It’s been a bad few weeks — the literary world has been robbed of yet another glorious voice. David Rakoff, whose print and radio essays were some of the darkest yet most violently life-affirming things you will ever encounter, died on Thursday from the cancer that first appeared when he was just 22 years old.
His books (Half Empty, and particularly Don’t Get Too Comfortable) are rich with life and haunted with death, like most of the best writing is. He served on the airwaves of National Public Radio and on the shelves of smarter bookstores everywhere as a kind of grumpy conscience, the mordant cousin to David Sedaris (who championed his early writing).
In this fantastic segment from a live-recorded episode of This American Life from just this past May, Rakoff talks about his youth, dance, what he termed “all this nonsense”, and getting on with life after an operation severed the nerves that controlled his left arm.
“I’m done with so many things,” he says with the glint of sadness which always gave his humor that unique sting.