David Rakoff lost his long battle with cancer on August 9. He was 47. A unique literary voice and humorist, in his writing, Rakoff was a self-effacing, cheerful cynic.
I fell in love with David Rakoff's writing when my friend, Ron, told me that he thought David and I were alike in our cynicism, pessimism and (I suppose) in utilizing them to get a laugh. Shortly after that, I received all of David's books in the mail; my friend decided I should find out for myself.
Well, of course, propriety requires me to say he was wrong. But I secretly delighted in thinking that Ron might occasionally think of me when he read or heard David Rakoff. After all, I thought, since I admire Ron for his intelligence and judgment, couldn't I make a few personal tweaks and arrive safely in Rakoff territory? (The answer is no.) And while reading Rakoff's books for myself, I couldn't help asking whether I might be better off if I could mimic his approach toward life and his fellow human beings. (The answer is yes.) David Rakoff was a great pessimist, but much of his writing has such a gracious tone that even when he wrote about a fool, whether it was himself or someone else, there was a whiff of forgiveness.
His essays often end like old 1940s serials -- with a sense of "that's it for now, but we'll revisit this topic later and see where we stand. Tune in next week for the further adventures of this American cynic."
But now we're on our own. We'll have to finish our stories without David Rakoff's witty and gentle wisdom. If you've never read a Rakoff title, pick one up and you may meet a new friend. If you've read David's essays, maybe it's time to visit an old friend. Check out Half Empty; Fraud or Don't Get Too Comfortable.
Goodbye, David -- and thanks for judging us.
Find a touching video of one of David's last public readings here.
Read "This American Life" colleague Ira Glass's tribute to Rakoff here.
Friends Jack Kunin and Marilyn Amer continually teach that there is no justice nor compassion nor friendliness at the table of life. If you want such virtues YOU must bring them to the party. The same can be said of cynicism and that wit that brings out a "whistle through the teeth" smile from the laconic. David is looking on ..... Have it in ya'.
an' I've laughed to tears with your lines and quote them.
I can't imagine higher praise. And I hope David will be keeping an eye on us all!
Thanks for this touching and sweet tribute. I, too, adored David Rakoff -- for his humor, his compassion, and his intelligence.