16 July 2013
Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish
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.
Unfortunately, I'd never read a work by David Rakoff (I mean book - I'm pretty sure I read at least one or two essays in some form or another) before he passed away. And it seems particularly mean, on the part of the Universe, that he passed just as this last book came available to the reading population.
Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish is an amazing, gorgeously designed book. I'm not sure how much Rakoff was involved in the cover design (authors usually aren't) but this is easily one of the most beautiful books I've purchased in a long while. Kudos to Chip Kidd for the design and Seth for the illustration. The design is vivid, it stands out, you want to pick it up and hold it. Then buy the damn thing to take it home and wallow in the language. A book to own as an art object not just a collection of words on paper.
The rhyme scheme is very simple - just rhyming couplets, so don't let the words "novel in verse" put you off. It just lulls you into the interlinked stories of various family members and friends as the twentieth century moves along with all the horrors that cropped up as time went on. In an interesting twist, the sing-song rhyming couplets crossed with the less-than-savory behavior on the part of some characters makes for a weird reading experience. The best sections are the opening chapter (which reminded me of Eleanor and Park in some ways in Peggy's character) and the last two Clifford chapters.