Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Half full

Is it just me or has this summer had an unusual number of deaths of public figures?

Usually, the deaths of the famous don't really affect me that much. Oh, if it's someone I was a fan of, I'll be sad for a little while, but that's it. But every once in a while, the passing of a writer or musician or artist of some sort hits me hard. About a decade ago, it was singer/songwriter Elliott Smith. I'm not even sure why. I mean, I liked him--but I only had one album of his, and I wasn't exactly an Elliott Smith Super Fan. Still, something about his music had burrowed deeply enough into my psyche to make his untimely death feel like it had happened to someone I knew well.

And, this summer, I find myself shaken by the death of writer David Rakoff. Perhaps it's the intimate nature of radio, where I first encountered him, on This American Life. I often listen to that show, on which he was a frequent guest, in my car--and now, on my iPod--where it can feel as if the person speaking is talking directly to me. Whatever the cause, his work has been on my mind a lot lately.

The most recent episode of This American Life is embedded below. It gives an overview of his work for that show, and includes a short excerpt of him reading from his last book, to be published this fall. He was very ill by the time it was recorded--he has to strain to speak--and as the piece deals with the death of one of the main characters of the novel ... well, I was listening to it while eating dinner out, by myself, and I found myself getting weepy. Tearing up while eating a salad at Fairway is not something I was expecting to do last night.

I recommend that you listen to the whole program, but if you just have time to listen to a part of the show, make it the excerpt of the novel, 41 minutes in, if only so that I'm not the only one with tears in his eyes.


Kausar Bilal said...

Your post reminded me of the sudden death of a famous poet, Parveen Shakir, and I took days to recover from the shock and grief, just because I loved her work.
A very impressive post...

Jim Donahue said...

Thank you!