paper trail

Hilary Mantel, author of historical fiction, has died; Dan Charnas’s book on J Dilla will be adapted as a documentary

Hilary Mantel. Photo: Els Zweerink 

Hilary Mantel, the British author of seventeen books including Wolf Hall, Bring Up the Bodies, and The Mirror and the Light—which comprise her trilogy based on Thomas Cromwell’s life—has died at the age of seventy. In addition to her prize-winning historical fiction, Mantel wrote criticism and essays for the London Review of Books, contributing over fifty pieces since 1987. Today, the Review will unpaywall and share a selection of those writings. At his Substack, Leo Robson reflects on Mantel’s philosophy of historical fiction, her influences, and her friendship and collaboration with the Huntington Library archivist Mary Robertson. 

Jewish Currents has published “An Open Letter to American-Jewish Intellectuals,” which Edward Said wrote in 1989 but has never been published before now. The letter has two new introductions, by Peter Beinart and Nubar Hovsepian. Said writes, “I do not minimize what for Jews is an age-old problem of persecuted alienation and exile, but you also must understand the wounding immediacy for us of quite literally witnessing our home turned into someone else’s house.”

For 4Columns, David O’Neill reviews New Yorker staff writer Hua Hsu’s memoir Stay True. The book, a remembrance of Hsu’s childhood friend who was killed young, was twenty-plus years in the making. Hsu and Ken were masters of hanging out, engaged in an ongoing “conversation about movies, music, crushes, imagined futures, and then seeing how far they could take it.” Years later, “When Hua reads Ken’s annotated copy of What Is History?, he’s touched that Ken has underlined the same passages he would have, ‘not the obvious thesis statements, but Carr’s playful digressions.’ In this reading, their conversation continues, until it can’t anymore.”

For the New Yorker’s Page Turner, Sam Thielman reviews Kate Beaton’s new graphic novel, Ducks, in which the protagonist works in oil sands in Alberta, Canada, in order to pay off her student loans. Thielman writes, “‘Ducks’ is anchored by Katie’s time in the mines, but it seeks to show her experiences as typical of a much larger swath of workers who are lured to the oil sands at the cost of their health, their dignity, and sometimes their lives.” 

Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson will lead a team producing a new documentary about musician and producer J Dilla. Joseph Patel, Darby Wheeler, Cinetic Media, and Scenario Media will work with Thompson to bring Dan Charnas’s book Dilla Time to the screen. In the spring issue of Bookforum, Harmony Holiday reviewed the book and meditated on Dilla’s influential, radical art and his posthumous album Donuts: “Anyone whose taste I trusted mourned or studied Dilla, and Donuts emerged as a scripture for souls who wanted to avenge the time spent on the dull side of time by immersing themselves in the album’s matter-of-fact beauty.”