The Story Within a Story

David Rakoff, writer and consistent contributor to NPR’s This American Life, was an incredible wordsmith and creative mind. His life was cut short by cancer in 2012, but during his life he managed to tell a handful of stories that have stuck with me since I heard/read them. In his book, Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish: A Novel by David Rakoff, there’s the story of a man named Nathan who gives a toast at his best friend’s wedding. The only problem is that Nathan’s best friend, Josh, is marrying his ex, Patricia, and the two relationships had a scandalous overlap.

My favorite piece of this story is the tale within Nathan’s toast that ties the entire thing together. The fable of the “The Scorpion and the Tortoise” is one that I had never heard prior to Rakoff’s Seussian retelling. I have searched for other interpretations or origins of the tale in popular culture, but the only one that comes close to Rakoff is Drive (2011).

Sometimes the metaphorical myth that a character in a story tells can just be heavy-handed foreshadowing like in Dark Knight Rises (2012) or only serve to make a muddled plot seem like it had a larger meaning than it did like in Paper Towns (2015). However, sometimes a story within a story fits so frustratingly well that it sticks with you for much longer than the original story itself. As a writer, those are the kinds of stories I want to tell.