Welcome to Grove at Home!
Every day, 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, May 15
Today, May 15, 2020, marks the 129th anniversary of Mikhail Bulgakov’s birth. To be frank, we had an excellent time celebrating Bulgakov’s birthday last year, so the bar’s pretty high. But we’re trying again. Bulgakov was a writer as heroically uncowed by the intense political pressures he faced as he was preternaturally gifted at threading together acerb political criticism, outrageous satire, and pure, surreal imagination. His books cry out to celebrated — especially the two we publish, both in Mirra Ginbserg’s classic translation: the outrageous, darkly hilarious Heart of a Dog, and Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, almost universally considered a contender for greatest novel ever written.
Alex Gendler Explains Why You Should Read The Master and Margarita
If you haven’t had the experience of reading The Master and Margarita, Alex Gendler will explain why you should, in this short, excellent TED-Ed video.
“His Comedy is Universal”: Viv Groskop on The Master and Margarita
“Bulgakov’s novel is tragic and poignant in many ways, but this feeling sneaks up on you only afterwards. Most of all, Bulgakov is about conjuring up a feeling of fun.” So writes Viv Groskop, author of The Anna Karenina Fix, in a wonderful 2018 essay published at Literary Hub. Read it at once!
“If many Russian classics are dark and deep and full of the horrors of the blackness of the human soul (or, indeed, are about the Gulag), then this is the one book to buck the trend. Of all the Russian classics, The Master and Margarita is undoubtedly the most cheering…” Continue reading…
Heart of a Dog… The Opera?
Since the narrator of Bulgakov’s Heart of a Dog is a mangy mutt who gets taken in by a scientist, receives the pituitary gland and testicles of a street criminal as a transplant, slowly begins turning human himself, and rises through the city’s political bureaucracy as its new master cat-strangler, one might be forgiven for thinking it wouldn’t lend itself to adaptation as a stage drama. But in 2010, Russian composer Alexander Raskatov premiered his opera version of the work. You can see and hear a little of the Duth National Opera’s production of it here:
Patti Smith Sings of Pontius Pilate’s Dog
If you’ve read The Master and Margarita, you’ll surely remember the important role Pontius Pilate plays in the book’s action. You may also remember Pilate’s best friend in the book — his loyal pet, a dog named Banga. If you don’t already also know “Banga” as the title track off an excellent album released in 2012 by noted Jean Genet fan (and all-around genius) Patti Smith, check it out. “Loyalty lives in the heart of a dog” indeed!
Thursday, May 14
We can’t wait to publish Crooked Hallelujah, Kelli Jo Ford’s much-anticipated debut novel, this July. In the meantime, we are phenomenally excited this morning to announce that the book has been named an Indies Introduce Debut Pick of the Season by independent booksellers! Check in about it with your favorite indie bookseller — by phone or online — to hear what they have to say!
Sarah M. Broom on NewsHour
“I felt moved and buoyed by the idea that I could write something that didn’t exist. And that there’s a little girl right now still living on the short end of the street in New Orleans East where I grew up. And I wrote it for her, so that there could be some history already in existence.” A few months ago, Sarah M. Broom went on PBS’s NewHour to talk about The Yellow House — her National Book Award-winning, New York Times Ten-Best, Barack Obama-recommended debut memoir, due out in paperback this July. Watch:
Gil Scott-Heron at Woodstock ’94
Fifty years ago, there was Woodstock. Lo, and it was good. Twenty-five years later, there was Woodstock ’94, and it, too, was good. (A few years after that came Woodstock ’99, which… we need not speak of.) Here’s a remarkable performance by the one and only Gil Scott-Heron. Enjoy!
Wednesday, May 13
Kay Ryan Comes “Home to Roost”
Kay Ryan is a Pulitzer Prize-winner, a former US Poet Laureate, a writer of rare accomplishment and even rarer sensitivity. Last month, we were delighted to publish Synthesizing Gravity, her first-ever collection of critical prose, and the sixth book of hers we’ve released. Today, enjoying this video of Ryan reading her poem “Home to Roost,” collected in The Niagara River, and telling the story of the time her longtime partner Carol Adair saw her quoted in The Boondocks.
Samantha Harvey on not Sleeping
Yesterday, we published The Shapeless Unease, a singular memoir of sleeplessness by Samantha Harvey, who surely qualifies as one of the most inquisitive and eloquent writers to ever to document their own insomnia. This week, Harvey also publishes an essay in Time magazine. It’s about many things — attacks by the robot antagonists of Battlestar Galactica, George Saunders’s approach to fiction-writing, online meditation classes — but most of all, it’s about uncertainty and, indeed, sleeplessness. You should read it.
“I dreamed a while back that Boris Johnson had died. In the dream I felt sad, and when I woke I felt glad that I’d been sad, that my compassion had extended to someone whose values I don’t generally share. I went back to sleep and dreamed that my partner had been cut in half lengthways by a Cylon…” Continue reading…
Watch the trailer for “Candy”!
In 2018, we reissued Terry Southern & Mason Hoffenberg’s searing and sizzling 1958 satire Candy, with a new intro by B.J. Novak, who called it a “minor masterpiece (the coolest type of masterpiece)” — and wasn’t wrong. Novak also spared a few words for the 1968 film adaptation, calling it “an unabashed abomination,” and noting that Marlon Brando, who stars in the movie alongside Richard Burton, Ringo Starr, Walter Matthau, and others, called it “‘probably the worst movie I ever made,’ and then piled on even further, musing aloud, ‘How could you do that to yourself ? Haven’t I got any pride left?’” If you haven’t seen it, it’s a wild ride. And you should probably do yourself a favor and watch the theatrical trailer right now:
Tuesday, May 12
Viet Thanh Nguyen with Seth Meyers
One great way to spend a few minutes today is watching Viet Thanh Nguyen’s appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers a few years ago. Viet shares his memories of coming to the US as a refugee, breaking the news that he wanted to major in English, and finally making his dad happy (all it took was winning the Pulitzer Prize). Be charmed!
Today, we can hardly contain our excitement to be publishing Book of the Little Axe, Lauren Francis-Sharma’s epic, masterful new novel. Laura van den Berg calls it “a sweeping tale that illuminates pivotal historical periods in Trinidad and North America, and the links between them.” Today, an interview by Deborah Kalb goes live, with Francis-Sharma talking about the role Willie Nelson played in inspiring the book, her approach to writing setting, and much more.
“Like a lot of children of West Indians, I was forced to listen to country-western music while growing up. Alongside Aretha and Dionne, we listened to Hank and Patsy…” Continue reading…
Oh, Nothing, Just Camcorder Footage of Samuel Beckett Watching a TV Production of His Own Play
Samuel Beckett! Watching his work! On VHS! This utterly marvelous clip also features some commentary by Professor Stanley Gontarski, co-author of The Grove Companion to Samuel Beckett, as well as editor of and consultant on a great many of our Beckett books. This clip cannot be watched enough times. Try it, you’ll see.
Monday, May 11
A new week is starting, amid now-habitual confinement and uncertainty. Recommended activities include reading, and thinking lots about books.
“Playing tennis in pampas grass with this mad, bald ambassador forever…”
Today’s the 246th anniversary of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s ascent to become King and Queen of France. It’s also a good time to watch this clip of A History of France author John Julius Norwich remembering two weeks in the late sixties that he spent stranded at the UK’s embassy in Sudan, playing tennis with Ambassador Robert Fowler, wondering if he’d ever make it to Ethiopia. (This is clip is part 87 of a 136(!)-part-interview — another highlight is Norwich’s reminiscence about growing up with Evelyn Waugh… like you do.)
“Almost no part of our national cuisine is truly native…”
As many of us go spelunking for delicacies in pantries, freezers, and larders, it’s a good time to revisit this piece from Thom Eagle — depending on one’s perspective, either a splendidly literary food writer, or an affirmingly food-obsessed literary writer. Published in At the Table, it’s a terrific meditation on food and history, considering the emergence of “Italian food” (a more recent concept than we tend to think), the waves of immigration responsible for seemingly endemic favorites like fish and chips, and the good things that happen when we care what we put in our mouths.
“All food writing is nostalgic; every recipe is an act of remembrance, looking back on the pleasures of eating as it looks forward to the process of cooking…” Continue reading…
“Pretty Woman is legitimately my favorite movie… I’m absolutely serious…”
“Romance is absurd,” says the inimitable and amazing Roxane Gay, introducing Pretty Woman at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. After the movie, Gay steps onstage for a spontaneous conversation that’s just as wide-ranging, incisive, surprising, and, indeed, hilarious as her legions of devoted readers have come to expect. Check it out!