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Don't Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, The Torments of Low Thread Count, The Never- Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems [Format Kindle]

David Rakoff

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Descriptions du produit



George W. Bush made me want to be an American. It was a need I had not known before. A desire that came over me in a rush one day, not unlike that of the pencil-necked honors student suddenly overwhelmed with the inexplicable urge to make a daily gift of his lunch money to the schoolyard tough. I have lived in the United States, first as a student then as a resident alien, under numerous other administrations, including what I once thought of as the nadir of all time: the Cajun-scented, plague-ravaged Reagan eighties in New York; horrible, black years of red fish and blue drinks. A time when greed was magically transformed from vice to virtue. And after that the even greedier nineties, when the money flowed like water and everybody's boat rose with the tide (except, of course, for those forgotten souls who had been provided not with boats but with stones, and no one told them. Oh well, tra la), and all through that time, aside from having to make sure not to get myself arrested at demonstrations, I was sufficiently satisfied with a civic life of paying taxes and the occasional protest.

But George changed all that. Even though I am not a Muslim and I come from a country that enjoys cordial relations with the United States, I no longer felt safe being here as just a lawful permanent resident. Under the cudgel-like Patriot Act, a shoot-first-ask-questions-later bit of legislation, there are residents who have been here since childhood, other folks who sired American-born children, who have found themselves deported--often to countries of which they have almost no firsthand knowledge--for the most minor, not remotely terrorist-related infractions. Those people are never coming back, at least not during this administration. I don't want to be put out of my home, and like it or not this is my home. I have been here longer than I haven't. After twenty-two years, it seemed a little bit coy to still be playing the Canadian card. I felt like the butt of that old joke about the proper lady who, when asked if she would have sex with a strange man for a million dollars, allows that yes she would do it. But when asked if she would do the same thing for a can of Schlitz and a plastic sleeve of beer nuts, reels back with an affronted, "What do you think I am?" to which the response is, "Madam, we have already established what you are. Now we're just quibbling about the price." Becoming a citizen merely names a state of affairs already in place for a long time.

Even so, once I reach my decision, I don't make my intentions widely known. I tell almost no one, especially no one in Canada. You can only know this if you grew up in a country directly adjacent to a globally dominating, culturally obliterating economic behemoth, but becoming an American feels like some kind of defeat. Another one bites the dust.

The naturalization application can be downloaded directly from the government's website. It is ten pages long but can be filled out over the course of an industrious day or two. It takes me four months and one week. I got delayed twice, although not by the usual pitfalls of questions requiring a lot of documentation from over a long period. I have no problem, for example, with Part 7, Section C, in which I have to account for every trip I have taken out of the United States of more than twenty-four-hours' duration for the last ten years, including every weekend jaunt to Canada to see the family. I have kept every datebook I have ever owned. I pore over a decade's worth of pages and list all of my travels from most recent backward. I create a table with columns, listing exact dates of departure and return, plus my destination. It is a document of such surpassing beauty, it is virtually scented. Not since I threaded puffy orange yarn through the punched holes of my fourth-grade book reports have I so shamelessly tried to placate authority with meaningless externals.

No, my first hang-up occurs at Part 10, Section G, question 33: Are you a male who lived in the United States at any time between your 18th and 26th birthdays in any status except as a lawful nonimmigrant? I make my living with words and yet I cannot for the life of me begin to parse this question with its imbedded double negatives and hypotheticals. How are any nonnative speakers managing to become citizens, I wonder? Part of my clouded judgment is due to fear. I don't want to piss them off, and I am worried that a wrong answer will immediately feed my name into some database for a wiretap, a tax audit, or an automatic years-long "misplacement" of my application; some casual gratuitous harassment that a thuggish administration might decide to visit upon someone they identified as a troublemaker. I spend an entire afternoon trying to map the grammar and come away with nothing but a headache and no idea. This is in early March. I put the form away in my drawer and forget about it, my dreams of inalienable rights felled by just one question. I put all thoughts of citizenship out of my head, until one evening in July, four months later, when, as I'm dropping off to sleep, the clauses fall into place and the lock turns and I realize the answer is a simple "no." With inordinate self-satisfaction, I soldier on. Have I ever been a habitual drunkard? I have not. A prostitute, a procurer, or a bigamist? Nuh-uh. Did I in any way aid, abet, support, work for, or claim membership in the Nazi government of Germany between March 23, 1933, and May 8, 1945? Nein! Do I understand and support the Constitution? You betcha. If the law required it, would I be willing to bear arms on behalf of the United States?

Again I stop. The same headache as before marches its little foot soldiers across my cranium. I put the application back into the drawer and return to my bed, not picking it up again until seven days later when I surprise myself by checking "yes."

I figure it's grass soup. Grass soup is exactly what it sounds like. It's a recipe for food of last resort that my father apparently has squirreled away somewhere. I have never actually seen this recipe, but it was referred to fairly often when I was a child. Should everything else turn to shit, we could always derive sustenance from nutritious grass soup! At heart, it's an anxious, romantic fantasy that disaster and total financial ruin lurk just around the corner, but when they do come, they will have all the stark beauty and domestic fine feeling of a Dickens novel. Young Tiny Tim's palsied hand lifting a spoon to his rosebud mouth. "What delicious grass soup. I must be getting better after all," he will say, putting on a good show of it just as he expires, the tin utensil clattering to the rough wood table.

A grass-soup situation is a self-dramatizing one based on such a poorly imagined and improbable premise as to render it beneath consideration. Michael Jackson saying with no apparent irony, for example, that were he to wake up one day to find all the children in the world gone, he would throw himself out the window. Mr. Jackson's statement doesn't really take into consideration that a planet devoid of tots would likely be just one link in a chain of geopolitical events so cataclysmic, that to assume the presence of an intact building with an intact window out of which to throw himself is plain idiotic. As for grass soup itself, from what I've seen on the news, by the time you're reduced to using the lawn for food, any grass that isn't already gone--either parched to death or napalmed into oblivion--is probably best eaten on the run.

All by way of saying, that if there ever came a time when the government of my new homeland was actually calling up the forty-something asking-and-telling homosexuals with hypo-active thyroids to take up arms, something very calamitous indeed will have to have happened. The streets would likely be running with blood, and such moral gray areas as might have existed at other times will seem either so beside the point that I will join the fight, or so terrifying and appallingly beyond the pale that I'd either already be dead or underground.

For most of my life, I would have automatically said that I would opt for conscientious objector status, and in general, I still would. But the spirit of the question is would I ever, and there are instances where I might. If immediate intervention would have circumvented the genocide in Rwanda or stopped the Janjaweed in Darfur, would I choose pacifism? Of course not. Scott Simon, the reporter for National Public Radio and a committed lifelong Quaker, has written that it took looking into mass graves in former Yugoslavia to convince him that force is sometimes the only option to deter our species' murderous impulses.

While we're on the subject of the horrors of war, and humanity's most poisonous and least charitable attributes, let us not forget to mention Barbara Bush (that would be former First Lady and presidential mother as opposed to W's liquor-swilling, Girl Gone Wild, human ashtray of a daughter. I'm sorry, that's not fair. I've no idea if she smokes). When the administration censored images of the flag-draped coffins of the young men and women being killed in Iraq--purportedly to respect "the privacy of the families" and not to minimize and cover up the true nature and consequences of the war--the family matriarch expressed her support for what was ultimately her son's decision by saying on Good Morning America on March 18, 2003, "Why should we hear about body bags and deaths? I mean, it's not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?"

Mrs. Bush is not getting any younger. When she eventually ceases to walk among us we will undoubtedly see photographs of her flag-draped coffin. Whatever obituaries that run will admiringly mention those wizened, dynastic loins of hers and praise her staunch refusal to color her hair or glamorize her image. But will they remember this particular statement of hers, this "Let them eat cake" for the twenty-fi...

Revue de presse

A Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year

“If you’ve ever thought that the world makes no sense, there is one author who will help you laugh along…. Whether Rakoff is detailing one of the last flights on the Concorde, touring the craft department of Martha Stewart’s Living magazine, or visiting a private island near Belize to witness a Playboy video shoot, Rakoff’s humorous cultural critique balances his distain with a sharp wit that has one chuckling along for the ride.” — The Calgary Herald

“He’s funny, he’s smart, and not merely does he not suffer fools gladly, he doesn’t suffer them at all. The pleasure of reading what results when an exceedly sharp pen encounters an exceedingly inviting target are not to be denied, and Rakoff offers many such delights in these pages. …bloated wallets and bloated egos are his subjects here, and he deflates them with precision and self-evident satisfaction.” — Miami Herald

“David Rakoff is at his cynical best in Don’t Get Too Comfortable[He] takes no prisoners in this book… There’s something to amuse and offend everyone.… Rakoff is a master wordsmith whose rapier wit and shrewd story manipulation are matched only by his ability to find poignant humanity in the most unexpected places… [A] thoroughly entertaining book.” – The Edmonton Journal

Praise for Fraud:
Fraud marks the debut of a significant new voice . . . Rakoff is something special.”
The Globe and Mail

Praise for David Rakoff:
“With Fraud, David Rakoff manages to successfully pass himself off as the wittiest and most perceptive man in the world.”
—David Sedaris

“Rakoff likes to paint himself as urbane to a fault, an outsider anywhere unpaved. But then, in the woods or on a mountaintop, he reveals himself, despite his searing and hilarious observations, to be a completely unrelenting romantic.”
—Dave Eggers

“Possessing a wicked wit and a sharp, elegant writing style, [David Rakoff] has become known as one of our most potent humourists.”
The Oakland Tribune

From the Hardcover edition.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 612 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 240 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 0767916034
  • Editeur : Anchor (20 septembre 2005)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B000FCKD0U
  • Synthèse vocale : Non activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Word Wise: Non activé
  • Composition améliorée: Activé
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°172.520 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)

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Commentaires en ligne

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Amazon.com: 3.6 étoiles sur 5  100 commentaires
37 internautes sur 37 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Great book! 20 juin 2006
Par bookish327 - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:CD|Achat vérifié
My husband and I listened to this audiobook on a car trip last week. We both really enjoyed it (as well as the audiobook for Rakoff's other book, FRAUD), but I do admit to nodding off close to the end. (My excuse was that I'd taken an over-the-counter medication for motion sickness. But, maybe he was sometimes a little bit long-winded. Not all the time, though, because we were often laughing out loud at his turns of phrase.)

I greatly enjoyed his humorous, observant style of writing. He entertained me while enlightening me on what it would be like to go on a late-night scavenger hunt through New York City, for example. Some reviewers seemed to have the wrong expectation about what this book was about. I didn't feel like Rakoff had made it his "goal" to delve into American excess; I just think that this was the general theme that tied these essays together. This wasn't meant to be a thesis explaining "This is why Americans are the way they are." These essays are just Rakoff's observations on the ironic quirks of American culture. I just enjoyed the essays for what they were without expecting him to give me a sociological explanation for what was behind everything he wrote about. People who were expecting that were reading the wrong book.

Some other reviewers have criticized Rakoff's delivery when he read his book for the audio CD. In my opinion, his manner of speaking ADDED to my enjoyment of his work. It helped me imagine him in all of the situations he was in. Because he's gay, he can take a detached, third-party view of the soft-core photo shoot he witnesses at the luxury resort, as well as the Hooters Air flight he takes. He's observing the ironies of these situations, but not distracted by the women's "physical charms." Can you imagine a more macho, "man's man" performance of these essays by a different narrator giving you the same impression of the absurdity Rakoff feels in these situations? No, Rakoff is what he is, and his narration comes off to me as true to how it would sound as an anecdote he'd share when talking to a friend. So, I, for one, hope he continues to be the reader of his own work, for audiobook purposes.

Also, to those who complain that Rakoff shouldn't criticize America because he's Canadian by birth, I think that this gives him a unique perspective that has merit. He had lived (legally) in America for many years before he became a U.S. citizen, and he seemed to consider New York City to be his home. Just because he has complaints about the naturalization process, as well as darkly humorous opinions about the eccentricities of Americans, doesn't mean that he completely regrets becoming a U.S. citizen. I would think that people who give up citizenship in the country they were born in often have misgivings along the way (and afterward) that they might be making a mistake. That's a pretty life-changing decision to have made, and his honesty in feeling kind of like a stranger in a strange land is natural. Especially when you have serious concerns about the politics of your adopted nation's leader.

I look forward to Rakoff's next book, because his unique take on our society can make us think about what seems normal to us, while making us laugh at his turn of phrase at the same time.
97 internautes sur 105 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Born to kvetch. 27 novembre 2005
Par E. Bukowsky - Publié sur Amazon.com
In "Don't Get Too Comfortable," a collection of essays by David Rakoff, the author skewers the excesses and abominations of American society. In a chapter called "Love It or Leave It," the Canadian-born Rakoff discusses how his issues with our current administration helped him decide to apply for American citizenship. In later chapters, Rakoff describes a ride on the Concorde, a visit to a secluded tropical isle for the very affluent, a morning spent with the sidewalk groupies on the Today Show, and a consultation with several plastic surgeons to discuss his physical flaws.

Rakoff is a skilled writer, who uses original and sharply turned phrases in his criticism of greed, hypocrisy, heartlessness, rampant materialism, homophobia, and just plain stupidity. He makes fun of Log Cabin Republicans, fans who stand for hours on a New York sidewalk longing to be noticed by Al Roker, rich people who decide to cleanse their systems by fasting, and individuals who attempt to cheat death by having themselves cryogenically and expensively preserved with the hope of someday being "reanimated."

Although "Don't Get Too Comfortable" is often funny and always irreverent, Rakoff's satire sometimes misses the mark. For example, a chapter about foraging in Prospect Park for edible flora is boring and pointless, as is an essay devoted to "Midnight Madness," a silly scavenger hunt on the streets of New York City. Too often, Rakoff comes off as petty and spiteful, someone who complains simply because he enjoys kvetching. However, Rakoff is often self-deprecating, which does take some of the edge off the scorn he directs towards others. Although far from perfect, the essays in this slim volume are worth reading for their style and cleverness. There is enough humor and bite in "Don't Get Too Comfortable" to earn it a marginal recommendation.
16 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Quality book. 30 avril 2006
Par Scaachi Koul - Publié sur Amazon.com
I picked up this book right after I saw David Rakoff on The Daily Show. Watching the interview between Jon Stewart and Rakoff, I got the impression (like many of the other reviewers here) that his book would delve deep into the idea of excess and why the world wants more and more of everything. Instead, I found something just as wonderful, but more about the humor than the intellect.

Albeit his essays are witty and smart, I found that they concentrated more on an anecdote than they did an actually comparative study. However, I was less than disappointed.

Some chapters I found dull and devoid of interest, but still, the others made up completely for it.

All in all, a good book if you're looking for something witty and smart. I enjoy his litterary style, a sort of snarky, I-know-I'm-right douchebaggery. And it's true; he's right.
29 internautes sur 33 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 What do the simple folk do? 24 novembre 2005
Par Debra Morse - Publié sur Amazon.com
This sharp little collection of essays by David Rakoff is a well executed satire of our hyper-indulged, self-entitled, over-consuming society. Rakoff tosses his articulate, queen-y rants at everything from elitist varieties of salt, to twenty-day fasts and foraging in Central Park. His use of vocabulary is marvelous. At times smug, and at (rare)times self-effacing, Rakoff's humor is acid with a pinch of sugar. "...far from being bobos in paradise, we're in a special circle of gilded- age hell".
15 internautes sur 16 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Seeing the World Just a Little Bit Different 29 octobre 2005
Par John Matlock - Publié sur Amazon.com
How often have we filled out some incomprehensible Government form that we know we have to get right because it's the law. It takes a special mind to look at some of these questions and make it into a catchy essay.

Mr. Rakoff has that kind of mind. It seems he can find a story in almost anything. And that's what this book is, a series of little stories, essays on the human condition in today's downtown New York City for the most part. The stories have a feeling that they were written for something else, one of the magazines for which Mr. Rakoff works pehaps. That doesn't matter, I don't read any of those magazines, so they're new to me.

Like all good stories, these have a small lesson to teach. The point out the silliness of a lot of today's life. In looking at other reviews of this book, some people are more annoyed than amused. To them, all I can say is lighten up, so he doesn't like Bush, most New Yorkers liked the War Protester and the Ambulance Chaser.
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