David Rakoff


David Rakoff : biography

November 27, 1964 – August 9, 2012


Early career

Before becoming a full-time writer, Rakoff worked for 13 years in the publishing industry, including as a publishing assistant and a publicist., March 15, 2002. Retrieved January 20, 2010. He worked at a literary agency for 3 years and then as an editor and communications manager for HarperCollins,, Miami Herald May 11, 1991. Retrieved March 10, 2010. where he worked for 9 years. For a period starting when he was 25, Rakoff wrote as a freelance while working in the publishing industry. Eventually he was able to earn a living from his writing, becoming a full-time writer in 1998. While Rakoff was working in publishing, he wrote Q and A interviews entitled "The Way We Live Now", which appeared in The New York Times Magazine from 1999 to 2002.See for example, , The New York Times, March 17, 2002. Retrieved January 20, 2010.

Role of David Sedaris and Ira Glass in Rakoff’s career

Rakoff said that he owed David Sedaris and Sedaris’s producer, Ira Glass, his entire career.. Retrieved January 20, 2010.Terzian, Peter , Newsday May 13, 2001. Retrieved January 20, 2010. Rakoff wrote to Sedaris in 1992, after hearing him read on the radio his essay about being a Christmas elf, which was to make him famous. That day, he wrote to Sedaris immediately to ask if he could publish Sedaris’s works (which he later confessed he had no intention of doing, since he was desperate to leave publishing).Dowling, Brendan, , Public Librarians May/June 2008. Retrieved January 20, 2010. They became friends, with Rakoff doing work in the theatre with Sedaris, first directing a play written by Sedaris and his sister Amy Sedaris, and later acting in their plays. Through Sedaris, Rakoff met Ira Glass, who was then a junior reporter on the NPR radio program Morning Edition. When Ira Glass began This American Life, Rakoff became involved with the new show at its inception.Salazar-Rubio, Sofia, , The Daily Californian, February 2, 2008. Retrieved January 20, 2010. Sedaris encouraged Rakoff to go on public radio, where Sedaris himself had achieved fame: at his urging Rakoff took work to This American Life, starting with "Christmas Freud", an account of Rakoff’s job impersonating Sigmund Freud in the window of Barneys department store during the holidays.The piece appears in Fraud, his first collection published in 2001. (October 27, 2005). .


Rakoff was a prolific freelance writer and a regular contributor to Conde Nast Traveler, GQ, Outside Magazine and The New York Times Magazine. His writing also appeared in Business 2.0, Details, Harper’s Bazaar, Nerve, New York Magazine, Salon, Seed, Slate, Spin, The New York Observer, Vogue, Wired and other publications. He wrote on a wide and eclectic range of topics.

Published books of essays

Rakoff published three bestselling collections of essays, which include his own illustrations. Both Fraud (Doubleday 2001) and Don’t Get Too Comfortable (Doubleday 2005) were awarded a Lambda literary award (which recognises excellence among LGBT writers who use their work to explore LGBT lives), both times in the "Humor" category.. Half-Empty (2010) won the 2011 Thurber Prize for American Humor.


Fraud includes essays that are largely autobiographical and humorous. Rakoff stated, in relation to the theme of the book: "The central drama of my life is about being a fraud, alas". He went on to say "That’s a complete lie, really; the central drama of my life is about being lonely, and staying thin, but fraudulence gets a fair amount of play."Rakoff, David, "In New England, Everyone Calls You Dave" in Fraud: essays (2001), p 17. He has said that he thought of other titles for Fraud, like "Smart mouth" and "The jig is up".Richards, Linda, , January Magazine, November, 2001. Retrieved January 20, 2010. Rakoff described the first person essays that comprise the collection as more inwardly focused than his later work. The work contains material from public radio’s This American Life and from Outside and Salon, which was significantly lengthened and re-written, as well as a few new pieces.Seven of the stories ("In New England Everyone Calls You Dave", "Arise, Ye Wretched of the Earth", "Before & After Science", "Hidden People", "Christmas Freud", "We Call it Australia" and "I Used to Bank Here, but That Was Long, Long Ago") first appeared on Public Radio International’s This American Life, "Including One Called Hell" and "The Best Medicine" first appeared in GQ, "Extraordinary Alien" appeared in The New York Times Magazine, "Back to the Garden" in Outside and "Tokyo Story" in Conde Nast Traveler. The book received praise from many critics, garnering near-unanimous acclaim. In a review Publishers Weekly wrote that "a talented new humorist springs onto the scene: Rakoff has a rapier wit, slashing in all directions with slice-of-life insights and cutting remarks, sometimes nicking himself with self-deprecation in his dexterous duel with the American experience".. Kevin Cowherd said that in the book, Rakoff "makes a strong bid for the title of Most Neurotic Man on the Planet, and the results are absolutely hilarious – when they’re not achingly revealing and tinged with sadness"Cowherd, Kevin, "Rakoff’s essays could win him the title of Most Neurotic Man on the Planet, The Baltimore Sun, May 26, 2001. and Max Magee called the collection a "meta-article in which he talks about the particulars and relative merits of his assignment as he embarks on that assignment",Magee, Max, , themillions.com, May 10, 2005. Retrieved January 20, 2010. and that "the reader feels invited in for a behind the scenes look at what it is like to be a disaffected, overly-qualified, under-ambitious journalist as he takes on his fluffy assignments". David Bahr calls Fraud "witty, insightful and typically bittersweet".Bahr, David, , The Advocate, July 3, 2001. Retrieved January 20, 2010. Other reviews of the book. and audio-book. were mixed. The reviewer in The New York Times mentioned (by way of criticism) that Sophocles and Freud had also pursued the same idea that forms the book’s focus, that is, that we are defined by our fears.Cho, Christina, , The New York Times, June 24, 2001. Retrieved January 20, 2010. Greil Marcus said Rakoff’s stories are not as funny as those he read on the radio.Marcus, Greil, , Salon, August 20, 2001. Retrieved January 20, 2010.