Saturday, October 19, 2013

Shelf Life [adult]

Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die; Cherish, Perish by David Rakoff
@SPL: FIC Rakof

Alternate forms of fiction seem to be having a moment. A while ago, I reviewed Neil Gaiman’s luminous adult fairytale The Ocean at the End of the Lane in this space. Now I’ve got another fictional oddity for you: a novel written in verse. Please meet the late David Rakoff’s magnum opus, Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die; Cherish Perish.

No, don’t run away. I know what you’re thinking because I thought it too. Verse is so restrictive – how can you tell a good story while worried about internal rhyme schemes and meter? How incredibly pretentious is this going to be? Who does Rakoff think he is, 2D Shakespeare?

Relax. Rakoff – who passed away in August 2012, weeks after completing Love, Dishonor and days after recording its audiobook – had nothing if not a finely tuned sense of humour about himself, and a beautiful sense of the rhythm and music of language. At the end, those were nearly all he had, and he distills both qualities into Love, Dishonor.

The novel follows an ensemble cast through lives that could be called difficult. One young girl rides the rails across the country to escape a horrific stepfather; another young man escapes small-town bigotry and finds freedom in San Francisco’s gay counterculture in the 1970s and 80s. All the characters’ stories are connected by acts of grace that seem insignificant, but that echo profoundly.

Rakoff’s verse is by turns bawdy, funny, heartbreaking and redeeming. His stanzas contemplating mortality are particularly wrenching, all the more so for their sing-song style and light touch. You can feel Rakoff reckoning with his terminal illness through his characters. Rarely is literature so visceral (for a real shiver down your spine, download or borrow the audiobook and hear Rakoff utter the words himself). Ultimately, and to my surprise, I swallowed up Love, Dishonor in one sitting over just a few hours. It wound up being tied for my favourite book this year. Love, Dishonor is highly recommended to any fans of literary fiction, and especially those who want a little something different in their reading pile.

This review appears in The Stratford Gazette on October 17, 2013. Written by Shauna Costache, Librarian.

No comments:

Post a Comment