by David Rakoff


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From This American Life alum David Rakoff comes a hilarious collection that single-handedly raises self-deprecation to an art form. Whether impersonating Sigmund Freud in a department store window during the holidays, climbing an icy mountain in cheap loafers, or learning primitive survival skills in the wilds of New Jersey, Rakoff clearly demonstrates how he doesn’t belong–nor does he try to.

In his debut collection of essays, Rakoff uses his razor-sharp wit and snarky humor to deliver a barrage of damaging blows that, more often than not, land squarely on his own jaw–hilariously satirizing the writer, not the subject. Joining the wry and the heartfelt, Fraud offers an object lesson in not taking life, or ourselves, too seriously.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780767906319
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/23/2002
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 420,448
Product dimensions: 5.19(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.52(d)

About the Author

David Rakoff is the author of four New York Times bestsellers: the essay collections Fraud, Don’t Get Too Comfortable, and Half Empty, and the novel in verse Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish. A two-time recipient of the Lambda Literary Award and winner of the Thurber Prize for American Humor, he was a regular contributor to Public Radio International’s This American Life. His writing frequently appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, Wired, Salon, GQ, Outside, Gourmet, Vogue, and Slate, among other publications. An accomplished stage and screen actor, playwright, and screenwriter, he adapted the screenplay for and starred in Joachim Back’s film The New Tenants, which won the 2010 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short. He died in 2012.

Read an Excerpt

Erla Steffansdottir makes her miving as a piano teacher, but is more widely known as one of Iceland's most noted Elf communicators. Her maps of Hidden People sites are on sale in tourist shops all around Iceland.She claims she has been seeing elves and Hidden People her whole life. I have been led to believe that my chances of meeting Erla would be slim to none, that she is difficult, that she will not be helpful, that she traffics in arbitrary rivalries in the Elf-spotting community.

I'm inclined to believe the rumors after my initial encounter when I first call to set up the interview. Erla actually seems to be sobbing on the other end of the phone, all the while talking to me. Then again, in her defense, who actually picks up the phone in the middle of a crying jag? Besides, without having to push, she tells me to come the next day at four o'clock.

I was expecting a wild hair, clanking jewelry, a tatterdemalion velvet cape from whose folds wafted the scent of incense, a house full of candles, dream catchers, cats, and bad art. Instead, I found a friendly if somewhat shy woman in her forties living in a lovely apartment on the top floor of a Reykjavik townhouse with a bay window. Aside from a tiny elf figure made of three painted stones, piled up snowman style outside her front door, Erla's house is decorated in the tasteful, middle class aesthetic one might expect of a piano teacher: landscape paintings, old furniture. The place is warm and cozy on a particularly blustering, windy day.

Erla's friend Bjork is there to translate, although Erla's English is sufficient to slap me down at our rather awkward beginning. I ask when she first realized she could see Hidden People. "This is very stupid to ask when I see. When I was born. Like that one right there." she says, indicating a place on the coffee table beside a Danish modern glass ashtray. She then catches herself. "Oh that's right. You can't see it." she shakes her head slightly, amused at her forgetfulness that others do not possess her gift. It's a somewhat disingenuous moment, like when your friend, newly back from a semester in Paris, says to you, "It's like, uhm, oh I forget the English word, how you say....fromage?"

Apparently the coffee table in front of me is a veritable marketplace of elves milling about, many of them in separate dimensions and oblivious to one another. Bjork takes over, essentially ferrying me through this gnomish cocktail party:
"One sits there, two are walking over here, one sits there. When she plays music they come. It attracts them."

I am suddenly overcome with a completely inappropriate urge: the barely suppressed impulse to slam my hand down on the coffee table really, really hard, right where she's pointing.

Apparently the elves on the table are in too remote a dimension, and are too small to talk to. Conveniently, every home also comes equipped with a House Elf, about the size of the average three-year-old, with whom one can communicate. "Every home?" I ask.

"Yes you have one in your house in New York, too." Bjork assures me.

If only my House Elf, sick and tired of my skepticism, was taking pains to prove his existence once and for all by cleaning my apartment for me at that very moment, I joke. Leadest of balloons.

But Bjork points out that house elves are a privilege, not a right. When the energy of a given house gets too negative, she says, when there is drinking or fighting, the elves will leave. Not terribly surprisingly, mysticism, New Age philosophy, Recovery-speak, and elves are conflated as one. Erla says that elves are a manifestation of nature, they are inherently good; without them we would choke on our own pollution. There is almost no more urban point of view of nature than this pastoral, idyllic one: Humankind bad, Nature good. As in, drinking and fighting bad, elves and flowers good. But it's a false dichotomy. After all, following this logic, Sistine Chapel bad, Ebola virus good?

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Fraud 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am the world's most rabid David Sedaris fan, so when I saw that he recommended this book, I had to buy it (do you think the publisher's knew that?). I'm so glad I did. David Rakoff has the same dark, bitter, but ultimately insightful (and even hopeful) humor that makes Sedaris such a comic genius. His observations on all kinds of things, from wannabe Buddhists to the Loch Ness monster, are so on-the mark that they'll make you laugh, then think.
ablueidol on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Funny, witty with deep under currents and wider range then David Sedaris
SirRoger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I like these more the second time. Verbose, yes, but oh, so true.
rosencrantz79 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Yes, they're both funny. Yes, they're both writers. Yes, they both contribute to the greatest radio show on earth, This American Life. And though they also both happen to be called "David," there are major distinctions to be made between Sedaris and Rakoff. I love them both, but I think I have to lean toward Rakoff purely on the basis of his cynicism, world-weariness and irritation. Having not only read the book but listened to the audio cd, I can say without qualification that this is one of the funniest books I've read/heard, ever. Period.
arouse77 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This collection of essays are the offering of a compatriot of the laudable ¿this American life¿ crew. After hearing him read on the show a few weeks ago I felt it likely worth my while to grab his book if he was anywhere near as thoughtful and entertaining as his fellows david Sedaris & Sarah vowell; lucky me, he is.Unabashedly intellectual and fiercely opinionated, this author has a facility of language somewhat rare in the ranks of the modern humorist. Not since twain and wilde has such a fierce wit been paired with such keen nuance of the written communique. Highly educated and ruthlessly self deprecating rakoff leads us into a series of fascinating excursions to places no less far flung than Tokyo, reykjavik, & new jersey,narrating with his distinctly wicked but undeniably compelling perspective. While not more than occasionally laugh out loud funny, this book felt somehow less trivial than most of the humor reading I do. Peppered with words and phrases I had to look up (she admits to her chagrin) I walked away from this one feeling edified; not just because I felt safer armed with my dictionary, but because of the amusing yet nonetheless consistently thought provoking observations of this transparently erudite author. Well worth it, recommended.
sweans on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book hoping it would be like a David Sedaris book. Silly me. No one is like David Sedaris! I still really liked the book and will probably read another one by Rakoff. I feel a little smarter after reading this book. I look up words I'm not sure of when I read and I lost count of how many I had to look up in Fraud! It was like he was writing with a thesaurus in hand.
auntangi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have enjoyed David Rakoff's essay on PRI's "This American Life" for years, so I was quite excited to read this book of essays. The first several essays were quite light and clever, with just a hint of darkness...classic Rakoff. As I read on, however, the essays lacked any hint of snarky and, well, just wern't funny. Now, this might have been by design. Mr. Rakoff is not David Sedaris (although on the radio they have very similar voices) and his goal is not to make us laugh. Perhaps, he intended to ease the reader in with the lightness and once we were hooked, bring on the deep. And this is not to say that they were not well written, just not exactly what I signed up for. I don't know if I will read him again...might just stick with listening to him on "TAL".
2percentmilk on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found Rakoff's book thoroughly funny, especially his experience working at a ice cream parlor for a funny Greek couple. Some of the stories though, I felt as though I was waiting for the funny/interesting parts. Overall, a very funny book!
kishields on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The essay on Steuben seagull leading a spirituality retreat at Omega House is to die for. If you like David Rakoff on "This American Life" you will not be disappointed by this funny collection.
Daedalus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reading about Rakoff's experience with Seagal was funny. The rest of it genuinely felt like the critics were defrauding me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cypher walked in.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
No doubt David Rakoff is a talented writer. I may have approached this book with my expectations too high after reading so much David Sedaris, but they have uniquely different approaches to their crafts. While Rakoff has a lot of funny things to bring to light, he's a bit too verbose and his biting sarcasm sounds too much like an inside joke at times. While Sedaris amuses his readers by mocking himself in a simple yet hilarious manner, Rakoff gets carried away with his big-word vocabulary and lost me at certain points. It's a decent book, just not all that funny. But hey, that's just me and I could be wrong.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. It is witty, sarcastic, and humourous. I would recommend this book to anyone who has a friend who tells really great stories, because you will feel like David is that friend! If you have ever been in a low level corporate job, you will really enjoy the story about his first job in NYC. I always wondered if anyone else thought of calling in sick on secretaries day, too!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Rakoff chooses the perfect wording and tone to describe his various personal experiences. This book will definitely change your outlook on many things in common society. Well worth the money and reading more than once!
jaybeeunix More than 1 year ago
First of all, I didn't like this book: While it had occasional funny parts, I felt the entirety of the book was an attempt by Rakoff to convince the reader (since he clearly doesn't believe it himself) that he's gay, Jewish, and Canadian. As a gay man myself, I thoroughly enjoy good self-deprecating gay humor (think David Sedaris), but there is no real depth or connection to Rakoff's "gaiety". His "btw, I'm gay" statements are more of a caricature or parody of gaiety -- There are few, if any, gay connections in this book to a believable existence. For self-deprecating humor that includes a Jewish identity, Chelsea Handler does a much better job of fluidly incorporating that part of her identity into her stories. She finds a way of drawing the reader into the story and connecting with them via her "Jewish" comments. Rakoff displays none of that ability. In this book, he uses his Jewish "identity" to distance himself from his readers, and, in fact, beat them over the head with his Jewishness (do we really need a Hebrew or Yiddish word in every paragraph?). This entire book seems to be about Rakoff drawing a line around himself: "This space around me is GayJewishCanad-ia and no one else is allowed in!" But, he should look around, I don't find his self-cleaved box to be gay, Jewish, or Canadian.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is unfair to hold anyone to the David Sedaris standard, and that might be working against this book. Still, although his stories are ok, he takes too many tangents. He tries much too hard to describe every little thing and in the end the stories lose their momentum. Many of his side comments are distracting. It is not a horrible book, but it isn't very good, either.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. David Rakoff is not a happy man. It seems like he should be--he has a good career, lots of friends, but sometimes that just isn't enough. This book punctures the myths about happiness. Rakoff pulls off the astonishing task of showing us the cold center of intelligence but somehow, you feel warm about it. I read an essay and somehow feel better about things. Buy this. You'll be glad you did.