Gay humorist and essayist David Rakoff dies of cancer

Frequent contributor to NPR's This American Life was 47 and had written about his cancer battle

Gay humorist and essayist David Rakoff dies of cancer
10 August 2012

It was just last year that David Rackoff won the prestigious Thurber Prize for American Humor for his essay collection Half Empty.  One of the essays, another shoe, had the author ruminating about his battle with cancer and how there was chance he would have to have his left arm and shoulder amputated.

‘There are other extra-functional and non-cosmetic realities I have to consider,’ he wrote. ‘How does someone without a left arm know he’s having a heart attack, for example?’

On Thursday (9 August), Rakoff died from the cancer at the age of 47.

By the time of his death, the openly gay author had become a popular writer and radio personality making frequent appearances on the National Public Radio show This American Life.

His malignant tumor was diagnosed in 2010 ago and came more than 20 years after he had beaten another form of cancer: Hodgkins lymphoma.

Rakoff won Lambda Literary Awards for his first two books of essays, Fraud and Don’t Get Too Comfortable.

His writing reflected his life as a gay, Jewish man, his various neuroses, and his trademark negativity.

‘Because David’s writing was so goddamn funny, he was often mischaracterized as a satirist, but a satirist employs exaggeration to drive home social criticism, and David saw and portrayed the world clearly,’ his longtime editor, Bill Thomas, said in a statement to the National Post. ‘Underneath the indelible wit and perfect turns of phrase lay a sadness that people can be so cruel and selfish, and a belief that the only weapon against the world’s brutality was kindness and beauty.’

Shortly before his death, Rakoff had completed a novel which was written in verse called Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die; Cherish, Perish.

‘I had my doubts about the project when he proposed it, but I was wrong,’ Thomas said. ‘It is written with humor and sympathy and tenderness, and proves him to be the master of an altogether different art form.’

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