Book Review: Half Empty by David Rakoff


Half Empty Cover

Half Empty by Rakoff, David

Anchor Books Paperback (an imprint of Doubleday, which published the original hardcover edition), 224 Pages

Copyright 2010

ISBN-13:  978-0767929059


Wisdom and a talent for humor should always be appreciated.  Half Empty, the last collection of essays published during David’s Rakoff’s lifetime, is a beautiful example of life experience, calm perspective and comic relief.

The ten essays in this book cover separate topics, but all address one type of absurdity or another (Note:  There are different definitions of the word “Absurd,” and the author was aware of this.  Humor is not always emphasized because not all absurdity is funny.  For clarification, please spend the next few years studying existentialism).

Yes, Mr. Rakoff covered existential absurdity in his writing. Sometimes he was able to make existentialism funny, too.  Go figure.

I suspect the author didn’t load up on book knowledge of Mormonism before visiting Salt Lake City.  His visit is documented in the third “expedition” in the essay A Capacity For Wonder.  The statements are based on observation, and we make a mistake if we react by saying, “But what about the three levels of the hereafter? He doesn’t say anything about that.”  The essay is presented as an outsider’s view, and Mr. Rakoff had no illusions about ever being an insider in any LDS community.

We can debate how many “themes” exist in this book.  However, it really comes down to one thing:  The world is a huge place, and sometimes that’s made clear without anyone having to travel very far.  Mr. Rakoff had a rare gift for describing a huge world in an entertaining way.



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