Saturday, April 30, 2016

Obituary Note: Jenny Diski

Shelf Awareness

Jenny Diski, a prolific writer "for whom no subject was taboo" and who "was her own woman on the page, incapable of sounding like anyone else," died yesterday, the Guardian reported. She was 68. The author of novels, short stories, essays, memoirs and travelogues, Diski published 18 books.

Her columns in the London Review of Books "were virtuoso performances," the Guardian noted. "She was original, opinionated and wayward. In the LRB, writing about her diagnosis with inoperable cancer, she brazened it out: 'Under no circumstances is anyone to say that I lost a battle with cancer. Or that I bore it bravely. I am not fighting, losing, winning or bearing.' The columns that followed were collected in In Gratitude (2016). She knew how to use her life as copy, and her self-commentary had a gallantry to it. It required her to take a step back, and write with a willed casualness about her past, as if on the brink of disowning it. 'I start with me and often enough end with me,' she wrote."

Describing Diski as "an extraordinary writer of rare spirit and vision," Peter Straus, her literary agent, told BBC News: "In all her writings spanning 40 years she showed herself to be funny, frank and fearless and she leaves as a legacy a remarkable body of work."

Alexandra Pringle, group editor-in-chief of Bloomsbury, commented: "I had the pleasure of working with Jenny some years ago and we were reunited for her latest book, In Gratitude. She was, to the very end, remarkable to work with--funny, acerbic, clever, demanding and entertaining. Peter Straus and I went to see her a few days before publication. It was wonderful to see her joy at holding the first copy of what we all knew was her final book. As her publishers we are very proud of her achievement."

Lennie Goodings, publisher at Virago, told the Bookseller: "We publish nine of Jenny’s extraordinary books, both novels and nonfiction. Her fiction was fascinating: intelligent and searching and quite unlike other novels. I would say though that her best subject was herself.  Beginning with the astonishing, award-winning Skating to Antarctica, and the three memoirs that followed (Stranger on a Train; On Trying to Keep Still and What I Don’t Know about Animals) she used her own inner life to observe the world and it was always utterly fascinating and surprising--even gripping. I honestly can’t think of another writer like Jenny Diski. Original seems too weak a word for her."

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