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Book News: Toni Morrison's Collection Finds A Permanent Home At Princeton

A woman looks at an oil portrait of Toni Morrison at the National Portrait Gallery. A self-portrait of sorts, Morrison's life of fiction drawn in words will be permanently kept at Princeton.
Nicholas Kamm
AFP/Getty Images
A woman looks at an oil portrait of Toni Morrison at the National Portrait Gallery. A self-portrait of sorts, Morrison's life of fiction drawn in words will be permanently kept at Princeton.

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

The collected papers of Toni Morrison will be housed in the permanent library of Princeton University, the school announced Friday. Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber broke the news to attendees at a recent conference for the school's black alumni.

At the announcement, Eisgruber said, "Toni Morrison's place among the giants of American literature is firmly entrenched, and I am overjoyed that we are adding her papers to the Princeton University Library's collections."

The research materials contain some 180 linear feet of documents, including manuscripts of some of Morrison's best-known works. Among the papers are drafts of Song of Solomonand Beloved, notably, but also Morrison's lectures, diaries and children's literature.

In some ways, the announcement comes as no surprise (unlike news of another collection lately). The 83-year-old Nobel laureate taught on the school's creative writing faculty for 17 years, retiring only in 2006. Just last year, Morrison was celebrated at Princeton's commencement with an honorary doctoral degree.

A selection of Morrison's papers will be on display at Princeton's Firestone Library until Nov. 20.

A Pen That Carried The Lives Of Writers:Literary biographer Park Honan has died at the age of 86. He passed Sept. 27, but word is just now coming out. The American writer was best known for his exhaustive tomes on a raft of English literary titans — Matthew Arnold, Jane Austen and even Shakespeare, a daunting figure for any biographer to tackle. As David Lodge recalls in The Guardian, "His frustrated desire to be a published novelist found an outlet in biographical narrative, and helped him to achieve something he called 'historical presentness' — the effect, for the reader, of accompanying the biographical subject as she or he moves through time and space."

Houston, We Have A Plot Twist:Tom Hanks has dipped a toe in the world of fiction, penning a short story called "Alan Bean Plus Four," out now in The New Yorker. The tale — four friends questing for the moon on a space capsule jury-rigged from Home Depot duct tape — is as much Italo Calvino as it is Apollo 13. Below, you can also listen to Hanks himself read the story aloud. Be careful even with this comedy, though: Hanks has a history of making us cry.

Flipping Ahead

New in print (and screen)

Emmanuel Carrere's Limonovfollows the life of Eduard Limonov, the incendiary Russian writer known as much for his fascist remarks as for his writing. Hopscotching from Ukraine to Moscow to New York and Paris, from life as a homeless poet to a billionaire's butler to a political dissident, Limonov's extraordinary career lends itself to cinematic telling. And Carrere is up to the task.

Morning Edition host David Greene took two trips across Siberia in a third-class rail car, all in the hope that he might better get to know the Russian citizens whom he, at that time, covered as a journalist. The results are collected in his new book, Midnight in Siberia.And as he tells his co-host Steve Inskeep, the cramped conditions on board helped him get to know his fellow passengers a little more intimately than expected. "You know, if you had a lower bunk bed, if someone wanted to come in and get up to his or her upper bunk, the assumption was, you shouldn't care if I need to basically step on your face while you're sleeping to get up. That's the way this is! We're sharing this space!"

Chuck Palahniuk goes back to the well, picking apart consumer culture and sex in his new novel, Beautiful You. As always with Palahniuk, and in particular with this satire of the sex toy industry, the well brims with images a bit unfit for this family column. So forgive me if I just leave them to your imagination.

Events to watch out for

The winners of the inaugural Kirkus Prize will be announced Thursday. One writer apiece in categories for fiction, nonfiction and young readers' literature will receive $50,000 from Kirkus Reviews. For the lists of writers in contention, head here.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Colin Dwyer covers breaking news for NPR. He reports on a wide array of subjects — from politics in Latin America and the Middle East, to the latest developments in sports and scientific research.