Only David Rakoff, iconoclast extraordinaire, could cause us to simultaneously break two pillars of this space on a hot summer Sunday when we should seemingly have energy for little more than sipping something cool.
Today’s Poetry Sunday—a page normally devoted to women’s poetry—spotlights a work of fiction. By a man.
“Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish,” published just last week, is a novel in rhymed couplets about relationships. For that reason alone it may squeak by as qualified for placement on this page. That it was written by perhaps the kindest realist ever to have taken pen to paper would be another reason. That David left this earth last August isn’t reason enough, but it is part of the all of it.
One of the finest essayists to grace the page ever, David Rakoff was what we at Women’s Voices for Change aspire to inspire and to be: abidingly gender blind in concepts of goodness and worth. Those who worked to be good to others and were true to their talents, whatever they might be, were worth his time. And to be worth David’s time was to be treated to intelligence, perception, and wit rarely encountered separately, and almost never all in one person.
This YouTube video tells a lot of the story of Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish Perish, and watching it is one of the most touching and entertaining things you could do with your time today.
A sample passage from “Love, Dishonor . . .” tells a great deal about the iconoclasm and powers of observation David brought to his work. He knew how women felt as well as he knew what men thought.
Susan had never donned quite so bourgeois
A garment as Thursday night’s Christian Lacroix.
In college—just five years gone—she’d have abhorred it
But now, being honest, she fucking adored it. The shoulders, the bodice, insane retro pouf,
Where once an indictment, now good, calming proof;
She’d no longer be tarred by the words “shame” or “greed,” Tossed about by the weak. No,
now Susan was freed!
From that bit, one might get the picture that this posthumous work of humor and power is merely an acerbic observation of human foibles. It gives nothing away to say again and again the surprising punch line comes clear in David’s sly vectoring to the heart of all of our insecurities and needs.
I think what it means is that central to living
A life that is good is a life that’s forgiving.
Forgive us for indulging in an obvious tribute to a friend in a space where we have been true to objectivity and editorial distance. “Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish” is a chance for all of us to break self-imposed rules of judgment and humorlessness. For that reason alone, it is another legacy of a great writer, a wonder of a person and someone forever very much worth getting to know. Google him. You’ll see.