Friday, August 10, 2012

Half Empty

"How does one articulate the ongoing sadness of after?"

I feel like I've been writing too damn many of these in the past year—which really just means "any at all"—but even with practice, I feel like I'm very not good at them. I always feel so horribly unqualified, not to mention unprepared; it's not as if I sit around thinking "what would I say about so&so if he/she died?"—especially since I prefer to delude myself with the belief that everyone I care about in any sense of the word will continue living forever. And it already takes me far longer than it should to piss about with writing, re-writing, nit-picking, and finally giving up, saying "fuck it," and hitting "Publish" when I'm writing about something that doesn't matter. It never seems possible to give anyone the kind of tribute they actually deserve. But you shut the fuck up about it and just do it anyway because, good enough or not, they deserve your best effort, which, I hope, is this:

I first discovered David Rakoff simply because of a cover blurb by David Sedaris on his first collection of essays, Fraud. PROTIP: When one of your favorite authors calls someone "the wittiest and most perceptive man in the world," you fucking listen. By the end of the week, I owned and had read both Fraud and Don't Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, The Torments of Low Thread Count, The Never Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems, which were the only two he'd written so far. Meanwhile, the expanding pile of work on my desk went largely unnoticed—by me, anyway—as I laughed, sometimes even to myself, while I read.

And then I listened—not often, but when I thought of it. Occasionally I would catch him on This American Life, and of course, I would laugh then, too. I took the opportunities for granted because not only was he only in his 40s, but he was going to live forever anyway. Still, whether it was out loud or on paper, he immediately became another of my examples of How You Funny. So, for a brief moment this morning when I saw his name trending, I forgot about the Laws of Twitter and got excited. This lasted exactly two seconds until I remembered that any time someone's name is trending on Twitter, it is a Bad Fucking Thing. It's always either a) some total douchecannon that you wish would have the decency to go the fuck away forever and stop inflicting themselves upon the world, or b) someone fucking awesome who has died because the universe is a total dick that's already taken Maurice Sendak, Ray Bradbury, Nora Ephron, and Gore Vidal this year, but apparently that wasn't good enough, so it had to take David Rakoff, too. At 47.

So today, too late as usual, I'm listening to his contributions to This American Life and reflecting on yet another huge loss for the writing community, and for the world. You can find his contributor page here:, and I would strongly encourage you to listen to every single one of them. And laugh. Laugh, because we need it now more than ever.
"But how lovely those moments were, gone now except occasionally in dreams, when one could still turn to someone and promise them something truly worth their while just by saying "hey, watch this!"
P.S. You can find what others have said, probably much better than I, here:

And one in his own words:

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