I came across Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish kind of randomly. There was a DVR’d episode of The Colbert Report playing, and my ears perked up as soon as I heard Sarah Vowell talking about some fabulous new novel. David Rakoff, known for his essays, was unfortunately not there to promote his own book: he lost his battle to cancer last August shortly after finishing this book.
It’s a novel that spans the twentieth century, and it’s written entirely in rhyming couplets (anapestic tetrameter, to be exact). Each chapter features a different character, and by the end, Rakoff weaves the stories together; sometimes the connections are obvious, and sometimes the thread comes in the form of a passing reference. It’s inventive and fun to read, and although I did hit a few areas where the phrasing became awkward, I thought the book was fabulous, taking readers on a journey from the grimy turn of the century through the AIDS epidemic.
Here’s an example from the second wave feminist era:
She had all the trappings that go with the life of
The thoroughly satisfied, marrified wife of
A man who might keep her, despite the new battle
That said wives were really no better than chattel,
The difference too scant between “bridal” and “bridle”
And girls who’d had everything, now suicidal,
Finally finding their voices to speak
Of their feminine fetters, this loathsome mystique
I snapped up the ebook from the library as soon as I saw it was available and my ereader is a really basic Nook, so I didn’t get the full visual effect on my black and white device. There are gorgeous illustrations — full page portraits of the characters drawing on the style of the book cover (though the cover designer and illustrator are two different people) — throughout the book. The hardcover version of the book, which I intend to buy ASAP, takes the artwork even further.
The book is funny, sad, beautiful, and unconventional. It’s sad that he’ll no longer be around to share his talent with the world, but talk about going out with a bang. It’s easily my favorite book so far this year, and I’ve never encountered anything quite like it.
Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish was published on July 16, 2013 by Doubleday.