Sunday, November 3, 2013

Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish: A Novel by David Rakoff

David Rakoff's Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die; Cherish, Perish juggles an impressive cast of characters while sweeping across the history and landscape of the USA. It is playfully -- and concisely -- written in rhyming couplets.

On top of all that, the book design is striking. It's a collectible artifact designed by Chip Kidd. Diecut holes in a thick board cover reveal the title printed on the page underneath. The text is illustrated with full-page art by Seth. It's an inspired match. Seth's portraits have a double edge -- cartoonish, yet sombre -- that works perfectly with Rakoff's campy style and his luckless characters.

Here's a sample from one of the sections about Susan/Sloan/Shulamit, who keeps reinventing herself over time:

A maximal, turbo-charged, top-drawer milieu --
Appealed to a moneyed crowd of locals who
Insisted on only the toppest of drawers,
Weddings befitting of Louis Quatorze.

Clifford is also followed across the years, from childhood through to his death on the vanguard of the AIDS epidemic. Knowing that Rakoff was dying of cancer when he wrote this book added poignancy as I read his words:

A new fierce attachment to all of this world
Now pierced him, it stabbed like a deity-hurled
Lightning bolt lancing him, sent from above,
Left him giddy and tearful. It felt like young love.

LDMDCP was published posthumously. (I reviewed Half Empty when Rakoff died last year.) Rakoff was a warm and funny writer and I am sad that he is gone.

Readalikes: The Wild Party (Joseph Moncure March and Art Spiegelman); George Sprott (Seth); Building Stories (Chris Ware); and maybe Tales of the City (Armistead Maupin) as well.

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