Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish: A Novel by David Rakoff | Review
Publication: New York : Doubleday, 2013
Genre: Humanity Fiction, Fiction in Verse
Pages: 113, with color illustrations
Formats: Paperback, Audiobook, eBook
David Rakoff envelopes the heart of sadness with this Dr. Seussian novel. I’m terming Rakoff’s book after the author of Oh, the Places You’ll Go! because, in it, Rakoff has an almost religious devotion to timing his characters’ tales along traditional rhyming schemes. And it’s the lulling sound of this book’s prose that creates a sense of security in which Rakoff can then bring his readers face to face with some of the most profound horrors of human experiences.
To be more specific, even at the risk of having my last statement judged as overly dramatic, the opening character-story of the novel involves a violent domestic rape for which the preteen victim is then blamed and thrown out of the house by her mother. Using such an example of humanity’s underbelly and misappropriated morals to set the stage, the novel’s very blue hue contrasts with the bright blush of its often devastating narrative twists. Because of its unabashed approach in connecting readers on a very visceral level with the lives of its twelve main characters as they march through the twentieth century, I highly recommend this book to anyone trying to understand the humanity behind how the United States has come to its current state of affairs and what that means for its individuals.
To be sure, Rakoff certainly doesn’t apologize for shocking his audience awake. In our current political and cultural climate, utilizing shock value might be more advisable than in periods of actual genteel rest (what peaceful periods of gentility those would be, in particular, can probably be explained by someone of a more hopeful resolve than I could ever dream of possessing).
If you listen to the audio version of this book, please be prepared for another layer of heartbreak. For while the story itself danced so gracefully through the darkest parts of our cultural history (and ongoing realities), my throat constricted at the sound of Rakoff’s cancer taking over his rasping voice as he struggles (and more so in the later chapters) through each set of rhyming couplets. We lost Rakoff in 2012, and the world is poorer without him. For more on his graceful, yet not without justified frustration and sadness, battle with cancer: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ldqjM7x6NhE.
In memoriam: How is it, both this novel and the loss of its writer cry, that the important pieces of society should pass us by with such subtle depths of lasting calmness while we blink in unending thoughtlessness?