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 12
Today marks the 99th birthday of Jack Kerouac, the “father of the Beat Generation,” a novelist and poet whose outsize impact continues to be felt in all corners of American writing. 99 may be the Beat Centenary — at least, it sounds fun to say so — and today we’re marking the occasion by spending some time with Kerouac’s legacy. This TV interview with Steve Allen, which finds Kerouac explaining his legendary writing process (lightning-fast typing onto a single, long scroll of paper), taking questions on the meaning of the word “Beat,” and reading from his legendary novel On the Road.
Kerouac appears with Ed Sanders and Lewis Yablonsky on William F. Buckley’s “Firing Line”
Fascinating indeed is this episode of “Firing Line” in which Kerouac appeared alongside Ed Sanders (poet, musician, and editor of Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts) and Lewis Yablonsky, a heterodox sociologist who had then just published a book called The Hippie Trip. Kerouac labels the hippies then proliferating across headlines as continuous with the Beat Generation, two temporal ends of a single “Dionysian movement.” Kerouac (who may in this clip be himself fresh from a meeting with Dionysus) goes on to quote Tolstoy, offer commentary on the Days of Rage that had elapsed in Chicago just weeks earlier, and more. Just over a year later, he would be dead of liver disease at the age of 47.
Allen Ginsberg on Kerouac’s “Firing Line” Appearance
In this footage shot years later, after Kerouac’s death, Kerouac’s friend Allen Ginsberg reminisces about all that went on — and all that went wrong — behind the scenes around the meeting with Buckley.
Kerouac, Ginsberg, and friends in the East Village, 1959
This silent film footage finds Kerouac in 1959, haunting Manhattan’s East Village with Ginsberg and a few other friends. A vanished world!
William Burroughs on Kerouac
From the documentary “What Happened to Kerouac?”, this clip features Kerouac’s friend William S. Burroughs remembering him, and unpacking aspects of his legacy that Kerouac himself did not often discuss.
The story of Jack Kerouac Alley
Just a few weeks ago, when we marked the passing of the great Lawrence Ferlinghetti, we alluded to the story of Ferlinghetti’s work, in collaboration with a number of community organizations, to have the small roadway behind City Lights Books, his San Francisco landmark, renamed Jack Kerouac Alley. Here, from the San Francisco Chronicle, is the story of the 2007 celebrations marking the renovation of the street.
“The crowds — poets and politicians among them— came out Saturday to celebrate the face-lift for Kerouac Alley, a short passageway connecting North Beach and Chinatown, two of San Francisco’s most culturally rich neighborhoods. The alley is named after Jack Kerouac, a Beat Generation writer who used to hang out at City Lights bookstore and Vesuvio bar, two famed establishments on the North Beach side of the alley at Columbus Avenue. Joining in the festivities was City Lights founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti, a fellow Beat adventurer who was instrumental in making the alley project happen. The once-dingy lane has been transformed into a car-free zone that is now wider, cleaner and repaved with granite blocks.” See the full article with photos…
Thursday, March 11
As we mark one year since the week of her death, we’ve been remembering the wonderful Molly Brodak — memoirist, poet, and, as true fans know, incredible baker. While it was her vibrant, raw, totally fearless writing that most endeared her to the literary community, it was Molly’s passion for baking that led her to become a contestant on season 3 of the Great American Baking Show, which was, alas, pulled from the airwaves two episodes in, following allegations of sexual misconduct by judge Johnny Iuzzini. In this clip, from what was to be the season’s third episode, Molly’s astounding creations take center stage — and the week’s top prize.
Samuel Delany remembers Kathy Acker
Earlier this week on Facebook, author Samuel R. Delany — legendary for science fiction novels like Stars in My Pocket Like Grains of Sand, memoirs like Heavenly Breakfast, and works of theory like Times Square Red, Times Square Blue — shared some memories of his friend Kathy Acker. Prompted by a shot from the short-lived TV adaptation of Chris Kraus’s I Love Dick, Delany remembers Acker as she was: a brilliant reader and writer, a generous friend, and an indelible personality who really knew how to make an entrance.
“I can only remember two meetings, the first at Brown University, at a gathering of experimental writers. I do remember she made quite an entrance. She walked into the room where all of us were milling about and demanded, ‘Who knows where I can get $50 thousand dollars?’ Experimental writers are not as a rule wealthy, and I certainly wasn’t at the time, so I didn’t answer.” Continue reading…
Anthony Loyd: “The necessity of bearing witness transcends the perspective of other people towards journalists”
Where does a journalist’s obligation to bear witness to the truth end, and an obligation to remain safe (and capable of bearing further witness) begin? This is one of the central queries that animates this brief, fascinating conversation between British foreign correspondent Anthony Loyd and Stephen Sackur of BBC World News’s “HARDtalk,” taped shortly after we published Loyd’s My War Gone By, I Miss It So in 2014. (A few years later, Loyd would make major global news by tracking down Shamima Begum, the British high school student who fled to Syria to join ISIS.)
Wednesday, March 10
Today we celebrate the eighty-first birthday of the one and only David Rabe, acclaimed playwright and recipient of honors that include multiple Tony Awards, an Obie, a Rockefeller Foundation Grant, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a New York City Drama Critics Circle Award, and more. Among the plays that have firmly enthroned David among the most admired playwrights in America are Hurlyburly, In the Boom Boom Room, and A Question of Mercy (not to mention the novel Recital of the Dog). As we celebrate his life and work, we’re enjoying the trailer for Anthony Drazan’s 1998 film adaptation of Rabe’s play Hurlyburly, starring Sean Penn, Robin Wright, Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri, Meg Ryan, Anna Paquin, and Garry Shandling.
Alexander Wolff on how his grandfather created Pantheon Books
Last week, we had the honor of publishing Endpapers, a powerful memoir by Alexander Wolff exploring a rich family history including his grandfather, Kurt Wolff, the legendary German publisher of authors like Kafka and Joseph Roth who fled to the US and founded Pantheon Books in an apartment in Greenwich Village, and his father, Niko Wolff, who despite his Jewish heritage fought for Hitler on two fronts before rejoining his parents in the US. Today, at Literary Hub, we’re enjoying this electrifying excerpt from the book, in which Wolff shares the story of his grandfather’s first meeting with Kafka, the challenges of publishing Doctor Zhivago without endangering its Soviet dissident author, and more.
“In 1910, freshly married to my grandmother, the pharmaceutical heiress Elisabeth Merck, my grandfather Kurt Wolff hitched himself as silent partner to the publisher Ernst Rowohlt, who had just launched what would become one of Germany’s most important houses. With his lean frame and drawing-room manners, now installed in a Leipzig apartment with household help, Kurt cut a starkly different figure from Rowohlt, a bluff and earthy character who would conduct business in taverns and wine bars around town and sometimes sleep in the office. By June 1912, having abandoned his doctoral work, Kurt found more time to stick his nose into the affairs of the publishing house. Thus he was in the office the day Max Brod, a writer from Prague, turned up with a protégé named Franz Kafka.” Continue reading…
Today’s the fiftieth birthday of actor Jon Hamm, and we couldn’t resist revisiting this scene from “Mad Men,” the show that made him a star, in which his character, Don Draper, evocatively reads “Mayakovsky” from Frank O’Hara’s Meditations in an Emergency, which we first published in 1957. Come for the excellent performance of epochal American literature, stay for the painstaking recreation of our original Evergreen paperback cover. And happy birthday, Mr. Hamm. (“Mad Men,” incidentally, is not his only interaction with a Grove author.)
Tuesday, March 9
Today marks a notorious anniversary in hip-hop history: it was twenty-four years ago tonight that the Notorious B.I.G., often hailed as the greatest rapper of all time, was murdered on his way home from an afterparty for the Soul Train Music Awards, at which he had co-presented an award to Toni Braxton. He was twenty-four years old. Five years later, author and longtime Rolling Stone editor Randall Sullivan released the first edition of LAbyrinth, a definitive look at the murders of Biggie and Tupac Shakur and at corruption in the LAPD. Sullivan would go on to write Dead Wrong, a deep look at subsequent developments in Biggie’s murder investigation. In this 2012 radio clip, Sullivan appears on “Hard Knock Radio,” out of Berkeley’s KPFA, to discuss the murder investigation with Russell Poole, the retired LAPD detective, well-known to readers of LAbyrinth, for whom uncovering the truth about Biggie’s murder became a deep and lifelong commitment until his own death in 2015.
Today marks the 129th birthday of Vita Sackville-West, acclaimed author, brilliant gardener, and legendary letter-writer. Much of Sackville-West’s correspondence survives and continues to be read, none of it with more fascination than her breathtaking letters to her famous muse and lover, novelist Virginia Woolf. (We’ve mentioned them before.) In this video produced for Amnesty International UK, “Killing Eve” star Jodie Comer offers a dramatic reading of one Sackville-West’s passion-drenched letters to her beloved Virgina.
Yesterday marked one year since the death of Molly Brodak. The poet and memoirist (not to mention Great American Baking Show contestant and beloved friend to, seemingly, her entire generation of American writers) took her own life last March, just short of her fortieth birthday and just before the start of Covid lockdowns. Today, we’re remembering what editor Amy Hundley, who worked with Molly, had to say at this time last year: “Molly Brodak was a vital, fiery talent and we are all poorer to be deprived of more work from her. I’ve rarely worked with an author who was so clear in her vision and so unerring in her instinct for beauty.” We’re also revisiting the powerful In Memoriam feature that The Volta ran for Molly last December, featuring some of Molly’s own work, alongside remembrances from her husband Blake Butler and her friends Caroline Crew, Carrie Long, Gina Myers, and Nick Sturm.
“The first time I met Molly, I picked her up from jail. We hardly knew each other—I’d read her writing. She got into my car and closed the door. She was laughing. She had a story about the misunderstanding that had brought us here. We agreed to head on to the bar. At the bar, the main thing I remember is how she showed me the results of her recent MRI, which she was worried suggested the possibility that her brain tumor had returned. She slid the piece of paper across the table like it was a panorama. She seemed so strong, and at the same time, so afraid. She told me that she loved me the next morning.”—Blake Butler. Read the full feature…
Monday, March 8
Ada Calhoun in conversation with Kristen Millares Young
Today we’re both celebrating International Women’s Day and recuperating from another excellent AWP conference (online this year, and great as usual), so it is perhaps an ideal moment to revisit this riveting and timely discussion from last year’s AWP, in which Ada Calhoun discusses her bestselling Why We Can’t Sleep: Women’s New Midlife Crisis with Subduction author Kristen Millares Young. After reading from both their books, the authors discuss topics as wide-ranging as the medical establishment’s troubling ignorance around menopause, writing rituals, the importance to women of communities that bring them into contact with other women, and much, much more.
William J. Bernstein on QAnon, Branch-Davidians, and more
Last month, we published The Delusions of Crowds, William J. Bernstein’s wise and deeply-researched look at how contagious narratives latch on to susceptible groups of people, filling in for the truth and, all too often, wreaking havoc along the way. This weekend, Air Mail published a brief, powerful essay by Bernstein that serves as an excellent accompaniment to the book, looking at today’s QAnon conspiracy theory through the lens of earlier historic delusions, including the unconsummated apocalypse that would give rise to the modern Seventh-Day Adventist movement, and Dorothy Martin’s followers’ disappointment at the 1959 failure of the flying saucers she’d promised to materialize over Chicago. As we contemplate what comes next for believers in today’s popular delusions, Bernstein offers lessons from the past that we ignore at our peril.
“At the stroke of noon on January 20, the QAnon mass delusion of a vast pedophile conspiracy populated by Democrats, coastal elites, and organs of the deep state, and whose exposure would prevent the ascension of Joe Biden to the presidency, smashed into the brick wall of reality, leaving its adherents disoriented and angry.” Continue reading…
Chico Buarque sings “João e Maria”
There’s no better way to start a week than with the gorgeous sound of Chico Buarque singing his haunting song “João e Maria” — highly recommended!