Award-winning humorist and essayist David Rakoff died at his home in Manhattan last night after an extended battle with cancer, it was reported on Friday. He was forty-seven. Rakoff was a longtime contributor to This American Life, The New York Times, and GQ, and was author of the collections Don’t Get Too Comfortable, Fraud, and most recently, Half Empty. He was renowned for his intelligence, dark humor, and celebration of negative thinking—qualities that were recognized last fall when he was awarded the Thurber Prize for American Humor. After years working as a translator and publisher, Rakoff caught his break when he showed his work to David Sedaris, who has described Rakoff’s writing as "truly witty, almost in a lost, old-fashioned way." According to his publisher, Rakoff recently turned in his final book, a novel written in verse called Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die; Cherish, Perish that is slated to be published this fall. In the meantime, here are links to videos of Rakoff (including a Daily Show appearance in which he discussed his cancer) and an archive of all his radio stories for This American Life. The show is planning to dedicate a special episode to Rakoff, which will air next week.

With 5.3 million copies sold, Fifty Shades of Gray has beaten out Harry Potter and The Da Vinci Code to become Britain’s bestselling book of all time. In other Fifty Shades news, a spoof of the book, The Diamond Club, has also become a bestselling e-book.

James Franco is holding an open casting call in Jackson, Mississippi, for his adaptation of William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. He’ll need all the help he can get—the novel is narrated by fifteen characters. According to reports from a local TV station, filmmakers are seeking out “white boys 8 to 10 years old, who can play a young-looking, country boy with a slight rebellious and dreamy nature. The producers are also looking for white girls age 16 to 25, who are described as "clean-kept, attractive girls."

Is “hugging, patting and kissing interns on top of their heads” grounds for dismissal? Oxford American founder Marc Smirnoff thinks not. The New York Times offers a measured take on his recent ouster and the magazine’s ongoing sexual-harassment scandal.

Dylan Thomas’s favorite watering hole, the Browns Hotel in Laugharne, Wales, has reopened after a 2 million facelift. Unfortunately, according to locals, the bar’s “sense of anarchy” didn’t survive the renovation.

At the New Yorker Page Turner blog, Marris Norris pens an ode to the eraser.

John Steinbeck’s son, Thomas, has spoken out against a Texas judiciary for using a character in one of his father’s books as grounds to execute a mentally disabled man.