David Sedaris gets a lot of play. NPR loves him. Entertainment Weekly fancies itself an argyle-wearing, bespectacled geek thinker when it plugs his books. Radiophiles who adore the idea of the fantasy romcom in which a gay Southern, juvenile writer meets a gorgeous New York stud in the big city and then flies off with him to do fish-out-of-water pratfalls in scenic Normandy live vicariously through his insightful, crass and hilarious books.
David Rakoff is the other post-TAL gay David, and the one I prefer. Rakoff is a drier wit, who can mock without hate (except for himself) and deflate Puppetry of the Penis as well as he can crack the porcelain of Heian Japan. He’s a little subtler, prone to slipping delicate hyperbole into passages of earthly, grounded imagery. Sometimes he cuts to the chase, but when he wanders off on giant sentences is when I’m really jealous of him. I live vicariously through his droll dialogue comedy tale of the Canadian Jewish cancer-survivor being bounced like a lotto ball in the air hopper of the New York publishing scene, occassionally fired off to do travel writing in areas where he’s too Canadian, too American, too Jewish, too white or just too timid to fit wholly in, before hopefully bouncing back to New York or Chicago to wax rhetoric on the air with Ira Glass.
This passage, from his new book of essays, Don’t Get Too Comfortable, jumped out at me. My preference is to hear Rakoff read, so I recommend the audiobook from iTunes. Read off the page (or the screen), this sentence might just seem like another bitter social critique, but when you get it in the spur-of-the-moment, deliriously complex delivery of Rakoff’s reading, it’s made of silver.
If, for example, it came to light that the dangerously thin, affectless, value-deficient, higher-aspiration-free amateur-porn auteur Paris Hilton was actually a covert agent from some secret Taliban madrasah whose mission was to portray the ultimate capitalist whore-puppet of a doomed society with nothing more on its mind than servitude to Mammon and celebrity at any cost, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.