David Rakoff. Fraud. 2001.

A collection of autobiographical essays by a man who is so intrepid that he sometimes leaves Manhattan for days at a time.

The writing wavers between coal and diamond, and there are a few electrifying moments that cannot be improved upon. Unlike other writing in which a New Yorker treats America as though it were an amusing but ultimately primitive and horrifying country, the author at least mentions how wonderful the people he meets on his adventures are, after he makes fun of them. That Rakoff is not too sophisticated to claim to like certain people, places, and things is a conscientious gesture, hopefully sincere.

I don't consider this a high water mark of comic literature, journalism, or memoir, but it has delectable moments, it is worth reading, and it is ideal for reading on the subway or against fragmented time.

Instead of doing battle with the book's strong endorsements, and the endlessly fascinating question of who is the funniest American writer (is Sedaris or Rakoff funnier? Rank that one among the universe's unanswerable questions, such as whether Guinness is better in the cans or the pressurized bottles), here is a structural analysis of an essay I consider beautiful: “Lush Life.”

Diagram of a comic essay.

 

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