I’ve recently been catching up on all the episodes of This American Life I’ve missed over the last few months and came across the news that regular contributor David Rakoff had died of cancer in early August. It was especially jarring because one of the episodes that aired in July called “Show Me the Way”, included a piece by Rakoff entitled “Oh, the places you won’t go!”. You should listen to it.
The piece was in rhyming couplets (at least for Dr. Seuss) and consisted of letters between Gregor Samsa of Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Dr. Seuss (in this case, a bug doctor). The pieces is funny and poignant and incredibly creative.
Herr doctor, I find myself, for reasons inexplicable to me or my loving family, to have woken up this morning transformed into a cockroach. I am reasonably certain this is not a dream. Can you help?
I am usually in very fine fettle in the morning. But as a result of my new condition, I find myself unable to go into work. And while my life has never been what you might call a bed of roses, this unfortunate turn of events has certainly made it worse.
By way of example, this letter has been composed by painstakingly mashing my antenna into the keys of my father’s typewriter. It has taken me close to four hours and has left me with a horrendous migraine. I write to you because I have heard of your brilliance and your keen appreciation for the absurdity of this world. Please help. Yours, Gregor Samsa, Prague.
Samsa, I’ve only just opened your letter. Fear not, worry neither. We’ll soon have you better. You might feel like a freak, but I’ll make you quite well. Your problem’s unique, yet your name rings a bell. A silkworm I knew used to live in a trillium. I think his name was Samsa. Or was it Fitzwilliam?
Oh, well. Please forgive me. My mind is a haze. One really meets so many faces nowadays.
If you ooze like a slug or you prick like a cactus, every ill-feeling bug finds his way to my practice. Whether dozens of styes mar your 100-eyed face, whatever your ailment, you’re in the right place. Not to brag, but I’ve never yet failed to determine whatever root causes were vexing a vermin.
Rest assured, I’ll endeavor to glean and deduce. You’ll be better than ever or my name isn’t Seuss.
When people get to rhyming, you always know the pros when someone can keep up the rhyme scheme without forcing too much to keep the piece rhyming. You know when you hear a line that was clearly put in just for the sake of rhyming? It’s pretty clear. And destroys some of the integrity. (I know I got marked down for that during my high school poetry assignments).
But David Rakoff’s rhyming is incredible.
And the way he reads his work is wonderful.