Replacement Child

A family comes to terms with its haunting past.

A Writer Writes, Thanks David Rakoff

Writing through illness and pain; an inspiration to this writer.

I am reading David Rakoff’s new, last book, Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish, published posthumously following his death last year. It is an amazing accomplishment, a novel written totally in verse. Not a usual poetry fan, I was tentative. But, because I believed in Rakoff’s talent, I ventured into the book and was immediately captivated.

What also captivated me was knowing that Rakoff wrote, and illustrated this impressive breakout work while in the throes of dying of cancer.

Others have written through their illness, their last illness. Nora Ephron (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nora_Ephron) famously finished her last play, Lucky Guy, during the worst of the illness that finally took her life. She received a posthumous Tony nomination for Best Play for Lucky Guy in 2013. But Ephron always wrote through her pain. Through divorce, heartbreak, aging; it was our pain too. I too hate my neck. How she did it while entertaining us and making us laugh out loud was her unique gift. Sometimes I wonder how we will all continue to understand our own aging process, and be able to put it in perspective, without Nora around to guide us.

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So. That’s what writers do. They grab and clutch at the writing like it’s some kind of life raft that will float them to a new level of consciousness. And, may be it does. But, even as I write this, the knowledge undermines me, makes me feel less of a writer than I would like to think I am. The truth is that when I am sick, as I have been for the last few months, I can’t put together a sentence let alone think through a plot structure or character development. Not to mention when I recede into the never never land of pain medication. Oh, the dreams and nightmares are very vivid, but no one wants me to write those stories, believe me.

I would like the secret, pretty please, of these writers who plug on when everything around them is falling apart. Their very bodies. And, I am in awe of their strength and commitment to their art. You only need to watch David Rakoff’s video, his last performance where he dances [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ldqjM7x6NhE] to feel the power of his talent, his humor, his unique artist’s perspective. He was an inspiration then, as he is now as I finish reading his incredible novel/poem. At least it got me to write these few sentences. More than I’ve done in a month. Thanks David. You are missed.

 

Judy Mandel is a writer based in Connecticut. She is the author of the memoir Replacement Child.

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