When I was fifteen, I climbed a mountain with my father and younger brother and sister.
I assure you that this was not my idea.
I was relieved to reach the summit, but much distressed by the unpleasantness of the descent, the heat and bother and bugs and rocks. The unpleasantness was much exacerbated by my absent sense of balance and deep-seated fear of falling, which also precludes me from enjoying roller coasters, ladders, deck stairs, and broken dining room chairs. And at the end of it all, the gift shop was closed, and so it was sans-T-shirt that I proclaimed, with bad grace, my triumph over the mountain and physical exertion.
That mountain was Mount Monadnock, in New Hampshire, the most-climbed mountain in the world, and the backdrop to the first essay in David Rakoff’s perfectly tuned collection entitled Fraud. Mr. Rakoff, who died last year, was a satirist and contributor to This American Life on NPR, and I’m sorry to say that he did not appear on my radar until last week, when my friend A. brought Fraud over to have a dramatic reading of an essay on Steven Seagal at a New Age center. My friend assumed, correctly, that my husband would find it vastly amusing, and indeed, he did (as did I). However, the reading also led to plans for a Seagal movie marathon, so I wasn’t sure how indebted I was feeling toward A. Until I opened up the book (he accidentally left it behind) and found the epigraph:
You’re maudlin and full of self-pity. You’re magnificent. –Addison De Witt
Anyone who begins a book by nodding to All About Eve has earned my love and admiration. Seagal marathon forgiven. I’ll be returning the book before I have a chance to finish the essays, but I’ll come back to it, soon, I hope.