Friday, August 10th, 2012

David Rakoff, 1964 – 2012

David Rakoff—writer, aesthete, genius, New York devotee (the City was "the great love of my life," he wrote), exceptional reporter and observer, performer, director and incredibly kind person—died after a phenomenally unfair and incredibly prolonged series of medical travails, which rarely slowed his creative output or his deeply human black humor. In early 2009, a pinched nerve was discovered to be a malignant sarcoma, caused, he said, by the radiation treatments from the lymphoma he'd had two decades before. An incredibly complicated and ethical person, Rakoff channeled his anxieties both into crafts, making elaborate products in his incredibly organized home such as duct tape wallets, but also into a phenomenal amount of writing.

The work he leaves behind—both recorded and in the collections Fraud, from 2001, Don't Get Too Comfortable, from 2005, Half Empty, from 2010—are all ahead-of-their-time documentations of the way we actually do live now. There was no better correspondent from New York City of his time.

In a short piece from 16 months ago, he wrote understatedly and generously about his illness and treatment and doctors. This quiet bit, for instance, would be rendered in histrionics by any other writer. Instead, it communicated the empathy that was at the heart of his entire body of work.

24 Comments / Post A Comment

churlishgreen (#49,256)

This is terribly sad news. Such an excellent writer and observer. RIP.

gregorg (#30)

if only I'd hated cupcakes sooner. this is really depressing.

Mount_Prion (#290)

And New York is now that much less New York. RIP.

So so sad. Truly heartbreaking.

josh_speed (#97)

+1. :-(

hockeymom (#143)

A beautiful writer. What a loss.

henhawk (#2,853)


Daniel Sargeant (#7,340)

Everyone have a good cry:

Kurban Said (#236,864)

From "The Best Medicine" in Fraud:

“She talks about [Robin] Williams as if he were penicillin or the polio vaccine … Robin Williams is a good competent actor when he shuts up, which is never. And this is too bad because Robin Williams isn’t actually all that funny. He is the Billy Joel of comedy, accessibly catchy in the initial moment, but with the shelf life of yogurt.”

From the same essay:

“As with most audiences when there is a celebrity onstage, our laughter is performative, disproportionate, and noncontextual: a semaphoric ass kiss across the footlights. Here we are, famous person! We get you!”

hman (#53)

My favorite gay Candian/American. What a soulful voice.

InfoMofo (#505)

If you haven't seen it- his performance earlier this year as part of the This American Life live show was extremely moving and manages to find comedy and beauty in the midst of tragedy.

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wicki (#243,657)

Before becoming a full-time writer, Rakoff worked for 13 years in the publishing industry, including as a publishing assistant and a publicist. He worked at a literary agency for 3 years and then as an editor and communications manager for HarperCollins,where he worked for 9 years. For a period starting when he was 25, Rakoff wrote as a freelance while working in the publishing industry. Eventually he was able to earn a living from his writing, becoming a full-time writer in 1998. While Rakoff was working in publishing, he wrote Q and A interviews entitled "The Way We Live Now", which appeared in The New York Times Magazine from 1999 to 2002.

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As with most audiences when there is a celebrity onstage, our laughter is performative, disproportionate, and noncontextual: a semaphoric ass kiss across the footlights. Here we are, famous person! We get you. He is the great actor.

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