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 2
Remember going to the movies?
Covid lockdowns have now lasted more than a year — which mean it’s been over 365 days since we’ve had the opportunity to participate in the modern sacrament of a trip to the movies. Here, for those of us missing our couple hours’ dark-room’d transport in the company of strangers, are a couple trailers for movies we wouldn’t mind watching again, when it’s safe to breathe indoor air together.
Thelma and Louise, 1991
The Player, 1992
Hiroshima, Mon Amour, 1959
Reservoir Dogs, 1992
Thursday, April 1
It’s Gil Scott-Heron’s birthday!
Today would have been the seventy-second birthday of Gil Scott-Heron — author, musician, and indelible master of his own distinctive brand of sidewise trenchancy. Sometimes hailed as the “godfather of rap,” Scott-Heron was a hard artist to define, mercurial, probing, and deeply unconcerned with celebrity and commercial success. We’re proud to publish three of his books, including the acclaimed memoir The Last Holiday, released a few months after his death in 2011. In this interview from the early eighties, Scott-Heron, in his wry prime, discusses music, politics, and more. “Over here, people believe that you can get whatever you want instantly, from instant coffee to instant grits. So when they heard about revolution and they didn’t see one instantly, they figured, well there’s not gonna be one. But the first step toward having people change is to try to change their minds, to inform them, give them some information about your perspective. Tell them how you see things and why you feel the way that you do as opposed to what they’re being bombarded with all the time.”
Gil sings Winter in America in 1990
Here, from 1990, is Gil performing his classic Winter in America, with his backing band, the Amnesia Express. “The Constitution, a noble piece of paper would free society, / It struggled but then died in vain / And now democracy is ragtime on the corner / Hoping for rain / And I see the robins perched in barren treetops / They’re watching last-ditch racists marching across the floor / And may peace sign that vanished in our dreams / Never had a chance to grow / Never had a chance to grow”
Read an excerpt from Caleb Azumah Nelson’s Open Water
In just twelve days we publish Open Water, Caleb Azumah Nelson’s urgent and virtuosic debut novel, a story of two young Black artists falling in and out of love against the cosmopolitan backdrop of contemporary London. It’s already gathering praise in the UK, where Cosmopolitan writes that it’s “achingly tender and intensely moving,” and Esquire calls it “a modern love story that pulls the reader close.” If all of this is making the wait till our US releasee on April 13th sound interminably long, here’s some good news: Granta has an excerpt you can read right now. Buckle up and enjoy “Your Delicate Body.” (And if you want to pre-order Open Water, you can go ahead and do that right here.)
“And it wasn’t that day, or the day after, but sometime after that, you cried in your kitchen. You were alone in the house and had been for a week or so. Headphones sending sound into the silence, a tender croon stretched across drums designed to march you towards yourself. In an easy rhythm, the rapper confesses his pain, and so you stop and ask yourself, How are you feeling? Be honest, man. You’re sweeping debris across the kitchen tiles, reaching into the corners for far-flung flecks. Moving the brush in an easy rhythm, you begin to confess, your joy, your pain, your truth. You dial for your mother but she is still far away, wrestling with the grief of her mother’s passing. You want to tell her that you miss her mother, to confess that you lost your God in the days your grandma lost her body and gained her spirit, to tell her you couldn’t face your own pain until now. She would need you intact, you think. You end the call you initiated. You dial for your father, but you know he will not have the words. He will hide behind a guise, he will tell you to be a man. He will not tell you how much he hurts too, even though you can hear the shiver in the timbre of his voice. You decline the call. You dial for your brother, but he too carries the house of your father. He will not have the words.” Continue reading…
Wednesday, March 31
“How would you describe an ocean?”: Happy birthday, Octavio Paz!
Today marks the 107th birthday of Octavio Paz — diplomat, essayist, and poet, winner of the Nobel, Cervantes, and Neustadt Prizes, formative figure in the history of Mexican literature. Born in Mexico City in 1914, the son of a deputy to Emiliano Zapata, Paz went on to author more than twenty books of poetry and became a major voice in global political discussions. Produced by the Cervantes Institute, The Labyrinth of Octavio Paz is an excellent documentary, featuring interviews with a cast of writers and scholars including Mario Vargas Llosa, Elena Poniatowska, Juan Villoro, and many others. (If you don’t speak Spanish, be sure to switch on subtitles!)
Wherever you are, you can hit the Louvre today
In an average year, the Louvre — the former fortress in central Paris that’s routinely a contender for the world’s greatest art museum — receives more than nine million visitors. Not so since March 2020, when the City of Light’s Covid lockdown temporarily shuttered it. Luckily for art lovers the world over, the museum announced this week that it’ll be re-opening its doors — digitally, allowing online visitors to peruse its legendary collections from anyplace with an internet connection. Whether they’re looking for the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, or any of the museum’s fabled holdings, visitors on the web — just like those making the IRL visits to which we all hope to return before long — can enjoy a peerless guide to the Louvre’s history and holdings in James Gardner’s The Louvre: The Many Lives of the World’s Most Famous Museum.
“You can now view all the treasures of the Louvre museum without having to book a trip to Paris.
“The Louvre has put its entire art collection online, the iconic museum announced Friday, with more than 480,000 works of art available for anyone to look through at any time for free.” Continue reading…
Helen Scales on the deep ocean
This summer, we publish The Brilliant Abyss, a riveting look at the deep ocean — earth’s vastest living space — from Helen Scales, one of the UK’s most prominent and acclaimed marine biologists. With the book’s July publication still a ways off, here’s a lecture Helen recently gave online as part of the Cambridge Festival — featuring some astonishing underwater footage, and a cast of biological characters that must be seen to be believed. Check it now — and get ready for an even deeper dive this July.
Tuesday, March 30
Viet Thanh Nguyen on Washington Post Live
Two weeks ago, Viet Thanh Nguyen appeared on Washington Post Live, the newspaper’s platform for live journalism, to discuss his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Sympathizer, his brand-new follow-up The Committed, and his own experiences as an American intellectual who arrived in this country as a young refugee and has had his consciousness shaped by the complex interweaving of cultures in which he was raised. “When you are a so-called minority in a society, or when you are colonized and put under domination by an external power, you do see yourself from at least two perspectives. Because as a so-called minority, in my case at least, I felt like I had to know myself, I had to know my own world, but I had to know the world of dominant society… the world of white people as well, in order to survive. I had to know how they thought and I had to know how they thought about me. And that kind of knowledge is not reciprocal.”
Rickie Lee Jones profiled in People
One week from today, we finally get to publish Last Chance Texaco, the long-awaited memoir by bona fide rock legend Rickie Lee Jones! We are, needless to say, very excited. In the meantime, to help pass these last seven days, here’s a phenomenal, candid profile with Ms. Jones in the new issue of People, written by Gillian Telling. Rickie Lee opens up about shooting her legendary Rolling Stone cover (“Annie Leibovitz told me I was the sexiest person she’d ever shot other than Mick Jagger”), her struggles with addition (“I just liked taking it, but I also needed the drug to not harm myself”), her wandering lifestyle (“Blowing in the wind starts pretty young for me”), and much more. Read this, check out her upcoming tour dates, and get ready for Last Chance Texaco, on sale one week from today!
“In the late ’70s, Rickie Lee Jones was a struggling singer-songwriter, waiting tables in Los Angeles while hoping to make it in the music world. ‘I knew I could sing, but seemed like a pretty ridiculous goal to be a superstar, to be a rockstar, So I aimed a little lower,’ Jones tells PEOPLE. ‘I thought maybe I could be a songwriter—or better yet, a lounge singer.’
“She soon found fame as musician Tom Waits’ beautiful bohemian girlfriend, but when her four-song demo inspired a bidding war among the record companies, she became a star in her own right.” Continue reading…
Gil Scott-Heron on the music of the eighties: “I can’t tell who’s singing, that’s what really bothers me”
There aren’t too many clips of Gil Scott-Heron being interviewed out there, which makes this brief Q&A from mid-eighties all the more special. He offers trenchant commentary on contemporary music, tells a joke about George Bernard Shaw, takes a swig from a “very pregnant-looking 7-Up” — it’s a delight.
Monday, March 29
Mark Bowden on the US war in Vietnam
Today is National Vietnam War Veterans Day in the US, an occasion first observed by Barack Obama in 2012, and made a recurring annual commemoration by Donald Trump in 2017. More than fifty years after the last US combat troops left Vietnam, opinions remain sharply divided on the war America fought there. Here, from late 2017, is journalist and Hue 1968 author Mark Bowden sharing his view from half a century out: “Democracy is not something that can be imposed or gifted.”
Viet Thanh Nguyen on the American War
Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer, The Refugees, and The Committed, isn’t a veteran of the war, but it had a powerful effect on his life — North Vietnam’s final invasion swept through his hometown, making refugees of his family, who emigrated first to South Vietnam, and then to the US. The war remains a vital force in his thinking and writing. In this 2019 interview with Helen Scott for Guernica, Viet reflects on how that war impacted his life — and on the plight of today’s refugees, the difference between “disremembering” and “ethical memory,” and more.
“The Sympathizer uses political satire to demonstrate that American intervention in Vietnam was born out of America’s own imperialist and racist tradition. This perspective makes many Americans uncomfortable, but I felt it was important to counter the dominance of the ‘well-intentioned American’ argument, particularly as a Vietnamese refugee. People like me are not expected to say these things. We’re expected to be grateful to the United States for rescuing us, but the novel satirizes that idea, by saying ‘we’re grateful for being rescued but maybe we wouldn’t have needed it if you hadn’t bombed us in the first place.’” Continue reading…
Karl Marlantes on what war tell us about human aggression
In this short clip from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s PBS series The Vietnam War, Karl Marlantes — who fought in Vietnam with the US Marine Corps and has written several acclaimed books inspired by his experiences there, including Matterhorn and What It Is Like to Go to War — talks about some of the more violent human truths he learned during his military service.
Robert Olen Butler remains haunted by the Vietnam War
Author Robert Olen Butler served with the US Army in Vietnam, and what he saw there has continued to inform his writing ever since, including his Pulitzer Prize-winning collection A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, and his novel Perfume River, the translation of which into French provided the occasion for this 2018 interview with Eve Jackson for France 24’s Encore! “For most people, the [Vietnam] War was not directly about the horrors of battle — it was about the collision of cultures… There were no front lines… You were always in a kind of intense, heightened state of sensual being.”