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That time Prince saved a public library, and more book news

On this lovely spring weekend, why not catch up on some book news? Here's the best of the web for the week of April 25.

  • The writer Jenny Diski passed away this week, and the London Review of Books is spotlighting her old essays. I particularly recommend "A Diagnosis," on her cancer diagnosis; "Mother’s Prettiest Thing," on grief, illness, and David Bowie; and "Diary," on Roman Polanski and "rape-rape." Here's an excerpt from "A Diagnosis":

Sullen rudeness is a possible option handed to us cancerees. It would institute a period of bad behaviour as one’s own private glumly gleeful saturnalia, world turned upside down, lord of misrule regulated havoc, for a short period before the great slog of getting on with it began again, cancer or no cancer. I probably couldn’t sulk unto death, no matter that I’m one of the foremost sulkers on the planet. I’d get hungry. Or want to watch TV. Or even have an itch I had to scratch, and any such desire immediately and fatally cracks the implacable wall of sulk.

  • Warsan Shire, the poet behind the spoken-word segments of Beyoncé's Lemonade, is now famous. The New York Times has a profile.
  • You probably didn't know that Prince once quietly donated $12,000 to a public library that served a predominantly black community in Louisville to keep it open.
  • Speaking of Beyoncé and Prince, obviously you will want to read Hilton Als on Beyoncé, Prince, Octavia Butler, and Cecil Taylor.

[Octavia] Butler is the dominant artistic force in the movie version of "Lemonade." Shot by various young filmmakers, ranging from Kahlil Joseph to Melina Matsoukas, the movie is accompanied by lyrics that chronicle the anxiety of infidelity and resolution—no love, let alone any coupling, is perfect—but it’s the black female body, Butler’s great subject, that struggles against and sometimes breaks free of Beyoncé’s pop perfection.

  • Two of the psychologists behind the CIA’s "enhanced interrogation program" wrote a book about it. Hopefully their lawyers are thrilled, because they just successfully argued in court that these two psychologists had nothing to do with that whole pesky torture thing.
  • The Paris Review is republishing a piece from 1929 by the Russian satirist Teffi (real name Nadezhda Lokhvitskaya) on her first steps as an author, in celebration of her books coming back into print.

I went to the editorial office. It was terrifying. Particularly when I was on the staircase, about to ring the bell. The door was small and dirty. There was a smell of cabbage pie, something I can’t abide. I rang the bell—and thought, "Quick! Run away!"

  • At the Poetry Foundation, John Keene argues for more English translations of non-anglophone black writers:

One of the ongoing problems, if I can state it bluntly, is that if we already are experiencing serious and ongoing crises in American society in part through the omission, elision, and erasure of, and indifference to narratives, stories, and other forms of imaginative expression, in all their complexity, of black American people’s lives and existences—an issue that affects not only black Americans but everyone in the society; as the Native American writer Bill Yellow Robe, among many others, underlined in a talk he delivered at the 2016 Thinking Its Presence conference, the same is true with narratives, stories, plays, and so on by indigenous peoples, to give another glaring example—we further limit our understanding of the world, in multiple ways, in the absence of black stories and voices from outside the Anglosphere, which is not a coherent whole, but nevertheless is limited in its capacity to convey the breadth of experience of black peoples across the globe.

  • On LitHub, Lindsay Lynch talks about why we read the books that make us cry:

There’s something so necessary about picking up an author like Alice Munro, whose stories are equal parts beautiful and devastating, and realizing that someone sees the sorrow in everyday occurrences. I cry when I read Alice Munro and I don’t even cry at the sad parts. I cry when a character gets too drunk at a party because she doesn’t know anybody and makes a fool of herself. I cry when a woman tries on a dress at a boutique and feels bad for wanting something nice for herself. I cry because these moments seem so trivial in isolation but so meaningful in Munro’s capable hands.

Happy reading!

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