New releases this week include the much-hyped The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume I. Also out in nonfiction is President Obama’s picture book Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (author of Seabiscuit), as reviewed by the New York Times, Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, and, for hip-hop fans, Jay-Z’s memoir Decoded.
Legendary jazz musician and composer Cal Massey receded from active performance in the 1950s in order to concentrate on composition. His works went on to be recorded by John Coltrane, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard and many other greats. To honor his indelible mark on jazz music and African-American culture, Fred Ho and Ben Barson will present a series of concerts in Harlem’s Red Rooster restaurant. Barson also wrote a lengthy introduction to Massey’s life and legacy.
“Aspiring journalists tend to worship at the altar of Joan Didion,” writes Heather Havrilesky (who some of you may know as Polly) in the latest issue of Bookforum. The fact that so many writers look up to Didion as an example necessitates that the lit world find at least one offbeat alternative. In Havrilesky’s eyes, that alternative is obvious: the late Nora Ephron was the anti-Didion, she argues.
New this week: Summer House With Swimming Pool by Hermann Koch; I’ll Be Right There by Kyung-Sook Shin; The Book of Unknown Americans by Year in Reading alum Cristina Henríquez; In the Wolf’s Mouth by Adam Foulds; The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh; The Girl Who was Saturday Night by Helen O’Neill; and two new books, Paper Lantern and Ecstatic Cahoots, by Stuart Dybek.
On his podcast, David Naimon spoke with poet Morgan Parker about her new collection, There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé. It’s a book “at the intersections of mythology and sorrow, of vulnerability and posturing, of desire and disgust, of tragedy and excellence,” Naimon says. (Bonus: Parker’s book was recently featured in Nick Ripatrazone’s list of five poetry collections you should buy.)
“The broad expansion of digital journalism has led to a growing overlap in the work and roles of newspapers, digital-only news sites, and magazines.” The Pulitzer Prize Board announced yesterday that both print and online magazines will be eligible for the 2017 journalism prizes. This doesn’t make up for 2012, but it’s an improvement.
Nathaniel Philbrick answers the question Why Read Moby-Dick: “the level of the language is like no other,” but also “it’s as close to being our American Bible as we have.”