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David Rakoff Dead at 47


The remarkable essayist and wit was 47 years old.

Photo by Flickr User Pop!Tech

David Rakoff once described himself as a "'New York writer' who also happens to be a Canadian writer, a Jewish writer, a gay writer and an 'East Asian Studies Major Who Has Forgotten Most of His Japanese'" writer. The Awldescribes Rakoff as "exceptional reporter and observer, performer, director and incredibly kind person." He died yesterday at 11:30pm in his Tudor City apartment, "surrounded by his loving family," the New York Times reports.

In addition to voice acting, radio, and an attempt at film acting, Rakoff wrote for many publications, including the New York Times Magazine, GQ, New York Magazine, and Salon, among others. He was closesly associated with fellow gay humorist David Sedaris in the early 1990s, after hearing the not-yet-famous Sedaris read his essay on playing a Christmas elf at Macy's on the radio. In his acclaimed 2001 book, Fraud, Rakoff wrote about his experience in contracting Hodgkins disease in his early 20s, writing that the malady was "so highly curable that I like to refer to it as the dilettante cancer." He was also a winner of the 2010 Thurber Prize for American Humor for his essay "Half Empty."

In 2011, Rakoff published an essay in the Times magazine saying that he was being treated for "a rather tencious sarcoma around the area of my left collarbone." He also appeared in New York Magazine's Daily Intel blog, filling out a questionnaire about his day-to-day life in anticpation of the release of Half Empty, his third book of essays. One question asked him what his favorite medication was. His response:

"That's fairly glib. Right now, it's a combination of Ifosfamide, a chemotherapy drug, and Oxycontin, 30 milligram extended release. Now doesn't my earnest answer make you feel like a shit-heel, O callous disembodied list of questions?"

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