David Rakoff, an author and essayist whose work frequently appeared on NPR’s “This American Life,” died Thursday (Aug. 9) after fighting cancer for the past few years. He was 47.
Rakoff has published three essay collections: 2001’s “Fraud,” 2005’s “Don’t Get Too Comfortable” and “Half Empty” from 2010, which includes a piece on the return of his cancer, which he was first diagnosed with at age 22. All three collections as well as his “This American Life” work were praised for their sharp, darkly comic observations of contemporary life, and “Half Empty” won a Thurber Prize for American Humor.
Born in Canada, Rakoff worked in publishing before pursuing his own writing career. He became friends with author David Sedaris, who helped Rakoff get his work on radio, which in turn helped his essay collections find an audience. He also wrote the script for an acted in “The New Tenants,” a short film that won an Oscar in 2010.
Among his pieces for “This American Life” were a story about playing Sigmund Freud in a Barney’s window display one Christmas, a remembrance of his teenage job at a family-owned ice cream shop and a 2001 chronicle of his visit to the crafts department at Martha Stewart Living.
You can listen to “Christmas Freud” below, starting about 38:25 in; more of Rakoff’s “TAL” pieces are collected at the show’s website.