Although I did not know David Rakoff (a comic essayist – amongst other things) personally, I was very sad to hear he had died of cancer at the age of just 47.
I first heard of him via the This American Life radio programme. Since we don’t get the American radio services in South Africa, I download the public radio broadcasts via podcast every week. Listening to him read one of his stories, or just talk about a subject, it felt like he was talking directly to me via the earphones of my mp3 player. He was one of the “voices in my head” which I often listen to before going to sleep at night. I quickly became a fan of this witty, smart, talented and at times painfully honest man.
And of course I listened to the This American Life tribute to him. They did a beautiful piece, weaving recordings of David Rakoff, with narration by presenter Ira Glass, to tell his story. You can listen to or download it here: This American Life episode 472: “Our Friend David”
One of my favourite pieces that David Rakoff ever read on This American Life is the essay “In New England Everyone Calls You Dave” from his book Fraud, which starts with . . .
I do not go outdoors. Not more than I have to. As far as I’m concerned, the whole point of living in New York City is indoors. You want greenery? Order the spinach.”
. . . and then he goes on a hike in New Hampshire! I enjoyed and laughed at this story because even though I have a background in the biological sciences and at one time worked as an ecologist, I find being outdoors difficult. There is just too much sun, too much heat, just too much . . .
You can listen to it here: “Act Three. Climb Every Mountain” from This American Life episode 118
What remains of your past if you didn’t allow yourself to feel it when it happened? If you don’t have your experiences in the moment, if you gloss them over with jokes or zoom past them, you end up with curiously dispassionate memories.
― David Rakoff, Fraud: Essays