David Rakoff was an essayist and actor. He was equal parts sardonic and melancholy, abrasive and vulnerable, neurotic and charming. His stories, whether read in one of his collections of short essays or heard over the radio as a part of This American Life, were, for lack of a more descriptive word, perfect. They were little ninjas of emotion. Sad and heartfelt tales that snuck up on you with sarcasm and the occasional dick joke only to punch you in the heart when you least expected it.
Not were. Are. His stories are perfect.
David Rakoff died yesterday. He was only 47 years old, but his second bout with cancer was too much to overcome. Rakoff had previously been diagnosed with and eventually beaten what he called “a touch of cancer” (Hodgkin’s disease) when he was only 22 years old. The second diagnosis came in 2010 after it was discovered that the pinched nerve in Rakoff’s arm that had caused him two years worth of pain was being pinched by a tumor, a revelation that the writer shared with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show. He added, as only he could, “So, it’s great though.”
Rakoff was a unique, hilarious, and sometimes haunting voice. He will be missed.
Must-Reads from Rakoff:
• Rakoff on his cancer for the New York Times.
• Rakoff’s blog on all the movies of a Woody Allen film festival for Tablet.
• Rakoff on basket weaving in North Carolina for the New York Times.