Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish, by David Rakoff

There are a number of ways in which this novel by David Rakoff could be written off as cliché. (Read “a novel by” aloud. The phrase completes the rhyme and rhythm—anapestic tetrameter—of the six-word title.) First, and most obviously, the entire posthumously published novel is written in rhyming couplets—a style used without irony these days only in greeting cards and pop lyrics. Second, and less obviously, a vision of a woman’s beauty stands at the novel’s thematic center. But Rakoff was master enough of his craft that his rhymes lapse into doggerel only when he chose: in a character’s tacky wedding toast, for example. His characters manage to be archetypes that are plausibly, endearingly human.

 

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