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, February 5
Tomorrow marks the 66th birthday of the great Michael Pollan! A wide-ranging thinker on everything from the history of apples to microdosing, Pollan has made himself indispensable to many of our national conversations through his unquenchable curiosity and deeply humane interest in the ways the world we live in has taken its current shape. Discussing his book Second Nature with Oprah, Pollan once noted, “The garden is a great metaphor — and one of the things it’s a metaphor for is that you can’t control everything.” Here’s a short video of Pollan’s own home garden, with audio of him offering some thoughts on what gardening teaches us, and suggestions for how to get started.
This week, the Guardian published a moving essay by Alison Bechdel, the lauded cartoonist behind Dykes to Watch Out For and Fun Home. Bechdel is also the namesake of the “Bechdel test,” a thought experiment that assesses the ways women are represented in fiction and movies by asking whether, at any point in a film, two women are shown alone together, talking about something other than a man. As Bechdel herself has noted, while Dykes to Watch Out For is credited with the modern framing of the test, the germ of the thought originates in Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. In the new essay, Bechdel again looks to Woolf, in the context of her legendary romance with novelist and biographer Vita Sackville-West. Anchored in that moving correspondence, the essay becomes a subtle rumination on representation, aging, queerness, and more.
“When I was an undergraduate and just coming out as a lesbian, I slunk to a dimly lit, out-of-the-way place where I knew I would find other people like me – the stacks of the library. Vita Sackville-West was not the first companion I encountered there, but she was certainly the most indelible one.” Continue reading…
Listen to the Milk Blood Heat audiobook!
If you’ve been anywhere near the book world this week, you’re surely aware that Dantiel W. Moniz’s debut collection Milk Blood Heat is on sale now — and it’s garnering tidal waves of critical acclaim. (Just one example: the Boston Globe writes, “How she illuminates that reasoning through direct and unwavering language is downright magical.”) Milk Blood Heat is also available as an audiobook, read by Machelle Williams, and today, our friends at libro.fm have made an excerpt from it available on YouTube. Check it out!
Thursday, February 4
Dantiel W. Moniz and Lauren Groff launch Milk Blood Heat at Books and Books
Last night was a great night for literature, and a great night for Florida: Fates and Furies author Lauren Groff joined the amazing Dantiel W. Moniz to help launch her debut collection, Milk Blood Heat — on sale just two days and already enjoying mountains of praise (“every single page in this book is a shimmering seashell that contains the sound of multiple oceans,” says the Washington Post). Hosted by the Florida bookselling stalwarts Books and Books, it was a night not to be missed — but if you missed it, you’re in luck, because the whole thing was captured on video. Hear them discuss the finer points of Florida heat, ask the question “Why short stories?”, and a great deal more.
Last night was just the first of eight scheduled appearances as part of Dantiel’s virtual tour for Milk Blood Heat. Tonight, she’ll be appearing at City Lights Books in conversation with C Pam Zhang, with a number of other appearances throughout the rest of the month. Don’t miss them!
Karen Armstrong: “The personal image of God is there… You need to look through it. It’s meant to be transparent.”
162 years ago today, German Bible scholar Constantin von Tischendorf discovered the Codex Sinaiticus, one of the oldest manuscripts of the Christian Bible known still to exist. Today, we’re enjoying this brief clip of Karen Armstrong, one of the contemporary world’s leading Bible scholars, sharing her thoughts on God in St. Paul, Minnesota in 2014. “I think what God is supposed to do for us is take us outside ourselves, and make us realize that we are in the presence of immensity.” She goes on to discuss ideas from Hinduism and Islam, the perspective of Albert Einstein, and much more.
Wednesday, February 3
Allan J. Lichtman looks to the 2024 election
In the run-up to last year’s presidential election, we had occasion to spend some time with Allan J. Lichtman. Lichtman is a historian, and his book White Protestant Nation offers an urgent, profoundly elucidating look at the past hundred years of American conservatism. Lichtman is also the creator of the famed “Keys to the White House” system, which has accurately predicted the results of every American presidential election for more than forty years — including 2016’s result, which caught many by surprise, and 2020’s, which had many wringing their hands in uncertainty. Here, in a video shot for the UAE-based The National just hours after Joseph Biden had been named last November’s winner, is Lichtman offering his thoughts on probable outcomes in 2024. He doesn’t quite predict a winner — but he does lay the groundwork for such a prediction, telling us which factors to watch and estimating some likelihoods.
David Duchovny on Samuel Beckett
Whether you know him as Fox Mulder, Hank Moody, a legendary Jeopardy! frog-ponderer, or the author of four books (including, most recently, Truly Like Lightning), David Duchovny has long been an admired fixture in the American media landscape. So it is with great pleasure that today we’re reading his recent Atlantic essay, “My Urge to Fail and Fail Again,” in which, with wit and savor, he discusses a range of topics that include fatherhood, tattoos, his own Manhattan childhood as the son of two immigrants, and — not least of all — the writing of Samuel Beckett, on whom he wrote his senior thesis at Princeton. (We’ve written about Beckett’s famous injunction to “fail better” before.) This is a truly wonderful read — don’t wait.
“My daughter, West, just texted me and asked what I thought about her getting a tattoo—tasteful and small, monochrome, she doesn’t know where yet (uh-oh)—of a Samuel Beckett epigram from Worstward Ho: ‘Fail again. Fail better.’ This brings me to tears. That she would ask—she’s 21; she can do as she pleases, but she also knows that I know she knows the quote through me. It’s between us. She knows I wrote my senior thesis at Princeton 1,000 years ago on Beckett’s novels. Why his novels, you might ask? An excellent question. Well, when I was 20, I saw that so much had been written on Beckett’s plays and that critics had kind of avoided the novels. So that left the field clear for me of brilliant, inhibiting elders while also cutting down on my research, a win-win. I don’t think I ever told her (no reason to scare the child) that the hardbound paper, well over 100 pages, was titled ‘The Schizophrenic Critique of Pure Reason in Beckett’s Novels.’ What does that even mean? I’m not sure I remember, but it’s something along the lines of neurotics are boring, and psychotics are exciting.” Continue reading…
Dantiel W. Moniz moderates a panel on short form for Tin House
Last summer, Tin House assembled a gathering of literary heavy-hitters — Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Rion Amilcar Scott, and Lesley Nneka Arimah — for a panel on short form in writing, moderated by the exceptionally brilliant Dantiel W. Moniz. This week, as we celebrate the release of Moniz’s already-loudly-acclaimed debut collection, Milk Blood Heat, we’re revisiting it. Full of insights and laden with moments of introspection, enthusiasm, and joy, it makes for edifying and compelling viewing.
Tuesday, February 2
Today, we have the exceptional pleasure of publishing Milk Blood Heat, the debut collection from the world-scorchingly brilliant mind of Dantiel W. Moniz. To celebrate, and help tide you over till you have the book in your hands, here’s some Moniz you can read online:
“We only swept up the place”: Exotics
Here, from O, the Oprah Magazine, is “Exotics,” a short, stingingly powerful story from Milk Blood Heat that you simply won’t be able to forget. As the magazine puts it in introducing the story, “Despite its short length, Dantiel W. Moniz’s short story — a juicy piece of flash fiction — is a whole meal. It’s like ceviche, or tuna tartare, a tasty morsel to be devoured ravenously, one that both slakes your hunger and makes you startlingly aware of that hunger.”
“Among themselves, the members called it the Supper Club; to us it was only our J-O-B, and no one, not them or us, spoke of it outside of the building’s walls. Concealed in the center of the city in a plain, tan-brick building that could have been the dentist’s or the tax attorney’s office, the club was exclusive in the way that too much money made things. We couldn’t have joined — not that we wanted to, we often said. Even if our fathers had handed us riches from their fathers and their grandfathers before them, made off of the lives and deaths of black and brown bodies, none of us would want to be complicit in such terrible opulence; we only swept up the place.” Continue reading…
“What was a three-month-long cold war between a mother and daughter except standard operating procedure?”: The Heart of Our Enemies
“The Hearts of Our Enemies” is a story the New York Times calls “particularly delicious.” The Washington Post calls it “mesmerizing.” A riveting exploration of a mother-daughter relationship under pressure, it was published in the Yale Review in spring 2020.
“It is the little piece of folded paper Frankie found in the back pocket of Margot’s favorite pair of jeans six weeks ago that calls for a cigarette and this extra pluck of courage. She lights up, willing the smoke to hotbox the car, to consume her. For this next act, she must feel hidden. The cedar-like smell seeps into the cloth seats and settles on her. Lingers. She doesn’t smoke the cigarette, just lets it burn, and it is a relief to be bathed in its secondhand qualities. Her husband—and he still is her husband—would be pissed to know she does this, and that knowledge is almost as good as any nicotine.” Continue reading…
“Something that felt like recognition and shame”: Outside the Raft
In her review of Milk Blood Heat for the Washington Post, Michele Filgate writes that the story “effortlessly conveys the striking difference between kids and adults while describing what turns out to be a harrowing trip to the beach.” It was published by Tin House in 2019.
“That summer we were nine and ten, our birthdays rolling over one another as if playing leapfrog—first hers, then mine, five days apart. I was envious of my cousin’s double digits in the same way she coveted my silver-wrapped presents, the balloons and white-frosted sheet cake, the way my parents shouted, “Happy birthday!” Except next year I would be ten, and Tweet’s parents would still be locked up, serving life sentences for holding up the pawnshop and killing a man, something like Bonnie and Clyde, but no one made a movie. She lived with our grandmother, who didn’t believe in birthdays, and so hers passed quietly, leaving only the gift of age.” Continue reading…
Monday, February 1
Today marks the 55th anniversary of the death of silent film legend Buster Keaton, whose 1926 comedy The General Orson Welles once called “perhaps the greatest film ever made.” Keaton also starred in classics like Sherlock Jr., Speak Easily, and The Cameraman — but he holds a different significance for devotees of Samuel Beckett, who remember him as the star of Film, the short film Beckett wrote in 1963 on a commission from Grove director Barney Rosset. It’s the only screenplay Beckett ever wrote, and the resulting film is a fine way to start your week.
Jamie Quatro: “What if we invented gods not out of fear, but because we had made works that warranted them…”
When we published Jamie Quatro’s novel Fire Sermon in 2018, the New York Times Book Review wrote, “The novel is generously condensed, ardently focused, its mechanisms poetic, not expository.” Generous condensation, ardent focus, and a preference for the poetic over the expository might also be observed to be qualities of her latest, piece of flash fiction just published at the New York Review of Books.
“January. Upstairs the shower turns on—the youngest son, nearly a man, how diligently he makes ready, each day, for each day’s callings. Calc, AP Enviro, Gothic Lit, Spanish 3, morning-night-morning spinning him toward graduation and college and an empty shower upstairs. Pull on my sweatshirt, walk to kitchen (stairway balustrades still lit with twinkle strands woven into dead garlands), strike a match and light scented candle given by the friend eager to show her support. Cinnamon, fir, silver birch. If you need anything please reach out, Steve and I are always here.” Continue reading…
With each passing week, we get a little closer to publishing Last Chance Texaco, the no-holds-barred memoir from legendary singer-songwriter Rickie Lee Jones that O, the Oprah Magazine has already called “tender, fierce, intimate.” In the meantime, here’s Rickie Lee on the Arsenio Hall Show in 1989, performing her song Flying Cowboy and chatting with Arsenio about sensitivity, Steely Dan, and much more. Last Chance Texaco hits shelves April 6th.