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Don't Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, The Torments of Low Thread Count, The Never-Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems

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A bitingly funny grand tour of our culture of excess from an award-winning humorist. Whether David Rakoff's contrasting the elegance of one of the last flights of the supersonic Concorde with the good-times-and-chicken-wings populism of Hooters Air; working as a cabana boy at a South Beach hotel; or traveling to a private island off the coast of Belize to watch a soft-core A bitingly funny grand tour of our culture of excess from an award-winning humorist. Whether David Rakoff's contrasting the elegance of one of the last flights of the supersonic Concorde with the good-times-and-chicken-wings populism of Hooters Air; working as a cabana boy at a South Beach hotel; or traveling to a private island off the coast of Belize to watch a soft-core video shoot where he is provided with his very own personal manservant rarely have greed, vanity, selfishness, and vapidity been so mercilessly skewered. Somewhere along the line, our healthy self-regard has exploded into obliterating narcissism; our manic getting and spending have now become celebrated as moral virtues. Simultaneously a Wildean satire and a plea for a little human decency, Don t Get Too Comfortable shows that far from being bobos in paradise, we are in a special circle of gilded-age hell.


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A bitingly funny grand tour of our culture of excess from an award-winning humorist. Whether David Rakoff's contrasting the elegance of one of the last flights of the supersonic Concorde with the good-times-and-chicken-wings populism of Hooters Air; working as a cabana boy at a South Beach hotel; or traveling to a private island off the coast of Belize to watch a soft-core A bitingly funny grand tour of our culture of excess from an award-winning humorist. Whether David Rakoff's contrasting the elegance of one of the last flights of the supersonic Concorde with the good-times-and-chicken-wings populism of Hooters Air; working as a cabana boy at a South Beach hotel; or traveling to a private island off the coast of Belize to watch a soft-core video shoot where he is provided with his very own personal manservant rarely have greed, vanity, selfishness, and vapidity been so mercilessly skewered. Somewhere along the line, our healthy self-regard has exploded into obliterating narcissism; our manic getting and spending have now become celebrated as moral virtues. Simultaneously a Wildean satire and a plea for a little human decency, Don t Get Too Comfortable shows that far from being bobos in paradise, we are in a special circle of gilded-age hell.

30 review for Don't Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, The Torments of Low Thread Count, The Never-Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems

  1. 4 out of 5

    ari

    So, I promised myself that I would stray away from the non-fiction universe after perusing a particularly disturbing online survey that noted that for the most part, unhappy people read non-fiction because they are unwilling to bask in the fervent imagination of a good fiction writer. This is to say that non-fiction writers are inherently unimaginative, and the people that read their work are depressed boors staving off suicide one "Chicken Soup for the _______ Soul" at a time. Of course, I woul So, I promised myself that I would stray away from the non-fiction universe after perusing a particularly disturbing online survey that noted that for the most part, unhappy people read non-fiction because they are unwilling to bask in the fervent imagination of a good fiction writer. This is to say that non-fiction writers are inherently unimaginative, and the people that read their work are depressed boors staving off suicide one "Chicken Soup for the _______ Soul" at a time. Of course, I would like to think that this isn't true, but given that my last few books have been "Stumbling on Happiness", "The Paradox of Choice" and other such fare, I had reason to give this completely non-credible sous-breast exam undeserved credence. Am I really that unhappy with my life? Am I really incapable of basking in the creative halo of the literary giants? Does one have anything at all to do with the other? Will reading Harry Potter finally subjugate what Slavoj Zizek refers to as the modern human's injunction to be happy? Well, I am happy to report that reading non-fiction has not affected my happiness in any way, nor has it taken away from my ability to don the glow of the creative writer's halo. In the best non-fiction books (or at least the most entertaining), most of the joy comes from observing an author work out their neuroses in a public manner with a mix of internal narration and running commentary that would rival any football game for its collection of witty repartee regarding inanity and banality. It turns out that the most creative writing, at least for me, involves taking an average, everyday scene and skewing its perspective by having it be recounted by the most neurotic painter that ever existed. The best non-fiction makes me gasp with amazement at the profound farces that other people outside of my immediate universe call "lives". How would a "normal" person react on a playboy photo shoot on an actual tropical island? So, fasting involves more than just not eating? David Rakoff seems particularly well-suited for the task of reporting back from the avant-garde of lifestyles, and thus I thoroughly enjoyed driving the manure truck of his imaginative bullshit. This isn't to say that I disliked this book at all-- in fact, I quite enjoyed it. But I enjoyed it the same way I enjoy reading an old journal entry: incredulous bemusement with a hint of embarrassment and self-loathing. Rakoff's tone is unshakable and cynically perfect, but it can be a little much to read. In the end, it turns out that reading someone like Rakoff makes me realize that I'm not quite as unhappy as I had previously thought, or in exemplary fashion, I'm not quite as unhappy as I could be. It takes a certain jadedness and, what's the word I'm looking for... CREATIVITY... to be able to take seemingly mundane, objective truth and twist it into a mangled psychotherapy session that gets published in Vanity Fair. After all, if I really were that unhappy, then I'd be a non-fiction writer myself.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    I went to the bookstore looking for a Sedaris book because I needed to laugh. I was distraught to learn that I'd read everything he'd written! David Rakoff, like his peer David Sedaris, has occasionally been featured on Public Radio's "This American Life." His (writer's) voice is not as dark as Sedaris'... but he is quite hilarous; I bought this book in hopes of laughing, and was not disappointed. The man knows how to turn a phrase. May I please quote a passage where he describes the experience I went to the bookstore looking for a Sedaris book because I needed to laugh. I was distraught to learn that I'd read everything he'd written! David Rakoff, like his peer David Sedaris, has occasionally been featured on Public Radio's "This American Life." His (writer's) voice is not as dark as Sedaris'... but he is quite hilarous; I bought this book in hopes of laughing, and was not disappointed. The man knows how to turn a phrase. May I please quote a passage where he describes the experience of meeting a snotty designer while reporting at a fashion show. It's even more delightful if you know what Rakoff's speaking voice sounds like & can hear it in your head: "All of the designers I have met up to this point have been very nice, although upon being introduced to Karl Lagerfeld, he looks me up and down and dismisses me with the not super-kind, 'What can you write that hasn't been written already?' "He's absolutely right, I have no idea. I can but try. The only thing I can come up with at that moment is that Lagerfeld's powdered white ponytail has dusted the shoulders of his suit with what looks like dandruff but isn't. Also, not yet having undergone his alarming weight loss, and seated on a tiny velvet chair, with his large doughy rump dominating the miniature piece of furniture like a loose, flabby, ass-flavored muffin overrisen from its pan, he resembles a Daumier caricature of some corpulent, inhumane oligarch drawn sitting on a commode, stuffing his greedy throat with the corpses of dead children, while from his other end he shits out huge, malodorous piles of tainted money. How's that for new and groundbreaking, Mr. L?" When I read the first chapter, sipping my coffee in the coffee shop adjacent to the bookstore, I was socially inappropriate with my riotous laughter. Pretty much the highest praise I can give to a book, I don't know about you.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jack

    Ironically, as a secular humanist who shows no patience for groups like the Christian Right, Rakoff actually practies what those groups preach: He hates the sin, but loves the sinners. Or rather, he hates the stupid, shallow practices of modern American life, but shows a certain empathetic tolerance for the people who practice them. Rakoff's criticisms of the absurd and narcisstic aspects of modern american life are intelligently snarky and, even better, consistently ring true. He's especially e Ironically, as a secular humanist who shows no patience for groups like the Christian Right, Rakoff actually practies what those groups preach: He hates the sin, but loves the sinners. Or rather, he hates the stupid, shallow practices of modern American life, but shows a certain empathetic tolerance for the people who practice them. Rakoff's criticisms of the absurd and narcisstic aspects of modern american life are intelligently snarky and, even better, consistently ring true. He's especially effective when he goes after the thin veneers of depth or transcendentalism behind which so much hides today. But at the same time, he often betrays a certain kindness toward the people involved, seeking to understand what drives people down such misguided paths even as he doesn't shy away from his convictions. But the most impressive part is the writing. Almost every word means and evokes exactly what Rakoff wants it to and is placed in just the right spot.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    A complete grab bag of essays, loosely themed about privilege, hubris, and narcissism, as observed and told by David Rakoff. The book was largely compiled in 2003, so there is a lot of interesting post-9/11 and Bush-era synthesis, which (honestly) seems like a million miles ago. In that way, the book is a time capsule of the early/mid aughts. Rakoff is at his best as outisder/social observer. This made for some great stories on his trip to Paris for Fashion Week, rubbing elbows with the designer A complete grab bag of essays, loosely themed about privilege, hubris, and narcissism, as observed and told by David Rakoff. The book was largely compiled in 2003, so there is a lot of interesting post-9/11 and Bush-era synthesis, which (honestly) seems like a million miles ago. In that way, the book is a time capsule of the early/mid aughts. Rakoff is at his best as outisder/social observer. This made for some great stories on his trip to Paris for Fashion Week, rubbing elbows with the designers, models, and celebrities, and his investigation of the Log Cabin Republicans (what ever happened to them? are they really still around in this political environment??) This skill also served him well on a trip to tropical Belize as a writer on a soft-core porn photoshoot. I also liked his experimentation essays on urban foraging, his 20-day juice fast, and his short stint as a 40+ cabana boy in South Beach. His style of humor hits my funny bone directly - I actually laughed out loud ("HA!) several times while listening to this one, made all the better by Rakoff's own narration.

  5. 5 out of 5

    da AL

    The author does a fabulous job of narrating it himself! Very entertaining as well as intelligent! So sad that he died so young.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Left Coast Justin

    Ah, David, the more I read other essayists, the more I miss you, you snarky, observant, educated, clever, skeptical writer whose worldview closely overlapped with mine. After spending a few days at Paris Fashion Week: It has finally happened. I am tired of it all. If I have to look at more beautiful clothing or have another conversation about beautiful clothing or feign amusement at any more adoring anecdotes about what a caution one of the Ladies of Fashion is because, when being interviewed, sh Ah, David, the more I read other essayists, the more I miss you, you snarky, observant, educated, clever, skeptical writer whose worldview closely overlapped with mine. After spending a few days at Paris Fashion Week: It has finally happened. I am tired of it all. If I have to look at more beautiful clothing or have another conversation about beautiful clothing or feign amusement at any more adoring anecdotes about what a caution one of the Ladies of Fashion is because, when being interviewed, she insisted upon a glass of straight vodka because, as she said, "I don't drink water -- fish fuck in it," I will start shooting. I want to go home and clean my bathroom, or anybody's bathroom, for that matter. Editorial aside: Paris Fashion Week is probably not the best place to go for information about the mating practices of wildlife. So: A dozen or so essays, none of which are about anything in particular, but all of which are filled with the immensely quotable authorial voice of Mr. David Rakoff. Here he recounts the process by which he obtains U.S. citizenship: The naturalization application can be downloaded directly from the government's website. I have no problem with Part 7, Section C, in which I have to account for every trip I've taken out of the United States of more than twenty-four hours duration for the last ten years, including every weekend jaunt to Canada to see the family. I have kept every datebook I have ever owned. I pore over a decade's worth of pages and list all of my travels from most recent backward. I create a table with columns, listing exact dates of departure and return, plus my destination. It is a document of such surpassing beauty, it is virtually scented. Not since I threaded puffy orange yarn through the punched holes of my fourth-grade book reports have I so shamelessly tried to placate authority with meaningless externals. One amusing story tells of the day he flew from London to NYC on the Concorde, followed by a flight from NYC to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina aboard an airline that unlamentably is no longer with us: I walk the concourse three times, looking fruitlessly for my carrier. I break down and ask a security guard, my voice a discreet mumble, where I might find the check-in counter for Hooters Air. The ticket agent is handling a number of airlines. He only asks me where I'm going. When I respond Myrtle Beach, we both know why I am there. Our transaction is encoded, like I'm visiting a whorehouse. I remind myself repeatedly that there is no reason to be embarrassed, paraphrasing perhaps the most un-Hooters Girl of them all, Eleanor Roosevelt: No one can humiliate me without my consent. Although it is not for lack of trying. At the metal detectors the security guard, an elderly Trinidadian woman, takes one look at my boarding pass and lets out a high, fluting "Hoot, hoot!" before breaking into cackles of laughter.. Just pages and pages of this sort of thing. I am truly sorry that I have read all his books and there will be no more. Rest in peace, sir.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    We have become an army of multiply chemically sensitive, high-maintenance princesses trying to make our way through a world full of irksome peas. All of the nice things I have to say about listening to David Rakoff narrating one of his audiobooks was said in my review of Half Empty and I would reiterate that it is a very enjoyable experience. The writing here in Don't Get Too Comfortable The Indignities of Coach Class The Torments of Low Thread Count The Never-Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil We have become an army of multiply chemically sensitive, high-maintenance princesses trying to make our way through a world full of irksome peas. All of the nice things I have to say about listening to David Rakoff narrating one of his audiobooks was said in my review of Half Empty and I would reiterate that it is a very enjoyable experience. The writing here in Don't Get Too Comfortable The Indignities of Coach Class The Torments of Low Thread Count The Never-Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil and Other First World Problems is just as smart and insightful and beautifully crafted. The biggest difference I would say there is between these two books, however, is that while in Half Empty I found Rakoff to be piercing but never cruel, I found many instances of over-the-line cruelty in Don't Get Too Comfortable. I couldn't quite pinpoint what was turning me off about this book until I read someone else's review wherein he complained that the lack of connection Rakoff makes with his material is because he is sent off on adventures that are sure to bring out his snarky side-- I hadn't considered this and of course that's the problem, and also the reason why I can't quite classify him as a memoirist. Of course the gay Rakoff is going to have a dull time at a Playboy photoshoot. As the Director of the Log Cabin Republicans ( a gay Republican group) says to the incredulous Rakoff, "You had this story written before you even got here". It seems apparent that Rakoff exclusively sought experiences that would confirm his worldview, confirm that he's on the smart side of history. And in this book, about excess and avarice, he can be downright cruel about some easy targets: At Paris Fashion Week All of the designers I have met up to this point have been very nice, although upon being introduced to Karl Lagerfeld, he looks me up and down and dismisses me with the not super-kind, 'What can you write that hasn't been written already?' He's absolutely right, I have no idea. I can but try. The only thing I can come up with at that moment is that Lagerfeld's powdered white ponytail has dusted the shoulders of his suit with what looks like dandruff but isn't. Also, not yet having undergone his alarming weight loss, and seated on a tiny velvet chair, with his large doughy rump dominating the miniature piece of furniture like a loose, flabby, ass-flavored muffin overrisen from its pan, he resembles a Daumier caricature of some corpulent, inhumane oligarch drawn sitting on a commode, stuffing his greedy throat with the corpses of dead children, while from his other end he shits out huge, malodorous piles of tainted money. How's that for new and groundbreaking, Mr. L? On post 9/11 distrust: If for example, it came to light that the dangerously thin, affectless, value-deficient, higher aspiration-free, amateur porn auteuse Paris Hilton was actually a covert agent from some secret Taliban madrassa whose mission was to portray the ultimate capiltalist-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 surprised. And he takes several potshots at Republicans in general and the Bush family in particular: While we're on the subject of the horrors of war, and humanity's most poisonous and least charitable attributes, let me not forget to mention Barbara Bush (that would be former First Lady and presidential mother as opposed to W's liquor-swilling, Girl Gone Wild, human ashtray of a daughter. I'm sorry, that's not fair. I've no idea if she smokes.) When the administration censored images of the flag-draped coffins of the young men and women being killed in Iraq - purportedly to respect "the privacy of the families" and not to minimize and cover up the true nature and consequences of the war - the family matriarch expressed her support for what was ultimately her son's decision by saying on Good Morning America on March 18, 2003, "Why should we hear about body bags and deaths? I mean it's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?" Mrs. Bush is not getting any younger. When she eventually ceases to walk among us we will undoubtedly see photographs of her flag-draped coffin. Whatever obituaries that run will admiringly mention those wizened, dynastic loins of hers and praise her staunch refusal to color her hair or glamorize her image. But will they remember this particular statement of hers, this "Let them eat cake" for the twenty-first century? Unlikely, since it received far too little play and definitely insufficient outrage when she said it. So let us promise herewith to never forget her callous disregard for other parents' children while her own son was sending them to make the ultimate sacrifice, while asking of the rest of us little more than to promise to go shopping. Commit the quote to memory and say it whenever her name comes up. Remind others how she lacked even the bare minimum of human integrity, the most basic requirement of decency that says if you support a war, you should be willing, if not to join those nineteen-year-olds yourself, then at least, at the very least, to acknowledge that said war was actually going on. Stupid f-ing cow. I'd imagine a reader's enjoyment of this book would be related to how closely one's own worldview is confirmed by the smart and articulate David Rakoff's expression of it. Just as only a very rich person could recognise the ironically retro high value of rough handmade bars of soap, only a person with access to unlimited food could find it a spiritual quest to commit himself to a strict fast-- an experience so self-indulgent that Rakoff spent many hours every day preparing the broths and teas that sustained the fast, prompting the question,"Who outside of a person of high means could afford that kind of time to artificially keep himself above starvation level?" I will stipulate to having both French sea salt and a big bottle of extra virgin in my kitchen. And while the presence of both might go some small distance in pigeonholing me demographically, neither one of them makes me a good person. They are mute and useless indicators of the content of my character. I wonder if that notion is backwards? That perhaps the indicators aren't so mute? On cryogenics, he says: In my brief glimpse of what is to come I realize how little I care to witness it. I have seen the future and I'm fairly relieved to say, it looks nothing like me. It is still poignant to hear Rakoff dismiss immortality from beyond the grave, and even if his politics seemed to enter this volume more than in the last one, he passed too soon.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Katie Christian

    If I could give a negative number of stars for a book - this one would merit it. I am just SO grateful that Mr. Rakoff wrote this book. Without it I would never have known how much better and smarter and more intelligent the author is than the rest of us. Perhaps this book should be required reading in schools so that more people will be aware of what a pompous ass the author truly is. There was no way to win me back after he all but mocked the happiness of the new citizens as they took the oath If I could give a negative number of stars for a book - this one would merit it. I am just SO grateful that Mr. Rakoff wrote this book. Without it I would never have known how much better and smarter and more intelligent the author is than the rest of us. Perhaps this book should be required reading in schools so that more people will be aware of what a pompous ass the author truly is. There was no way to win me back after he all but mocked the happiness of the new citizens as they took the oath and received their citizenship papers. Yes, by all means, that is the perfect moment to point out how foolish all of those peasants are for actually showing joy to be a citizen of the US.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Janet

    I wanted to read this book based on the title. I think we have a tendency toward excess and from this title I thought it might be a book about focusing more on things that matter most and being content with what we already have, etc. Wrong. I fully read the first few chapters, but had to resort to skipping to random pages further on looking for something that wouldn't just annoy me. Never found it. Right from the start, I should have known I would never finish. Rakoff begins with the story of his I wanted to read this book based on the title. I think we have a tendency toward excess and from this title I thought it might be a book about focusing more on things that matter most and being content with what we already have, etc. Wrong. I fully read the first few chapters, but had to resort to skipping to random pages further on looking for something that wouldn't just annoy me. Never found it. Right from the start, I should have known I would never finish. Rakoff begins with the story of his becoming a US citizen. He does so with such reluctance and seems to have such buyer's remorse that I have to wonder why he did it to begin with. Of course, I know why he did it. To vote. After living in the US for 20 years or so, the need to vote against George W. Bush was the impetus behind becoming a US citizen. This bugs me. This book is more about politics than anything else, and I am so, so very sick of politics. The author is as left leaning as you can get and hits all the items on that checklist. This mindset is so off-putting to me, and it is equally off-putting when worn by the right leaning. These divisive political agendas have served no one and gotten us no where in the years that we have suffered through them. It's as though we are no longer expected, by others or by ourselves, to use our minds and hearts to make electoral decisions on an individual basis, considering individual issues and individual candidates anymore. I almost wish these elections were blind in a way. No political parties mentioned at all. But I digress. This book was irritating, whiny, and self-indulgent. Rakoff does write quite well and, with the exception of his fondness for the word f*&@ in all it's variations, could possibly write a book I might like. Provided it was void of the same tired political crap I am so sick of.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kate Sweeney

    Does anyone write like David Rakoff? I challenge you. It's a book best listened to on audio. His rhythm of speech, the emphasis he gives some words really makes his elegant language choices and wit shine like something always freshly polished. I listen to this when I've lost my faith 1. in nonfiction writing or 2. in my way of viewing the world...both of which take place more often than I'd like. "A grass-soup situation is a self-dramatizing one based on such a poorly imagined and improbable premi Does anyone write like David Rakoff? I challenge you. It's a book best listened to on audio. His rhythm of speech, the emphasis he gives some words really makes his elegant language choices and wit shine like something always freshly polished. I listen to this when I've lost my faith 1. in nonfiction writing or 2. in my way of viewing the world...both of which take place more often than I'd like. "A grass-soup situation is a self-dramatizing one based on such a poorly imagined and improbable premise as to render it beneath consideration. Michael Jackson saying with no apparent irony, for example, that were he to wake up one day to find all the children in the world gone, he would throw himself out the window. Mr. Jackson's statement doesn't really take into consideration that a planet devoid of tots would likely be just one link in a chain of geopolitical events so cataclysmic, that to assume the presence of an intact building with an intact window out of which to throw himself is plain idiotic."

  11. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    Like Sedaris, Rakoff writes in a dry, self-deprecating voice that makes him immediately endearing (unless you have a problem with left-wing gay men). These relaxed essays don't rely on family anecdotes as much as Sedaris, nor are they as sentimental. Rakoff is a humorist first and the satirical observations on Americanism and a culture of excess make for great light reading that's guilt free, so long as you don't pay $50/lb for imported sea salt from France. David Rakoff makes me chuckle and cho Like Sedaris, Rakoff writes in a dry, self-deprecating voice that makes him immediately endearing (unless you have a problem with left-wing gay men). These relaxed essays don't rely on family anecdotes as much as Sedaris, nor are they as sentimental. Rakoff is a humorist first and the satirical observations on Americanism and a culture of excess make for great light reading that's guilt free, so long as you don't pay $50/lb for imported sea salt from France. David Rakoff makes me chuckle and chortle oh so heartily. I imagine myself to be laughing at the things smart people laugh at when they read the NEW YORKER!

  12. 5 out of 5

    britt_brooke

    Why’ve I waited so long to read Rakoff? He’s the perfect combination of two of my favorites: David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs. I know, I know, I hate author comparisons, too, but I mean this as the highest compliment. Published in 2006, some of these essays are a bit dated, but that didn’t hinder my enjoyment. Rakoff left this world far too soon. I’ll honor him by reading his backlist.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Highly entertaining, but I have to say, he uses lots of words I didn't know, and I consider myself to be a pretty educated person. The writing is a little awkward and lacks flow at times, but overall, it's a quick and funny read that covers lots of strange situations, from a flight on the hooters airline, to suspended reanimation conferences. Some essays are funnier than others, but I love anybody that calls Barbara Bush (senior) a "stupid cunt" and Barbara Bush (junior) a "girls-gone-wild human Highly entertaining, but I have to say, he uses lots of words I didn't know, and I consider myself to be a pretty educated person. The writing is a little awkward and lacks flow at times, but overall, it's a quick and funny read that covers lots of strange situations, from a flight on the hooters airline, to suspended reanimation conferences. Some essays are funnier than others, but I love anybody that calls Barbara Bush (senior) a "stupid cunt" and Barbara Bush (junior) a "girls-gone-wild human ashtray".

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rene Saller

    I listened to the last disc of the audiobook while walking in the park this afternoon, still trying to absorb the sadness of his death. David Rakoff has made me guffaw so loudly (sometimes in public, since I'm often listening to him read his essays on my iPod), and he has made me cry, and he has made me think. Most of all, he has made me marvel over how extravagantly, unfairly smart he is, how he manages to be both savage to the deserving (Paris Hilton, Log Cabin Republicans, the producers of Th I listened to the last disc of the audiobook while walking in the park this afternoon, still trying to absorb the sadness of his death. David Rakoff has made me guffaw so loudly (sometimes in public, since I'm often listening to him read his essays on my iPod), and he has made me cry, and he has made me think. Most of all, he has made me marvel over how extravagantly, unfairly smart he is, how he manages to be both savage to the deserving (Paris Hilton, Log Cabin Republicans, the producers of The Swan) and unexpectedly generous with everyone else. Few stylists in this or the previous century can turn a phrase so beautifully, make sense of senseless events without being reductive or dogmatic, shape paragraphs so that they cohere but still manage to surprise. His arguments are elegant without ever seeming contrived. Even though he admits, in a very funny essay about his obsession with doing Martha Stewart-ish craft projects, that he finds writing excruciatingly difficult ("Writing is like pulling teeth. From my dick."), he writes so gracefully, with such apparent ease and wit, that it's hard to believe him. His sentences seem as natural as a Fred Astaire routine: You know a lot of work went into them, but you sure don't notice the sweat. The Italian courtiers had a word for it: sprezzatura. Rakoff had sprezzatura in spades. The last essay in this volume, about cryogenics and our pathetic lust for eternal life, gave me a real pang because I really do find myself wishing that someone could somehow deep-freeze his brain or load it onto a hard drive for the benefit of future generations. We're all the poorer for not having any more Rakoff books to look forward to. But even though I'm sad that he had to die so young, I'm grateful that he left us with three terrific books and several wonderful radio segments. He doesn't need a stupid cryogenic vault at Alcon. His voice was so distinctive, his bile so brilliant, his humanity so all-encompassing, that I know he'll live on in the heads of anyone who has ever heard or read him. It comforts me to think that whenever I start to miss That Voice, I can invite it to inhabit my consciousness anytime I choose: all I have to do is pick up one of his books, and there it is.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Deepa

    Ugh. Don't even bother. The title has nothing to do with the content. I was expecting a send up of all the crazy things the upper middle class now considers "essential". No. This is just a much of personal mini-memoirs about nothing. Oh look at me, I went to and hated Puppety of the Penis! Oh look at me, I faked being a "pool embassador" to write this book. Isn't it hilarious that I ordered room service at the hotel two doors down from where I "work"? Oh look at me, I stayed up til 4 on a scavan Ugh. Don't even bother. The title has nothing to do with the content. I was expecting a send up of all the crazy things the upper middle class now considers "essential". No. This is just a much of personal mini-memoirs about nothing. Oh look at me, I went to and hated Puppety of the Penis! Oh look at me, I faked being a "pool embassador" to write this book. Isn't it hilarious that I ordered room service at the hotel two doors down from where I "work"? Oh look at me, I stayed up til 4 on a scavanger hunt in NYC and was happiest when I climbed into bed! Oh look at me, I rode the Concord and Hooters Airline and now I will tell you aaaaall about how they are different. "Santaland Diaries" this is NOT. The back of the book says, "He can make you laugh, and then, suddenly, there comes a passage that touches you with wonder." Yeah, wonder of how he ever got a book deal... gah. Granted, the writing is good. He is certainly talanted. But he has nothing to SAY. The only good feelings I have towards this book is that I got it from the library, and it didn't cost me anything (except my time).

  16. 5 out of 5

    Graceann

    David Rakoff riffs on a number of subjects in this book of sometimes funny, sometimes informative, always interesting essays. There's so much here: citywide treasure hunts, finding food in the park, nude theatre, the rich denizens of Miami Beach, the Concorde, Log Cabin Republicans, and much more. All of it falls under the wicked, witty eye and pen of a writer who was taken from us far too soon. Rakoff encounters people who range from sublime to (the far more plentiful) ridiculous. His writing i David Rakoff riffs on a number of subjects in this book of sometimes funny, sometimes informative, always interesting essays. There's so much here: citywide treasure hunts, finding food in the park, nude theatre, the rich denizens of Miami Beach, the Concorde, Log Cabin Republicans, and much more. All of it falls under the wicked, witty eye and pen of a writer who was taken from us far too soon. Rakoff encounters people who range from sublime to (the far more plentiful) ridiculous. His writing is somewhat like David Sedaris or Amy Vowell, though because the essays are topical, some of them have aged out of relevance (his decision to become an American citizen – he was Canadian – in the wake of 9/11, for instance). The writing is no less trenchant and enjoyable for its distance, however. Some things that were true in 2005 remain true, while others may already be inspiration for nostalgia. Either way, the reading is entertaining, and it makes the reader all the more sad that Rakoff is no longer with us to cast his gaze on any current ridiculousness he might find.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte

    Although I enjoyed reading this book, I found it disappointing for a number of reasons. First, the contents have nothing at all to do with the title--none of the essays mentions artisanal olive oil or low-thread-count sheets, for example. Second, I didn't really "get it"--I just couldn't figure out what the point was. And finally, the author's non sequitur cheap shots at Republicans and George Bush were off-putting (there's plenty to complain about without just inserting random anti-Bush sentenc Although I enjoyed reading this book, I found it disappointing for a number of reasons. First, the contents have nothing at all to do with the title--none of the essays mentions artisanal olive oil or low-thread-count sheets, for example. Second, I didn't really "get it"--I just couldn't figure out what the point was. And finally, the author's non sequitur cheap shots at Republicans and George Bush were off-putting (there's plenty to complain about without just inserting random anti-Bush sentences into an unrelated paragraph). In spite of all that, however, Rakoff is an amazing wordsmith. The beauty of his writing stopped me in my tracks several times, particularly in the chapters on the Concorde and plastic surgery.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Trin

    David Rakoff is my hero (and one of my many, many gay Canadian boyfriends). He's hilariously funny, but there's real meat to this volume, too. My favorite essays are the one exploring Rakoff's mixed feelings upon deciding to become an American citizen, and the chapter about the Log Cabin Republicans. In the latter Rakoff presents himself as sympathetic to their plight yet understandably completely baffled by gay Republicans' attempts to earn a place inside "the big tent" (the essay's called "Be David Rakoff is my hero (and one of my many, many gay Canadian boyfriends). He's hilariously funny, but there's real meat to this volume, too. My favorite essays are the one exploring Rakoff's mixed feelings upon deciding to become an American citizen, and the chapter about the Log Cabin Republicans. In the latter Rakoff presents himself as sympathetic to their plight yet understandably completely baffled by gay Republicans' attempts to earn a place inside "the big tent" (the essay's called "Beat Me, Daddy"—and for good reason). There's a humanity to his political commentary that's increasingly rare these days.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    I didn't love all of the essays included in this book, but the last few chapters (essays on the Log Cabin Republicans, plastic surgery, and cryogenics) were fabulous. And then there is this, "If for example, it came to light that the dangerously thin, affectless, value-deficient, higher aspiration-free, amateur porn auteuse Paris Hilton was actually a covert agent from some secret Taliban madrassa whose mission was to portray the ultimate capiltalist-whore puppet of a doomed society with nothing I didn't love all of the essays included in this book, but the last few chapters (essays on the Log Cabin Republicans, plastic surgery, and cryogenics) were fabulous. And then there is this, "If for example, it came to light that the dangerously thin, affectless, value-deficient, higher aspiration-free, amateur porn auteuse Paris Hilton was actually a covert agent from some secret Taliban madrassa whose mission was to portray the ultimate capiltalist-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 surprised."

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cynda

    2.75 stars Rounded up to 3 stars I have been wanting to read this book for a couple of years now. After the large endowment left by someone this past year, the library has got new books and other materials (and increased hours of operation). So I was so excited to see that this book was finally available. An Audio book. I cannot scan chapter headings, read a few short sections to see if I really want to read this book. I have to take it as it is or I have no Don't Get Too Comfortable: The Indignit 2.75 stars Rounded up to 3 stars I have been wanting to read this book for a couple of years now. After the large endowment left by someone this past year, the library has got new books and other materials (and increased hours of operation). So I was so excited to see that this book was finally available. An Audio book. I cannot scan chapter headings, read a few short sections to see if I really want to read this book. I have to take it as it is or I have no Don't Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, The Torments of Low Thread Count, The Never-Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems. So I took the audio book home. The audio is not compete, instead it has selections from the printed book. It could be selections I appreciate less than the selections omitted. I am weird enough to like what others may not generally like. But I must do it or be dissatisfied with myself. I did find a few selections to appreciate, not even most selections. David Rakoff who styled himself many types of writer, seems to be most often known as a New York writer of auto-biographical essays. So did I like the book after all? Sort of. The-becoming-a US American-citizen part was entertaining and informative. The part about being on a fast and having an uncomfortable relationship with his food guru was interesting and thought provoking. The part about cryonics--the freezing of human bodies for later--was horrifying and thought-provoking. The unifying idea: The ever-lengthening list of more, better, bigger creates personal hells. (I am not giving it all away as this idea is expressed on the backside of audio case.) Welcome young man to Ammeeerrricaa. The US, of course.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Dorianna

    4.5 stars I miss David Rakoff. I didn't realize how much until I finally read this book. Some of the essays focus on post-9/11 NYC. Those days when Bush was President again, and like Cinderella's magic transformation, Giuliani turned into an overnight hero. Over the years I have tried to block that time period from my head with little (read: not one bit of) success. While reading those essays didn't bring me any joy, they were my favorite ones. Some other essay topics included a Midnight Madness 4.5 stars I miss David Rakoff. I didn't realize how much until I finally read this book. Some of the essays focus on post-9/11 NYC. Those days when Bush was President again, and like Cinderella's magic transformation, Giuliani turned into an overnight hero. Over the years I have tried to block that time period from my head with little (read: not one bit of) success. While reading those essays didn't bring me any joy, they were my favorite ones. Some other essay topics included a Midnight Madness Scavenger Hunt, fashion shows, Playboy bunnies, Hooters airlines, the Concorde's last flight, Martha Stewart and the joys of crafting, going on a fast under the guidance of a passive aggressive guru, learning about edible plants from a self-proclaimed "Wildman", gay Republicans, plastic surgery, cryonics, and the absurdity of fetishizing sodium chloride and water. My favorite one was his observations on "The New Weimar" in Times Square two months after the World Trade Center Attacks and his scathing review of "The Puppetry of the Penis." Some of the topics are a bit dated now. I haven't thought about Martha Stewart in years, I practically forgot the The Puppetry of the Penis was a thing that actually happened, and Yves Saint Laurent is not only retired but, like Rakoff, no longer walking among us. But Rakoff's writing style and insights somehow make it all fresh and interesting again. It's a wonderful and quick read that reminded me how much I enjoy reading essay collections.

  22. 4 out of 5

    kailin

    So I've heard this guy on This American Life and thought I'd try his book out. Now, I think the David Sedaris comparison has been made, but it's unavoidable. The voice of David Rakoff is very similar: witty, sharp, biting, dry, highly observant. However, whereas Sedaris writes about organic experiences--things that occur naturally in his life, most of Rakoff's experiences are "experienced" purely for the sake of writing about them. He actually sets out to find odd experiences so he can write abo So I've heard this guy on This American Life and thought I'd try his book out. Now, I think the David Sedaris comparison has been made, but it's unavoidable. The voice of David Rakoff is very similar: witty, sharp, biting, dry, highly observant. However, whereas Sedaris writes about organic experiences--things that occur naturally in his life, most of Rakoff's experiences are "experienced" purely for the sake of writing about them. He actually sets out to find odd experiences so he can write about them and it feels a little stilted and distant. Sedaris' writing feels more salient, and perhaps a bit more raw, because it's often emotional--it's biased observation. Rakoff feels emotionally distant from his writing--perhaps because it is so contrived, or appears so. There's no faulting his technique--the writing just doesn't connect to its audience--or rather, to me. After some research, I discovered that his other book, Fraud, is better. Turns out I have that lying around so I'm onto that next. Keeping my fingers crossed.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Trish

    David Rakoff is a man o' mine. With this riff he hits every high note and takes me with him. I love him for making the effort--he says writing is painful. I wonder if it is actually the writing or the remembering that is so painful. Let's face it: when we were kids and found out that humans were not really perfect, it bothered us. Later, when we found out our friends and lovers were not perfect, it was an even bigger bummer. Later yet, we had to admit some of our own errors were rather glaring a David Rakoff is a man o' mine. With this riff he hits every high note and takes me with him. I love him for making the effort--he says writing is painful. I wonder if it is actually the writing or the remembering that is so painful. Let's face it: when we were kids and found out that humans were not really perfect, it bothered us. Later, when we found out our friends and lovers were not perfect, it was an even bigger bummer. Later yet, we had to admit some of our own errors were rather glaring and that human beings as a race were somewhat difficult to reconcile with a loving God. But Rakoff did it so well--the remembering, the writing, the turning of the knife...He deserves to be remembered long.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

    The title of this book is really catchy and I rushed out immediately to buy it. Instead of a critique of all the ridiculous things people do and care about in the first world, it was a random report of different experiences he did on purpose to see what it would be like. For example, is fasting a problem of the first world? Perhaps he means pushing aside food when there is plenty, but that is more like anorexia. Fasting is not a first world phenomena and I would say it is not widespread either. The title of this book is really catchy and I rushed out immediately to buy it. Instead of a critique of all the ridiculous things people do and care about in the first world, it was a random report of different experiences he did on purpose to see what it would be like. For example, is fasting a problem of the first world? Perhaps he means pushing aside food when there is plenty, but that is more like anorexia. Fasting is not a first world phenomena and I would say it is not widespread either. (think obesity) Yes, I chuckled here and there, particularly when he made fun of the Bushes, but overall this was a let down.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ryan

    Someone recommended Rakoff to me after learning I am a huge David Sedaris fan. Well, they don't seem very similar to me. Sedaris can be coy, glib, self-deprecating, indulgent, shameless, sentimental, vulnerable, sweet... Rakoff's writing is skillful but generic. These essays are good enough to be published in many magazines, but I would never buy, open, or pick up one of those magazines because it contained his work. Finally, he always reaches a point in which he can condescend to his subject, w Someone recommended Rakoff to me after learning I am a huge David Sedaris fan. Well, they don't seem very similar to me. Sedaris can be coy, glib, self-deprecating, indulgent, shameless, sentimental, vulnerable, sweet... Rakoff's writing is skillful but generic. These essays are good enough to be published in many magazines, but I would never buy, open, or pick up one of those magazines because it contained his work. Finally, he always reaches a point in which he can condescend to his subject, which can work in small doses but the dynamic loses its charm when it's presented repeatedly in a book. Should we write about the political moment? If you wanted to make the case against doing so, it's worth noting that many of the essays are dated. Sometimes they do remain interesting: "Beat Me, Daddy" is about an organization of gay Republicans during the Bush years.

  26. 5 out of 5

    jess

    This book is a collection of nonfiction essays about the American culture of excess. Rakoff turns his attention to the obscene extravaganza that defines the lives of many here and now. From Hooters Air to beachside luxury resorts, Rakoff roasts the completely unnecessary things we do while we pretend they are totally normal. His time spent with his own manservant during a softcore shoot on a private island in Belize boggled my mind. "Is this real?" I asked myself. Rakoff stumbles most charmingly This book is a collection of nonfiction essays about the American culture of excess. Rakoff turns his attention to the obscene extravaganza that defines the lives of many here and now. From Hooters Air to beachside luxury resorts, Rakoff roasts the completely unnecessary things we do while we pretend they are totally normal. His time spent with his own manservant during a softcore shoot on a private island in Belize boggled my mind. "Is this real?" I asked myself. Rakoff stumbles most charmingly through NY with the Wildman urban forager - I liked the Wildman. I was rooting for him. I delighted in Rakoff's visit to Martha's craft room. The cryogenics people freaked me out, but they always do. Not as badly as the Log Cabin Republicans, however. I can't stop thinking about those wild and crazy Log Cabin Republicans, and Rakoff breathlessly protesting, "But I can change him!" That moment was just one of the many reasons I was glad I listened to the audiobook. Rakoff's delivery is priceless. This is not an intensely profound or insightful book, but it is smart enough and funny. And this book is *not* "just like David Sedaris," which I was told plenty of times before I read it. I've read enough Augusten Burroughs thankyouvermuch. BUT David Rakoff's not like that. He's like the guy that Sarah Vowell would want to offer her services as a devoted fag hag. If David Rakoff were a martini, the vermouth would be John Waters. The vodka would be top shelf. By putting Sedaris out of my mind, I was able to appreciate Rakoff to a greater degree. There is no overt political agenda here, but as our opulence becomes more alarming and we see more trends toward simplicity, this book sits in an interesting position - written right before tiny houses and front yard food gardens became bigger each year, right after the "Shop, America, Shop!" rallying cries post-911, and situated in a moment in history where almost everything about our lives is disturbingly decadent to the point of embarrassment. Reading this exacerbated my feeling of living at right before the beginning of the collapse of the Roman empire. I live here, and you live here. This book is relevant and funny.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

    **Warning** This book contains some profanity. Why did it take for this man to die before I discovered how wonderful his writing is? His voice, too, for that matter, is distinctive and snarky and delicious. I was moved by the many tributes to him on This American Life, Wire Tap, and The Daily Show, so I put this book on hold. He is so funny! His writing is very personal and brilliant! In this book he writes about becoming a US citizen after 9/11, luxury vs. simplicity, accompanying a Latin playbo **Warning** This book contains some profanity. Why did it take for this man to die before I discovered how wonderful his writing is? His voice, too, for that matter, is distinctive and snarky and delicious. I was moved by the many tributes to him on This American Life, Wire Tap, and The Daily Show, so I put this book on hold. He is so funny! His writing is very personal and brilliant! In this book he writes about becoming a US citizen after 9/11, luxury vs. simplicity, accompanying a Latin playboy shoot in Belize, gathering wild food in Brooklyn, flying the Concorde, scavenger hunts in Manhattan, male burlesque, working as a Pool Ambassador in Miami, Rockefeller Center, Martha Stewart and crafting, haute couture, Patrick Guerriero of the Log Cabin Republicans, plastic surgery, fasting, and cryogenics. Each story is a gem and will make you laugh out loud. My favorite line in the whole book comes from the story "What is the sound of one hand shopping?" on page 23, in which David Rakoff writes about the excesses of luxury: "The man of a departing couple leans in and says something to his date. She listens, and gives an almost electric start. Like Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton in Reds who, caught up in the joyuous throngs of the ten days that shook the world, had no choice after witnessing something so glorious and world-changing but to race home and [] each other silly, the man and woman share a look of smoldering, unbridled lust. What did he whisper? "I was just told that they hadn't served that vinegar in twenty-four years!"

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Like Rakoff’s other book, “Fraud,” “Don’t Get Too Comfortable” is a collection of wry observations made from a cynical remove. The subject matter is cultural excess, phenomena like fasting rituals that ostensibly put practitioners into a state of spiritual clarity, artisanal foods regarded with near-sexual enthusiasm, and the casual opulence of the supersonic trans-Atlantic flight. Easily, Rakoff ridicules luxuries enjoyed by the rarefied few. But more than that, he skewers the false moral equiv Like Rakoff’s other book, “Fraud,” “Don’t Get Too Comfortable” is a collection of wry observations made from a cynical remove. The subject matter is cultural excess, phenomena like fasting rituals that ostensibly put practitioners into a state of spiritual clarity, artisanal foods regarded with near-sexual enthusiasm, and the casual opulence of the supersonic trans-Atlantic flight. Easily, Rakoff ridicules luxuries enjoyed by the rarefied few. But more than that, he skewers the false moral equivalency implied by that exclusivity. “Since anyone with taste buds will respond to the trans-fat bells and whistles of a hot fudge sundae or super nachos, how better then to show a nobility of spirit than by broadcasting your capacity to discern the gustatory equivalent of a hummingbird’s cough as it beats its wings near a blossom that grows by a glassy pond the other side of a distant mountain?” It’s not just economic extravagance that Rakoff takes on. It is the indulgences of a culture that equates self-gratification with existential validation: exotic tropical resorts, seedy Times Square sex shows, the fleeting celebrity of appearing in the audience of Good Morning America, to name a few. Today, this book reads as a diagnostic for America's malaise--our infatuation with a lifestyle that is simply too much, too much, too much. In that respect, it's very funny and a little bit heartbreaking.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Eileen Daly-Boas

    No spoilers. Blurb: David Rakoff is brilliant, funny, wry and self-deprecating. If you appreciate the work of David Sedaris, this is smarter. If you like Sarah Vowell, this is sharper and more cutting. If you don't know those authors, go check them out as well. Longer version: I've followed David Rakoff through This American Life, and occasionally read his works in various magazines. He's always smart, always a bit sad, but a genuinely talented observer of people. The hypocrisy of the first-world No spoilers. Blurb: David Rakoff is brilliant, funny, wry and self-deprecating. If you appreciate the work of David Sedaris, this is smarter. If you like Sarah Vowell, this is sharper and more cutting. If you don't know those authors, go check them out as well. Longer version: I've followed David Rakoff through This American Life, and occasionally read his works in various magazines. He's always smart, always a bit sad, but a genuinely talented observer of people. The hypocrisy of the first-world is called on the carpet, but he's out there on the carpet with us. As an audiobook, this was perfection. Rakoff's timing is perfect for the one-line gems that make you laugh out loud, but you can also hear him wincing or smiling or rolling his eyes. Rakoff is an openly gay man and while I can imagine readers who would only see him as a stereotype of the effete, delicate, overly intellectual gay man, that's their loss. This is a charming and sweet, caustic and sharp, beautiful and scathing look at love of fashion, sex, youth and ultimately, ourselves. Listening to this right after Rakoff's death from cancer was crushing at times, and a voice like his silenced, is almost too much to bear.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Devon

    It seems that David Sedaris sparked something several years back and there was suddenly a new crop of gay male memoirists. I didn't find any of them particularly funny (except for Sedaris himself) and so I approached Rakoff's book with skepticism. But I loved it! This man is actually funny. He isn't incredibly self-involved (see: Augusten Burroughs). He writes about intesting things (the chapter on the Log Cabin Republicans was especially good). The book is also an incredibly quick read, good for It seems that David Sedaris sparked something several years back and there was suddenly a new crop of gay male memoirists. I didn't find any of them particularly funny (except for Sedaris himself) and so I approached Rakoff's book with skepticism. But I loved it! This man is actually funny. He isn't incredibly self-involved (see: Augusten Burroughs). He writes about intesting things (the chapter on the Log Cabin Republicans was especially good). The book is also an incredibly quick read, good for a lazy Saturday afternoon when you should be cleaning the bathroom but can't seem to find the energy.

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