November 2, 2010

Half Empty, by David Rakoff

Apparently I missed the point of this book. I was so bored by the first essay, a rather academic one on the power of "defensive pessimism", that the idea that this philosophy would be the theme of the book was lost on me. In the following essays, his trick of using multiple oversized words in long, long sentences made my eyes glaze over. It's a shame, because I really enjoyed his last two books, Fraud and Don't Get Too Comfortable, and I love him on This American Life. I guess I was expecting something really witty and sharp, and that's not what I found.

That being said, I think the essays which read more like they'd been previously published in Esquire or something were quite amusing, and the last essay on his battle with cancer was fantastic. Just one small quibble of Canadianness- he mentions that having his cancer treatment in Toronto is an option, but he chooses to have it in his adopted home of NYC. Later he says that he had a fight with his insurance company, using it to illustrate the point of American health care not being that great. So why not get treated in Canada, where that wouldn't have been a worry? Anyway. My pride in our system aside, this book wasn't my favourite, but it's definitely a superior option.

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