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, March 19
Today would be the ninety-third birthday of Marceline Loridan-Ivens — hero of the French Resistance, survivor of Auschwitz, foe of fascism, and prodigious artist whose work included numerous films and the indispensable memoir But You Did Not Come Back. This summer, on France’s Holocaust Memorial Day, we shared the trailer for filmmaker Cordelia Dvorák’s “Marceline. A Woman. A Century,” which features marvelous footage of Loridan-Ivens shot not long before her death, in late 2018, at the age of ninety. It’s entirely worth watching. Today, as we celebrate Marceline’s blessedly long, productive life, we’re watching Part One of “How Yukong Moved the Mountains,” a documentary about China’s Cultural Revolution that she made with her husband, Dutch documentarian Joris Ivens.
Martha Anne Toll on Marguerite Duras’s first novel
It’s no secret that we love Marguerite Duras, the French author and filmmaker whose powerful intellect and distinctive sensibility played a huge role in shaping the global intellectual currents of the twentieth century. Our friends at the New Press have recently published The Impudent Ones, Duras’s first novel, written in her mid-twenties and now available in English for the very first time, in a translation by Kelsey L. Haskett. At NPR Books this week, Three Muses author Martha Anne Toll offers a reading of the book that doubles as an invaluable look at the young Duras, a worthy read for fans and newcomers alike.
“Fans of Marguerite Duras (1914-1996) may be excited to learn that her debut novel, The Impudent Ones [Les Impudents], written in her mid-20s, has received its first English translation by Kelsey L. Haskett.
“Duras was celebrated during her lifetime. She won the Prix Goncourt and other praise for novels and screenplays, including Hiroshima Mon Amour, an iconic film directed by Alain Resnais.” Continue reading…
We’re a couple of days late wishing a happy birthday to Flavor Flav, hype man to the legendary, foundational, and deeply political rap group Public Enemy. He turned sixty-two this past Tuesday. While subsequent years saw him as a staple of reality TV, a restaurateur, and more, it is unquestionably his founding role in Public Enemy — charted in Russell Myrie’s Don’t Rhyme for the Sake of Riddlin’: The Authorized Story of Public Enemy — that first brought him widespread attention. Here, whether you’d enjoy a reminder or are discovering it for the first time, is Flav taking the lead on “911 is a Joke,” off the group’s epochal 1990 record, Fear of a Black Planet. (Accept no substitutes.)
Thursday, March 18
The brilliant Viet Thanh Nguyen was already scheduled to appear on PBS NewsHour yesterday to discuss anti-Asian violence in America, when, on the eve of the segment, an act of horrific violence compounded the anguished urgency of the conversation. The murder of eight massage-parlor workers in Atlanta, six of them of Asian descent, has brought renewed focus to an ongoing conversation about anti-Asian violence, which has seen a dramatic, appalling spike over the past year in America. If you’re looking to increase yours historical awareness and political understanding of anti-Asian violence in America, and to make yourself a part of the movement to end it, Nguyen’s half-hour conversation with journalist Amna Nawaz. Nguyen addresses the incident in detail and also places it within the context of a history of anti-Asian prejudice and anti-Asian violence in America, describing “a whole environment of targeting Asian women first as sexual objects of desire and then as objects of racial fear and hatred completely interconnected.”
Viet Thanh Nguyen talks to Paul Holdengräber
In addition to yesterday’s NewsHour discussion, Nguyen’s conversation with Paul Holdengräber from last summer, for Holdengräber’s “The Quarantine Tapes,” makes for urgent listening, as Nguyen offers invaluable context on the history of colonialism in America, as well as fascinating personal narrative of the development of his own Asian-American identity. “My origins begin, intellectually, as someone who became an Asian-American, which is a particular American manifestation of race. When I was growing up in San Jose, California in the 1970s and 1980s, I was growing up in an atmosphere of sort of denying racism, where when my friends and I would gather on campus in high school in a primarily white school, and we were Asian-Americans, we had no language by which to describe ourselves, so we called ourselves the ‘Asian Invasion.’ An example of how we were internalizing the racism of mass culture in American society. So to become an Asian-American and to have a name, and a history, and a consciousness was enormously important to me.” Listen to the full segment right here:
Wednesday, March 17
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Here, to drive the snakes of boredom from a locked-down holiday with neither parade nor party, is a phenomenal live performance of the classic folk tune “The Irish Rover,” performed by the Dubliners and the Pogues — the band headed by legendary frontman Shane MacGowan — in 1986.
Ken Bruen reads in Galway
Ken Bruen has been called “the godfather of Irish crime fiction.” A onetime ESL teacher with a doctorate in metaphysics, Bruen is also the author of more than forty books, including the acclaimed Jack Taylor series, of which we’re proud to publish eight. The New York Daily News has noted that ““Bruen’s tommy-gun prose, lacerating dialogue, and hard-boiled worldview combine to provide entertainment of high order in dealing with low instincts.” Here, in a video recorded in 2016 at Kennys Bookshop in Galway, Ireland, is Bruen reading his story “Millers Lane.”
Today’s not just St. Patty’s, it’s also the 83rd anniversary of the birth of legendary Soviet-born ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev, who died of AIDS-related complications in 1993. Nureyev — widely regarded as the greatest ballet dancer of his generation — was also the subject of an acclaimed 2007 biography by Julie Kavanagh. Today, as we prepare to publish Kavanagh’s latest, The Irish Assassins, this summer, we’re revisiting Peter Conrad’s sweeping review of Nureyev for the Guardian.
“Stricken by Aids, he made Romeo and Juliet a ballet about the plague and, as Prospero in his version of The Tempest, he poignantly admitted the failure of his art, clutching the magician’s staff to help him make a few last exhausted assaults on the air. Though dance is wordless, Nureyev’s body, as Kavanagh puts it, eloquently ‘spoke the texts’ of the literary works he choreographed, which added up into his confessional autobiography.” Continue reading…
“Dirty Old Town”
Ah, let’s have just a little more Shane MacGowan before we go. Here’s the Pogues’ video for their version of “Dirty Old Town,” written in the forties by folk legend Ewan MacColl. Led by MacGowan’s haunted vocals, the Pogues’ version is today the walk-on music for Salford’s football team.
Tuesday, March 16
Harold Pinter on art, truth, and politics
“Language in art remains a highly ambiguous transaction, a quicksand, a trampoline, a frozen pool which might give way under you, the author, at any time. But as I have said, the search for the truth can never stop. It cannot be adjourned, it cannot be postponed. It has to be faced, right there, on the spot.” These words, from Harold Pinter’s 2005 Nobel Lecture, form part of an investigation into the political urgency of discovering truth that, in an age of disinformation and “alternative facts,” seems remarkably prescient.
More than twenty years after it left the airwaves, “Seinfeld” remains one of the most popular and groundbreaking sitcoms ever shown on TV. (We publish Fish in the Dark, by the show’s co-creator Larry David, so you can bet that we’re pretty, pretty big fans.) But “Seinfeld” paid memorable tribute to Harold Pinter years before we’d published evidence of LD’s theatrical genius — and before Pinter had been recognized with the Nobel Prize in Literature — with the eighth episode of the show’s ninth season, “The Betrayal.” Like the groundbreaking Pinter play Betrayal, the episode tells a story of erotic perfidy between two best friends, and, like the play, it does so in a timeline that moves backward, from end to beginning, rather than forward. Oh, and it features a character named Pinter. (Hulu subscribers can watch the complete episode here; anyone can rent it via YouTube here.) Here are a few memorable scenes.
The inordinate challenges indie booksellers have faced over the past year
Today, in a powerful story by Angela Haupt at the Washington Post, six independent bookstore owners recount the profound challenges they’ve been facing over the past year. We remain in awe of the phenomenal dedication, creativity, and passion of the independent bookselling community. Read Haupt’s account to deepen your sense of the situation booksellers continue to face — and please remember to support them by shopping through whatever safe and socially distanced they’re able to make available!
“Some independent bookstores prospered during year one of the coronavirus pandemic — their stories silver linings that pop against so much darkness. Others decided to call it a day. And for others yet, it’s too soon to predict which way the plot might twist.” Continue reading…
Monday, March 15
It’s been a big couple of weeks for Viet Thanh Nguyen. For one thing, not two weeks ago, he published The Committed, the long-anticipated sequel to his Pulitzer Prize-winning 2015 debut novel The Sympathizer, to instant critical acclaim and a spot on the New York Times Best Sellers list. Then, this weekend, he did something else worth celebrating: turned 50! To mark the occasion, we’re watching this video of Viet in conversation with fellow literary colossus Maxine Hong Kingston, held at the invitation of the Lannan Foundation four years ago this week, when in-person events were still a thing. Kingston was at one time Viet’s teacher — he’s written good-heartedly of falling asleep in her class — and it’s a tremendous pleasure to see them meeting here as colleagues. They discuss both the first and last sentences of The Sympathizer, the threads that connect Kingston, Toni Morrison, and William Carlos Williams, and much more.
Today also marks a less festive commemoration: the tenth anniversary of the outbreak of Civil War in Syria. In September 2014, that war drew Azad Cudi, an ethnically Kurdish young social worker who had grown up in Iran, fled to the UK after deserting the Iranian army rather than fight his own people, and become a British citizen. Now based in war-ravaged northern Syria, he joined the YPG as a sniper — an experience he would eventually recount in a breathtaking memoir, Long Shot. Here, from shortly after we published it, is a profile of Cudi from the Mirror.
“Looking through the scope of his sniper rifle, Azad Cudi caught sight of an Islamic State fighter preparing to fire a rocketpropelled grenade straight at him.
“The jihadi ducked behind a wall, but the tip of the rocket was protruding, giving Azad a chance of shooting it to make it explode.
“Then, in an act of suicidal madness, the Islamist emerged from behind the wall and started walking towards Azad with the rocket on his shoulder.” Continue reading…
So close! In just twenty-two days, months of waiting will be over, when we at last publish Last Chance Texaco, the brilliant, candid memoir from rock legend Rickie Lee Jones. As we race down this home stretch, here’s something to help remind you what all the excitement’s about: a brilliant duet by Jones and Bonnie Raitt, singing John Prine’s 1971 classic “Angel from Montgomery” at Farm Aid in 1985.