He's an urban, witty, gay NPR commentator with a wry look at life, but Rakoff is no David Sedaris. This collection of personal stories, travel adventures and memoirs isn't laugh-out-loud funny. But many of the essays are amusing and thought-provoking. The pieces start out mocking the subject, but end up being self-mocking. The author knows the joke is on him and he invites us to join in.
Still, there is much amusement to be found here. Rakoff's story of a weekend spiritual retreat with Steven Seagal takes all the expected shots at the film star and spiritual leader. But he also shows us what's wrong with the entire self-obsessed setting. His painful summer on a kibbutz has us laughing and wincing as he confronts his sexuality. And his memoir about his cancer treatment is touching because he doesn't act as if it should be.
A Passion to Win
You get a quick dose of Sumner Redstone's tenacity in the opening scene of this autobiography by the head of Viacom, the vast media-entertainment conglomerate. Redstone describes awaking in a burning hotel, climbing out the window and clinging for dear life on a ledge awaiting rescue.
As a schoolboy at Boston Latin he achieved the highest grade point average in the school's 300-year history. His competitive drive languished while he practiced law, but blossomed again when he took over his father's business. Wheeling and dealing over the years he built up the business, which now includes MTV, Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon, Blockbuster and the publisher of this book, Simon & Schuster.
With his gravelly Boston accent, Redstone relishes telling stories of business combat and tactics.