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, July 10
Happy (early) birthday, Pablo Neruda
This Sunday will mark the 116th birthday of Chile’s Pablo Neruda, universally regarded as one of the twentieth century’s greatest poets. In Neruda’s life he was many other things, too: a Communist Party representative in the Chilean Senate, a close friend and advisor to Chilean President Salvador Allende, a professional diplomat whose work brought him to Yangon, Singapore, Colombo, and elsewhere. Neruda’s influence today goes beyond the literary: Chilean composer Sergio Ortega set his work to music, and French actor Philippe Noiret portrayed him memorably in Michael Radford’s 1994 film Il Postino. In this short TED-Ed video, Mexican-American author and translator Ilan Stavans provides some biographical background on Neruda, and shares some representative samples of his work.
June Jordan, Audre Lorde, and Lorraine Hansberry walk into a dinner party: Sarah M. Broom in the New York Times’ “By the Book”
In this Sunday’s New York Times Book Review “By the Book” feature, we hear from the wonderful Sarah M. Broom, author of the National Book Award-winning, Barack-Obama-recommended, New York Times Top Ten-listed bestseller The Yellow House, out now in paperback. Broom touches on a number of wonderful subjects, including childhood memories of scholastic book fairs, reading aloud with her partner, and the desire to wear Conversations with Toni Morrison around her neck like a talisman. Read this immediately, please.
“Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).
“A deep soaking tub with steaming hot water that never runs out. If that’s not possible, in bed, coffee and fruit in abundance, jazz playing low. As ritual, my partner and I read to each other most nights around dinnertime, which I love so much and now cannot live without. We last read the play ‘Home,’ by Samm-Art Williams.” Continue reading…
D.T. Suzuki: A Zen Life
This Sunday also marks the 54th anniversary of the death of author and Buddhist scholar Suzuki Daisetsu Teitarō, better known in the West as D.T. Suzuki. For his gentle, good-humored approach and profound knowledge of texts in Chinese, Japanese, Sanskrit, and European languages, Suzuki became legendary as perhaps the key figure in introducing European and American audiences to centuries of thought in the Zen and Shin Buddhist thought. For some sense of the dimensions of Suzuki’s thinking and teaching, here’s a brief excerpt from the film “A Zen Life: D.T. Suzuki,” produced by the Japan Inter-Culture Foundation.
Thursday, July 9
Today makes the seventy-seventh anniversary of the start of the World War II allies’ invasion of Sicily with a force of 160,000 strong. Called Operation Husky, it remains the largest amphibious invasion ever mounted in the history of war — larger even than the D-Day invasion of Normandy the following summer. The following day, June 10th, Allied forces began making landfall and advancing across the island, igniting a thirty-eight-day battle that changed the course of history, beginning the Axis powers’ defeat in Europe. This fall, we’ll publish Sicily ’43, James Holland’s astounding account of that battle, which refutes conventional wisdom that blames the Allies for a series of miscalculations; in Holland’s expert and meticulously-constructed view, the Sicilian campaign becomes a triumph, achieved by untold tens of thousands of rank-and-file soldiers, along with names like Dwight Eisenhower, George Patton, Bernard Montgomery, and many others. To help build your excitement, here’s Holland appearing last May on Living History TV’s “Letters from Lockdown” video series. Holland discusses the book, shows off some rare collectibles, offers some advice for coping with lockdown, and more. A must-watch.
Two weeks ago, the world marked eleven years since the death of Michael Jackson — a pop king whose inordinately complex legacy we needn’t delve into here. But it was a great moment to re-read a truly extraordinary piece of writing: Michael Thomas’s “I Was Not Michael Jackson,” a powerful essay on loss, family, Blackness, and, indeed, Michael Jackson, published a few days after the star’s death by the New York Times. Just two years earlier, Thomas’s novel Man Gone Down had swept a series of honors: the New York Times declared it one of the Ten Best Books of the Year, it won the International Dublin/IMPAC Literary Award, and more. Today, while Jackson remains as difficult a figure to approach as ever, Thomas’s essay still finds away, seeing in the singer a reflection of the older brother who “took the qualities that made our father charismatic, and made them petty.”
“I was driving home listening to the radio on Thursday when I heard that Michael Jackson was dead. I turned it off and thought about my brother. It’s not that I don’t think about him I suppose I could say that though he’s only sometimes on my mind, he’s always in it. He moves, or I move him, from an impressionistic figure in a background to a man in sharp focus.” Continue reading…
Xiaolu Guo on “the loss of experience through self-translation,” and much more
A few months back, the Chinese-born, intrepidly global author Xiaolu Guo offered some comments on her life and work for a video produced by Columbia University’s Weatherhead East Asian Institute. Guo discusses creating a “hybrid voice” as a writer working between languages, the intricacies of identity, the nakedness of text, and much more.
Wednesday, July 8
This year marks the two-hundredth anniversary of European missionaries’ first arrival in what was then the independent Kingdom of Hawai‘i. A recent episode of PBS’s “American Masters” focuses on the last monarch to rule over that kingdom, Queen Lili‘uokalani. It’s part of their “Unladylike2020” series, which celebrates the unsung legacies of powerful women who made American history. Watching the Lili‘uokalani episode, we were especially delighted to see extensive commentary from journalist Julia Flynn Siler, whose book Lost Kingdom, an account of how America’s nascent ambitions toward a globe-spanning capitalist empire crashed upon the shores of a once-thriving independent kingdom, we were proud to publish in 2013. The full segment’s just twelve minutes long, and highly worth watching.
Albert Woodfox interviewed by Alix Lambert
For her new book Courtroom, author, photographer, and filmmaker Alix Lambert sat through a number of court proceedings. “Visit any courtroom in the USA—they are open to the public—and you will find yourself surrounded by theater, politics, history, law, performance, drawing, and community,” she has written. Lambert also sat down with Albert Woodfox, who survived a longer term in solitary confinement than any other American in history — more than forty years — and emerged to write an astonishing memoir of the experience, Solitary, which was shortlisted for the National Book Award and named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. This week, Talkhouse magazine published an excerpt from Lambert’s interview with Woodfox — he discusses his impressions of public defenders, rebuilding relationships with family, what membership in the Black Panther Party has meant to him, and more. It makes for remarkable reading.
“A lot of people never can understand why I don’t feel anger or bitterness toward members of the jury. It was simply that I understood that those jurors were also victims because they were making decisions on information provided to them by the state. So I didn’t think there was anything out of the ordinary for the jurors to believe in the state — from the time you go to school you start being indoctrinated with the rule of law and integrity of social institutions. As you get older and you come into contact with the institution, more and more you realize that it’s all theory. Philosophical theory and not facts.” Continue reading…
The New Bedford Novel Does Not Exist (Yet)
Wednesday is the week’s high-water mark, and a great time to listen to the wonderful Francisco Goldman, here captured in late 2018 reading from new work as part of his Radcliffe Fellowship. It’s a pleasure to see Goldman in his native Boston, musing about feeding walnuts to squirrels on Boston Common, and thinking through “the long-lasting effect of cruelty on people’s lives.” Highly recommended.
Tuesday, July 7
Jeanette Winterson on humans, animals, and more
“At home where I live, I have some sheep. We look at them. They have great lives. But I eat them.” As her readers know, Jeanette Winterson possesses a mind like no one else’s. In this video, shot a few months ago for the CCCB (Barcelona’s Center for Contemporary Culture), Winterson talks about eating meat, social media, Brexit (“What is the matter with us? Brexit is shit.”), and much more. Better than a strong drink of coffee.
“The details don’t matter, until they do”: A New York Times rave for Crooked Hallelujah
Every so often, a book receives the kind of review that requires no elaboration, no context, nothing — a review that seems to appreciate the book so deeply, and to describe it so aptly, that any comment feels superfluous. Such is Dwight Garner’s review of Crooked Hallelujah — the debut novel by Plimpton Prize winner Kelli Jo Ford, on sale next Tuesday (7/14) — which appears in today’s New York Times under the title “Cherokee Women Aim for a Better Life in ‘Crooked Hallelujah.’” Please read it at once.
“Cans of Aqua Net. Screen doors that flap. Ford Pintos. Wood-grained contact paper on toilet lids. Cheap Zebco fishing reels. Sinead O’Connor cassette tapes. Establishments with names like Padlock Pizza and DoRight Donuts.
“In her more than promising first novel, ‘Crooked Hallelujah,’ Kelli Jo Ford summons the details of minimum-wage life in the last quarter of the 20th century. She does this without cluttering her spare sentences, which is why her details resonate.” Continue reading…
In this online-only video shot for “The Mind of a Chef,” kitchen master Edward Lee prepares a dish in homage to his idol, the phenomenal writer (and legendary eater!) Jim Harrison. You are strongly cautioned not to watch this on an empty stomach! The dish combines oxtail crepinette, escargot, sweetbreads, foie gras, and more. Jim, we miss you every day, and we hope you can get a whiff of the aroma, wherever you are.
Monday, July 6
Val McDermid cooks the books… literally
We’re huge fans of the peerless Scottish crime writer Val McDermid — you can tell from the fact that we’ve published nineteen of her books, and counting. “Over the years much has been made in writings about crime fiction of a sense of place, a sense of drink, a sense of music. But not much has been talked about the role of food in crime fiction.” With her new video series, “Cooking the Books,” Val is changing that — bringing to life the dishes eaten by her characters, with an experienced cook’s deft touch and a dash of charm thrown in for good measure. In this first episode, recorded back in May, Val prepares a hipster porridge that’ll start your morning in style, and drive the purists nuts. Other dishes in the series include forensic cake, lentil stovies, chicken and spinach curry, and plenty more. Ah, delicious crime.
Albert Woodfox and other authors look back on the books that awakened them to lineages of struggle
You may have caught the news that Black Lives Matter now appears to be the largest social movement in American history. In a feature last week, the New York Times talked to a number of the most urgent writers working in America today, to ask what books had most deepened their own understandings of race and racism and America. We’re delighted to see several of our authors on the list, including Albert Woodfox, whose memoir Solitary was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and shortlisted for the National Book Award; David Treuer, a former Guggenheim Fellow whose many widely-praised books include Rez Life; and Sandra Cisneros, a contributor to Freeman’s: Family. They appear alongside other prominent authors, including the likes of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Darryl Pinckney, Valeria Luiselli, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
“As protests spread across America once more, bringing to front pages and the forefronts of our minds ugly truths about our country that shouldn’t have been forgotten in the first place, we turn again to the written record, to the literature. In an effort to deepen our understanding of race and racism in America, we asked writers to share with us the texts that have done the most to deepen theirs. Together these histories, novels and verses have helped shape our collective consciousness of a subject that is irreducible, and universal.” Continue reading…
Gaston Dorren loves language — as much is clear from his books, like Lingo and Babel. And as love has done since time immemorial, Dorren’s love of language sometimes moves him to song. Here’s his video for “Mother Tongue,” a song he wrote and performs. Not only can the guy tell you fascinating things, like how Vietnamese transforms French words in borrowing them (“lơ” is the Vietnamese borrowing of the French “bleu,” “sâm banh” is “champagne,” “moutarde” becomes “mù tạc,” etc.) — turns out he can carry a tune, too.