If someone had handed me this book of essays and said anything about what was inside it [something like "here, it’s some humorous reflections of a gay Jewish Canadian living in New York, it’s hilarious"] I would have hidden the book far away and never looked at it again. Instead, I picked it up of my own volition and enjoyed it. The problem is, there are too many unfunny Jewish new Yorkers, there are also too many unfunny gay 30-something hipsters. There are some really funny Canadians, however. This book is Rakoff’s look at a bunch of different things: Climbing Mount Monadnock, going to a Steven Segal Buddhist retreat, finding out he has cancer.
Oh yeah, there’s nothing funny about cancer and Rakoff devotes a small amount of time basically apologizing for riffing on a disease that may be giving other folks real trouble. He also suspects out loud that his brush with cancer may be one of the reasons he can never really approach tough subjects head-on. Basically, he doesn’t seem to be doing the stuff that pother humor writers my age seem to be doing -- he doesn’t play the wry detatched observer, he doesn’t play the city mouse in a country setting [too much] and he doesn’t make fun of people. He basically looks at new situations, finds out what is interesting, meeets people he likes and talks about it in a number of shortish essays with illustrations that he made himself. And it’s pretty good.