The Arty Semite

David Rakoff Wins Thurber Humor Prize

By Renee Ghert-Zand

  • Print
  • Share Share
Flickr/Pop!Tech

“It’s nice enough to be able to make a living as a writer, so awards are absolutely gravy,” David Rakoff told The Arty Semite after winning the 2011 Thurber Prize for American Humor on October 3 for his third collection of essays, “Half Empty.”

“It’s lovely,” he said in a phone conversation this morning. “But I don’t for an instant presume that I’m on the same level as James Thurber. Nonetheless, it’s a tremendous validation.”

Rakoff, 46, was awarded the $5,000 prize at a function at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City where James Thurber once lived. As winner of the prize, he will appear some time in the next year at a Thurber House event, most likely the Thurber Birthday Gala. Rakoff was nominated for the award last summer, along with Mike Birbiglia for “Sleepwalk with Me and Other Painfully True Stories” and Rick Reilly for “Sports from Hell: My Search for the World’s Dumbest Competition.”

The Thurber Prize was first awarded in 1997, and has been given annually since 2004. Previous winners include David Sedaris, Jon Stewart and Christopher Buckley. One must be an American citizen to be eligible for the award. Rakoff, who was born in Montreal and grew up in Toronto, is a naturalized U.S. citizen and considers himself an American writer. “I’ve lived well over half my life here, and I’ve done all my writing in the U.S.,” he said.

As to whether “Half Empty” stands apart from other works in Rakoff’s hefty portfolio, the writer himself can’t say. “That’s an assessment best left to others,” he said. “It all comes from the same place. One’s hope, I suppose, is that one’s writing gets stronger and better as time goes on.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Thurber Prize, Rick Reilly, Renee Ghert-Zand, Mike Birbiglia, James Thurber, David Rakoff, Books

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "Selma. Nearly 50 years ago it was violent Selma, impossibly racist Selma, site of Bloody Sunday, when peaceful civil rights marchers made their first attempt to cross the Pettus Street Bridge on the way to the state capitol in Montgomery, Alabama." http://jd.fo/r50mf With the 50th anniversary approaching next spring, a new coalition is bringing together blacks, Jews and others for progressive change.
  • Kosovo's centuries-old Jewish community is down to a few dozen. In a nation where the population is 90% Muslim, they are proud their past — and wonder why Israel won't recognize their state. http://jd.fo/h4wK0
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.