The Uncollected David Rakoff, ed. Timothy Young, 2015

Discovering David Rakoff is if not the best reason to read widely and randomly, at least a very good reason.  I laughed; I cried; I loved this book.  Rakoff (Spoiler Alert!) died in 2013 at 47, when a sarcoma that developed secondary to radiation treatment for Hodgkins Disease which he had in his 20’s proved to be too much despite multiple surgeries, radiation, chemo etc.  What a terrible loss!  He had been a mainstay on This American Life, interviewed twice by Terry Gross, an op ed writer for the NYT, and a contributor to many magazines, but I had never crossed paths with him until  this volume, recommended as a Notable Book by the NYT.  What a funny, ironic, sarcastic, erudite, loving, discerning, and wonderful stylist Rakoff was.  His observations on the gay life in the 21st C in New York are delicious, his travel writing is so good you want to pick up and immediately visit Nova Scotia, Tofino, etc, and his verse novel which is included in this volume in its entirety (77 pages of plot, character, action, family saga all in verse) are superb pieces of writing.  My tears at the conclusion of the book were partly about the novel but mostly about Rakoff’s way too early death.  Like Carolyn Heilbrun, Bill Morrissey, Updike, Mailer, and Bellow, I will miss the chuckles and the tears that he would have brought me in the future years had he lived.  One of the many spot on observations he made is this one from This American Life not long before he died:  Look, mine is not a unique situation. Everybody loses ability—everybody loses ability as they age.  If you’re lucky, this happens over the course of a few decades.  If you’re not…..But the story is essentially the same.  You go along the road as time and the elements lay waste to your luggage, scattering the contents into the bushes.  Until there you are, standing with a battered and empty suitcase that, frankly, no one wants to look at anymore.  It’s just the way it is.  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.”