Welcome to Grove at Home!
Every weekday, from now until we’re all out of the house again, we’ll be sharing a couple of links — some fresh, some from the vault — to say hi, remind you to keep reading, and let you know what’s on our minds.
Friday, April 30
Howard Fast faces Joe McCarthy
In 1950, left-wing novelist Howard Fast was called before Joseph McCarthy’s House Committee on Un-American Activities, where he refused to answer the question of whether he had been a member of the Communist Party. Fast had indeed been a member of thee Communist Party — and would eventually be awarded the Stalin Prize by the USSR — but he accepted a three-month prison sentence rather than name names. This short video, produced by our friends at Open Road Media, sheds some light on Fast’s life, beliefs, and work.
Edgar Snow interviews Zhou Enlai
In 1964, Edgar Snow — the American journalist who had three decades earlier chronicled China’s Communist revolution in his epochal book Red Star Over China — returned to the country, and conducted a substantial interview with premier Zhou Enlai.
Allen Ginsberg on being crowned the King of May
On May 1, 1965, American poet Allen Ginsberg found himself in Prague, then the capital of Czechoslovakia, where he participated in traditional May Day celebrations — and had so much fun that he was crowned King of May. Here he is in his friend Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s legendary San Francisco shop, City Lights Books, reading the poem he wrote about it.
Thursday, April 29
It’s Henry Miller time!
Because there is a never a bad time to hear his distinctive, old-New-York growl, or encounter his expansive, profoundly literate, disarmingly funny, unendingly charming intellect, here’s a little Henry Miller to spice up your Thursday. “Now I know where I am, and who I am. Back in that old shithole, New York, where I was born. A place where I knew nothing but starvation, humiliation, despair, frustration, every goddamn thing. Nothing but misery… I don’t know how I ever survived, or why I’m still sane.” Hooray!
Jason Guriel on Kay Ryan: “The mind seemed calmly, irrefutably, itself.”
If you missed it yesterday, writer Jason Guriel offered a stunning appreciation of the great Kay Ryan on Literary Hub. Ryan is a poet whose myriad honors include a term as US Poet Laureate, a Pulitzer Prize, a MacArthur “Genius” Grant, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, and whose many books of poetry include The Best of It, Say Uncle, and Erratic Facts. In particular, Guriel’s essay focuses on Synthesizing Gravity, Ryan’s first-ever essay collection, which we had the distinct pleasure of publishing last April. It’s a must-read.
“Ryan started publishing poetry in the 1980s, and was writing in her mature style by the 1990s. But she didn’t publish many of her best essays until the aughts. A good number of them appeared in Poetry, under Christian Wiman’s editorship. They were charming and philosophical. They gave the impression of a master who had waited years to speak her mind; and of a mind that had required those years to mull its concerns: poetry, memory, time, Moore, Frost, Dickinson. The mind seemed calmly, irrefutably, itself. Unlike so many of her contemporaries, who had ‘given up way too much inside’—to workshops, to the online fracas, to the fiction of fellowship—here was a writer who had stayed steeped in her own acids.” Continue reading…
Today, we’re wishing a very happy 67th birthday to legendary stand-up comic, actor, writer, and producer Jerry Seinfeld! We don’t publish anything by Jerry himself, but we are the publisher of Fish in the Dark, the uproarious play that marked the playwriting (and Broadway) debut of a pretty, pretty, pretty good friend of Jerry’s — his Seinfeld co-creator, fellow TV legend Larry David. Here, from Seinfeld’s Netflix series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, is a stone-cold-classic conversation between Larry and Jerry, at LA’s iconic John O’Groats restaurant.
Wednesday, April 28
Travel to the Year 1434 with Ross King
Ross King’s recent appearance on the Travels Through Time podcast is an absolute must-listen for anyone with even a passing interest in history. Discussing Vespasiano da Bisticci, the Florentine bookseller whose manuscripts helped fuel the Renaissance and the subject of his new book, The Bookseller of Florence, Ross offers a compelling portrayal of a figure who helped shape intellectual history.
Jill Watts recommends ten life stories from a generation whose struggle for racial justice has largely been forgotten
Last spring, we published Jill Watts’s The Black Cabinet, a deeply researched account of the “Black Brain Trust” FDR relied on to help shape a domestic policy aimed at supporting Black activists’ struggles against system inequality. A few weeks later, Watts, a historian at California State University San Marcos, wrote an amazing reading list for Lit Hub, recommending ten books detailing key figures in the struggle for racial justice in America before the 1960s — astounding figures like Mary McLeod Bethune, A. Philip Randolph, and many others.
“Most Americans are familiar with the civil rights leaders of the 1950s and 1960s, specifically Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and their compatriots. But there was an earlier generation of activists who paved the way for that momentous phase in the black freedom fight. Bridging the gap between early 20th-century leaders like W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington, and the later Civil Rights leadership, was a group who took up the mantel of the struggle in the years between 1930 and 1950. They battled during a time when the nation faced two of its greatest tests—the Great Depression and World War II—and their contributions largely went ignored. Some worked from inside the government and others from outside. But regardless their persistence in the face of overwhelming opposition and their contributions in troubled times propelled forward the march toward equality and shaped the later movement. Their life stories stood (and continue to stand) as beacons of hope in times of seemingly unconquerable difficulties.” Continue reading…
Kei Miller reads “Unsung”
We can’t wait to publish Things I Have Withheld, the lyrical and brilliant essay collection by Kei Miller, this fall. If you don’t know Miller’s work yet, here’s a short video of him reading his poem “Unsung.” You’re going to want to sit down for this.
Tuesday, April 27
“Lipstick and Dynamite”: Mildred Burke wrestles Mae Weston
In 2009, we published The Queen of the Ring, a thorough history by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jeff Leen of the life, career, and times of Mildred Burke. Burke was a three-time world champion of women’s wrestling; Carl Hiaasen, in praising Leen’s book, remarked that she “makes Hulk Hogan look like a wimp.” The Queen of the Ring follows Burke’s astonishing career, from a Depression-era waitress barely scraping by on meager tips in the American southwest, to her years in the thirties wrestling men at carnivals (and beating almost every single one of them) to two decades at the top of the professional wrestling circuit. In this footage — shot not too long before Burke’s 1955 retirement from pro wrestling, and very much of its time — she defends her title against Mae Weston.
“Always a neither-here-nor-there kind of poet”: Porochista Khakpour on Nazik al-Mala’ika
The Iraqi Nazik al-Mala’ika has long been revered as one of the key modernist figures in Arabic poetry. When she died in 2011, a New York Times obituary wrote that “her life and work as a poet and a literary critic were poignant reminders of Iraq’s cultural renaissance in the mid-20th century,” praising her as one of a small group of writers who “took up modern topics and used lyrical language that spoke with the immediacy of life on the Arab street.” Yesterday, the Poetry Foundation published an essay by Porochista Khakpour considering Revolt Against the Sun, a new volume of al-Mala’ika’s work translated by Emily Drumsta, that doubles as one of the fullest appreciations of al-Mala’ika’s writing available in English.
“For as long as I can recall, Nazik al-Mala’ika has been venerated as one of the major figures of contemporary Arab literature, although few people I’ve met reference her poems. In 2011, four years after Mala’ika died, at age 83, Google honored her with a Google Doodle, and many people I knew at the time, other writers and academics mostly, applauded that, but, still, there was scant mention of her poems. Imagine understanding an artist’s remarkable influence—she was a feminist icon of the Arab canon, known for pioneering Arab free verse—but not engaging with the actual work. Now, thanks to editor and translator Emily Drumsta, a professor at Brown University, readers have Revolt Against the Sun (Saqi Books, 2020), a long overdue and well-rounded reintroduction.” Continue reading…
B.B. King sings The Thrill is Gone
We remain tremendously excited to publish King of the Blues this fall. From from acclaimed journalist Daniel de Visé, it’s the first in-depth biography of blues legend B.B. King. But fall’s a ways away, so while we’re waiting, here’s a fantastic recording of King singing one of his signature songs, The Thrill is Gone, at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in 1993.
Monday, April 26
Caleb Azumah Nelson talks to The Voice
About two weeks ago, we published Open Water, Caleb Azumah Nelson’s debut novel about young Black artists falling in and out of love against the dynamic backdrop of contemporary London. It’s been an instant critical sensation, receiving rave reviews in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Guardian, and any number of other publications. In this interview for The Voice, Caleb talks about what drove him to write the book, the origins of its vivid, indelible characters.
Yesterday was the 81st birthday of the great Al Pacino! While he’s been celebrated for any number of roles over the years, Pacino retains a special prominence among fans of legendary American playwright David Mamet. To learn more, here’s a 2015 Playbill article in which Robert Simonson describes the longtime association between the actor and playwright.
“‘Best friends’ or ‘bromance’ may not be the first word that comes to mind when pondering the artists Al Pacino and David Mamet. But that’s exactly what seems to have fostered between the two men: a fruitful partnership of art and acting.” Continue reading…
Al Pacino in Glengarry Glen Ross
Perhaps no Pacino-Mamet collaboration has seared itself more deeply into public consciousness of both artists’ careers than Pacino’s performance in Mamet’s 1992 screen adaptation of his Pulitzer Prize-winning 1984 play Glengarry Glen Ross. If you haven’t seen it recently, here’s a powerful scene to remind you what you’ve been missing.