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On the morning of my friend’s funeral, my period arrived two weeks early and with a sudden force that ruined the black clothing I’d brought and the rickety chair I was sitting on. Its cushioned seat, my other friend and I discovered, was detachable, so we trashed it, leaving the empty wooden frame at her kitchen table for days after. It looked like a metaphor, except it couldn’t carry anything. Telling you this nonstory feels excessive, embarrassing, in poor taste, even though death and grieving often feel that way, too. If you’ve read this far, I’d guess your reaction is somewhere between awkward compassion and annoyance at the undisciplined spill of emotion and its bodily display, the apparent eagerness, rather than building an argument, to make a mess and declare it worthy of attention. I felt a similar irritation as I began the poet Heather Christle’s memoir-cum-study-in-fragments The Crying Book (Catapult, $16.95), which interleaves the results of several years of research into the art and science and history of tears with the soggier aspects of her everyday life—losing a friend to suicide, having a child, weeping copiously over artworks or conversations or, just as often, when overcome with unexplained despair.

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