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 26
Last night, TV viewers got a treat: Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Sympathizer and the brand-new, bestselling follow-up The Committed, stopped by NBC’s Late Night With Seth Meyers to talk about books, politics, and more. (As many will remember, this was not Viet and Seth’s first meeting.) After a discussion of the US’s appalling recent wave of anti-Asian violence, Viet introduces his new novel: “By the time I reached the end of The Sympathizer, what I knew I had done was that I had offended everybody — Americans, anti-Communist Vietnamese, pro-Communist Vietnamese. I thought, ‘I still want to offend some more people. So who else can I offend?’ And the answer was, obviously, the French!’”
Coming to the big screen: Writers & Lovers, directed by Toni Collette!
If you haven’t yet heard the big news, Lauren Daley has it over at the Boston Globe — Muriel’s Wedding star Toni Collette will soon be making her debut as a film director, with an adaptation of Lily King’s bestselling Writers & Lovers! Collette has called the novel “an empowering story that speaks to me as a woman and an artist,” while King has reacted to the news by saying that the film “is in fantastically talented hands with Toni Collette.” Read the full story below.
“For her novel ‘Writers & Lovers,’ set in Boston in the late ’90s, Lily King, ‘drew on a lot of the emotions I had as a young woman in the ’90s, broke and trying to somehow become a writer,’ she said. Her protagonist is 31-year-old Casey Peabody, an aspiring novelist and waitress.
“‘The sense that the rest of my life, the life I wanted, was out in front of me but I couldn’t reach it. [O]nly afterward did I recognize how hard Casey had to swim upstream against routine, everyday misogyny,’ said King, a native of Manchester-by-the-Sea.” Continue reading…
We’re wishing an enormously happy 79th birthday today to Erica Jong, novelist, poet, critic, and one of the most prominent American intellectuals of her generation. We’re proud to publish The Devil at Large, Jong’s powerful, sui generis look at the life and work of Henry Miller — a book so good that even Norman Mailer (who wrote that it “could in these days stimulate a few ideas to grow in the arid lands of contemporary sexual polemic”) and Gore Vidal (who called it “a fascinating book about writers and writing as [Jong] meditates on Henry Miller who in turn meditates on her”) found themselves agreeing on its excellence. Here, as we wish her a happy birthday, is some excellent advice she offered to young writers a few years ago for the Louisiana Channel. “Read and read and read and write and write and write, and when people tell you you’re no good, tell them to shut up.” Truer words.
Thursday, March 25
Tom Stoppard and Patrick Marber discuss Leopoldstadt
Early last year, before Covid forced theaters closed worldwide, a major play debuted in London. Leopoldstadt is proof that Tom Stoppard, after more than half a century of work at the forefront of innovative modern theater, remains as vital an artist as ever. The story of a Viennese Jewish family enduring the depredations of the twentieth century, Leopoldstadt has been praised by the Guardian as “the fulfillment of a lifetime’s theatrical journey,” and was an immediate success after its premier in January 2020. By March, of course, the production had had to be interrupted; it’s currently scheduled to retake the stage this fall. Here, to tide you over till then, is some truly wonderful footage captured by London Theatre Direct, of Stoppard talking with the play’s acclaimed director, Patrick Marber, around the time of its debut on the West End.
ICYMI: Candace Bushnell was always Team Big
As Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker celebrates her 56th birthday today, it’s a good time to look back on the show, and Candace Bushnell’s brilliant, norm-altering book that inspired it. In case you missed it last summer, here’s a great piece from Entertainment Tonight’s Desiree Murphy on a secret it took Bushnell a long time to reveal: she may have been a fan of John Corbett’s Aidan — and even gone out for dinner with Corbett — but for Carrie Bradshaw, she was always Team Big.
“‘I’m never gonna be Team Aidan for Carrie,’ she confessed, referencing John Corbett, who played the beloved Aidan Shaw. ‘I can’t for a variety of reasons but one of the reasons was that my mother hated Aidan.’” Continue reading…
Candace Bushnell ranks the crappy men of Sex and the City
In this unbeatable 2019 clip produced by Harper’s Bazaar, Candace expands on the men of Sex and the City — not just Aidan and Big, but Aleksandr Petrovsky (Mikhail Baryshnikov), Trey MacDougal (Kyle MacLachlan), Steve Brady (David Eigenberg), and more.
Wednesday, March 24
Today would be the ninety-fifth birthday of Dario Fo, the Lombardy-born playwright whose vibrant embrace of righteously bawdy satire, fourth-wall-smashing theatrical innovation, left-wing politics, and the revitalization of classic dramatic forms like commedia dell’arte made him one of the most admired and beloved playwrights in the world, and garnered him the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1997. By the time of his death in 2016 at the age of ninety, Fo had established himself as a crucial link in a lineage of joyous theatrical troublemakers that includes Molière, Brecht, Mayakovsky, and others, and inspired a new generation to bring pressing social issues to the stage in convention-smashing ways.
In this interview, filmed in Copenhagen near the end of Fo’s long life for the Denmark-based Louisiana Channel, he talks about his technique of concocting interlinguistic “grammelots” and its roots in the Babel-like glassworks in whose shadow he grew up, learning the art of storytelling from shepherds and fishermen, his various clashes with police, censors, and Italy’s Communist Party — and much more. Whether you’ve already had the pleasure of encountering Fo’s genial-yet-provocative work or are coming to it fresh, today’s the perfect day for a meeting with his sociable intellect, undimmed by age or travail.
Against Jesters Who Defame and Insult: Fo’s Nobel Lecture
Today is also a good day to read “Against Jesters Who Defame and Insult,” the lecture Fo delivered on receiving the Nobel Prize in 1997. As Fo himself notes, it’s a somewhat atypical Nobel lecture, befitting a mold-breaking honoree — complete with drawings to accompany the talk, tales picked up from the glassworks, and an imaginary science fiction movie called “Frankenstein’s Pig Brother,” as well as more solemn admonishments against government violence, and a moving declaration that the prize belonged equally to Fo’s wife and lifelong collaborator Franca Rame. Please read it at once.
“Friends of mine, noted men of letters, have in various radio and television interviews declared: ‘The highest prize should no doubt be awarded to the members of the Swedish Academy, for having had the courage this year to award the Nobel Prize to a jester.’ I agree. Yours is an act of courage that borders on provocation.
“It’s enough to take stock of the uproar it has caused: sublime poets and writers who normally occupy the loftiest of spheres, and who rarely take interest in those who live and toil on humbler planes, are suddenly bowled over by some kind of whirlwind.
“Like I said, I applaud and concur with my friends.” Continue reading…
Today would also be the 102nd birthday of our old friend Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the legendary poet, publisher, and bookseller who passed away late last month. We’re remembering him with this sweetly moving segment he taped a few years ago for San Francisco’s KQED, reading from his work, bemoaning the rise of dot-com culture in his beloved San Francisco, remembering the “small provincial capital” that city was when he first moved there in the early fifties, and gorgeously describing “the changing light of San Francisco… a sea light, an island light.” Brighten your Wednesday; think about Lawrence.
Tuesday, March 23
Watch the trailer for City of Lies
Just the other week, we marked a sad anniversary: twenty-four years since the murder of rap legend Notorious B.I.G., gunned down in LA at the age of twenty-four. Five years later, journalist and longtime Rolling Stone editor Randall Sullivan first published LAbyrinth, his definitive inquiry into the murders of Biggie and Tupac Shakur, as well as other LAPD corruption. A few years later, Sullivan would follow up with Dead Wrong, a deep look at subsequent developments in Biggie’s murder investigation. This week, after several years’ delay, Saban Films is finally celebrating the release of City of Lies, director Brad Furman’s big-screen adaptation of LAbyrinth, starring Johnny Depp as LAPD whistleblower Russell Poole (we shared audio of Randall talking with the real-life Poole, who passed away in 2015, here) alongside a cast that also includes Forest Whitaker and Voletta Wallace, Biggie’s real-life mom, as herself. Now that we’ve got your attention, you can watch the trailer right here:
Some most excellent news out of Connecticut this week: the great Dionne Brand has won the Windham-Campbell Prize! She’s in excellent company — other recipients this year include Vivian Gornick, Renee Gladman, and Kate Briggs, to name just a few. Brand — born in Trinidad in 1953, and long a resident of Canada, where among others honors she’s served as the Poet Laureate of Toronto — is the author of more than twenty books, and we’re honored to be the US publisher of two of them, the novels In Another Place, Not Here and At the Full and Change of the Moon, from 1996 and 1999, respectively. We couldn’t be happier to congratulate her on this well-deserved recognition! Brand said in a statement, “This is an astonishing surprise. It will take me weeks, maybe months to find the best words to describe my amazement. For now let me say, wondrous.”
“With genre-bending explorations of narrative form, Dionne Brand honors the complexities of diasporic experience, gracefully bringing to life the fundamental relationship between politics, aesthetics, and love.” Read more about all this year’s Windham-Campbell honorees…
“I say the future is ours if you can count!”
Today is like every other day in that it’s a great time to watch some of The Warriors, Walter Hill’s 1979 film adaptation of Sol Yurick’s 1965 cult-classic novel of the same name. In this memorable early scene from the movie, Cyrus, head of the Gramercy Riffs, makes a modest proposal to representatives of all New York City gangdom. But as those who’ve seen the movie know, Cyrus is in far graver danger here than he realizes.
Monday, March 22
Viet Thanh Nguyen on Democracy Now!
“For many of us, I think, during the last year of the pandemic to hear President Trump and many of his supporters talk about COVID-19 as the ‘kung flu’ and the ‘China virus’ was simply the most recent manifestation of a deeply-held anti-Asian racism… tapping into this very deep well of anti-Asian feeling. And I think that that, combined with the obvious stresses of the pandemic, has a direct relationship to the very significant rise in anti-Asian violence and rhetoric that many people have experienced in the last twelve months. But outside of that immediate trigger, I think that the bipartisan rhetoric that I’ve mentioned, the fact that both Democrats and Republicans have focused on China as the major threat and competitor to the United States… keeps China in the foreground of the American imagination as a country to be feared.”
This morning, Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Sympathizer and the brand-new, New York Times bestselling follow-up The Committed, appeared on Democracy Now! to discuss his view of, and response to, last week’s horrific events in Atlanta. The discussion is urgent and moving. Here’s the first segment, with an introduction by host Amy Goodman.
Viet Thanh Nguyen discusses his books on “Democracy Now!”
In the show’s next segment, Goodman turns the conversation to be more directly about Nguyen’s books, including his sustained, deliberate use of the the word “refugee” to describe himself and other populations displaced by political violence. He also contrasts his own experience as a child fleeing South Vietnam with those of unaccompanied minors in federal custody on the US’s southern border today, reflects on his experiences watching Apocalypse Now as an American of Vietnamese origin, and, of course, discusses his acclaimed latest, The Committed.
Viet Thanh Nguyen and Janelle Wong on the connection between bipartisan political rhetoric about China and anti-Asian violence in the US
During this morning’s Democracy Now! spot, host Amy Goodman also alluded to an op-ed Viet Thanh Nguyen co-wrote with fellow professor Janelle Wong for this weekend’s Washington Post, exploring the ways US political rhetoric about China — from both Democrats and Republicans — feeds into violent anti-Asian sentiment. If you haven’t read it, read it.
“But it’s too simple to blame Trump for what is happening. In the 1980s, officials from both parties cast Japan as the economic enemy; now it is China, one of the few issues about which Democrats and Republicans agree. And yes, it’s true that China is an extremely bad actor when it comes to espionage and human rights. But decades of official U.S. foreign policy and rhetoric from the pundit class have had a unique effect on Asian Americans. When the government frets about Russian hacking and election interference, there is little consequence for Americans of Russian heritage. When officials express fears over China or other Asian countries, Americans immediately turn to a timeworn racial script that questions the loyalty, allegiance and belonging of 20 million Asian Americans. Most Americans are not skilled at distinguishing between people of different Asian origins or ancestries, and the result is that whenever China is attacked, so are Asian Americans as a whole.” Continue reading…