct, cutting wit and ingenuity. Some of my favorite pieces: "Extraordinary Alien," the classic "Christmas Freud," and the touching (yet haunting) piece about his struggle with Hodgkin's disease, "I Used To Bank Here, But That Was A Long Time Ago."
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Rakoff is one of my favorites but I haven't read him in a long time. I can't remember the introductory book I liked the most; these essays utilize his usual acerbic style, and while still humorous, slightly more bitter. His insight, both into himself and his environment, is always illuminating and intelligent and given that these essays were collected around the time he was first diagnosed with cancer which eventually killed him, it's not surprising that his mood was a bit dark.
Apr 27, 2013 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
Shannon Chapel
Feb 15, 2012 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
Feb 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbtq
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 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
Jason LeRoy
Aug 28, 2012 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
Jack Silbert
Jul 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
This paperback and I have a history. Picked up a used copy at the Montclair Book Center in New Jersey in... sometime between 2009 and 2012. Rakoff was still alive, for sure, and my friend Rory — who knew him — recommended his writing to me. I remember happily reading from it at Villa Victoria Pizza (Montclair again, waiting to see a movie). I also remember struggling to read it during the summer of 2016, when illness was invading my body, and focus was a real challenge. Finally, I returned to Fr ...more
Mar 01, 2009 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
May 07, 2014 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
Aug 19, 2016 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
Jun 21, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: queer, non-fiction, essays
This book was pretty good, but only kinda funny. There were some queeny one-liner gems ("oh, for a tiny lace smellie!") but on the whole i much preferred his second book, which had a much higher rate of laugh-out-loud funny. I did really, really like the last essay, "I Used to Bank Here, but That Was Long, Long Ago," about his recovery from cancer as a younger man, couched in a quest to locate a long-lost sperm sample from before the chemo left him sterile. It was a perfect balance of funny and ...more
Jan 01, 2008 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.
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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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