Podcast: Our Friend David

David Rakoff at the 2006 Texas Book Festival via Wikimedia Commons

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.

Since his death, I have read a number of articles and posts about him including this New York Times article and this beautiful and very personal tribute by an old college friend.

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

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Categories: Books/Book Reviews, Random


I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at https://notesfromafrica.wordpress.com and http://southerncape.wordpress.com (my photoblog)


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13 Comments on “Podcast: Our Friend David”

  1. August 21, 2012 at 9:28 am #

    I listened to the podcast tonight, and I thought it was just perfect.

    WireTap also aired a collection of David Rakoff pieces this week, although it wasn’t as personal or moving as the TAL show: http://www.cbc.ca/wiretap/episode/2012/08/17/rakoff-tribute/

    • August 22, 2012 at 7:49 am #

      Yes, TAL did a perfect tribute, didn’t they? Thanks for the WireTap link – I downloaded the podcast last night, but haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet.

  2. August 21, 2012 at 10:50 am #

    Sad news.

  3. August 21, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

    I listened to one of the podcasts – he sounds brilliant. I regret not having heard about him before.

  4. August 22, 2012 at 3:12 am #

    This is so sad. I didn’t even realize he had died. Thanks for letting me know.

  5. August 23, 2012 at 2:30 am #

    It was sad to learn of his passing. You’re probably already familiar with his writings, but Byliner has a nice sampling and they link to the full essay at the source.


    • August 23, 2012 at 8:06 am #

      Thanks for link, Jackie. No, I hadn’t read all his online essays. Just read “The Waiting”. Wow – some of that painful honesty that many of us (including me) are too scared to confront.

      • August 23, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

        Yes, I needed to take a deep breath after that one. What I love about his writing is that he never falls to sappy sentimentality or tries too hard to make you feel sorry for him. He was a gifted writer for sure.

      • August 23, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

        That’s exactly what I love about his writing. He talks about his feelings without the “sappy sentimentality”. And that’s also what I liked about the This American Life tribute to him. It’s very personal and moving, but not being over sentimental.

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