I just found out that David Rakoff passed away a few days ago, which is very sad news indeed. I always enjoyed his work. The day before he died, I was in the Tate Modern (because I’m always in the Tate Modern), walking through the Transformed Vision gallery, and listening to This American Life, when his and Jonathan Goldstein’s story “Oh! The Places You Will Not Go!” began to play.
It was a beautiful story, but also the perfect story for that moment, for the feelings that were overwhelming me. I was on holiday, and had been wandering like a ghost for days (perhaps it is worth noting that I haven’t spoken to a human being in person in two weeks), and in this room I felt like I was melting into da Silva’s “The Corridor” and that London itself had been swirling around me like the corridor in the painting. It reminded me of the Underground, when I was so tired that I felt the walls begin to spin. There was a perfect union between my feeling of unrealness, of Kafkaesque abstraction and alienation from the things around me, and the twisted paintings, and the Metamorphosis half of the story; but it was the Seuss half, David Rakoff’s half, that made me start crying in the museum. It was funny, but — the offer of connection, of friendship, to a character as lost as the protagonist in a Kafka story just made me lose it. It was one of the most wonderful segments I’ve ever heard on This American Life; you should really give it a listen.
Before our charwoman disposed of him, I took one last look and saw that Gregor’s shell had cracked open, and just underneath were little wings. He was a beetle, not a cockroach as we had feared. A beetle, nothing more. Even the word is lovely. I know that ever since his childhood, Gregor had always had very vivid dreams of flight, that left him happy in the morning. If only he himself had known, I kept thinking.