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, May 29
Today, as we continue to mourn Larry Kramer, who died Wednesday at the age of eighty-four, and to meditate on his work and legacy, we’ll be watching these comments by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, with their admiration, warmth, and reflections on a personal relationship that was, famously, both close and contentious. (A few clips from these remarks appeared in a video we shared yesterday; here, Dr. Fauci speaks uninterrupted.) “I wasn’t an adversary to him, but boy, he was an adversary to me… I loved the guy, and I think he loved me back.”
Like the emergency of AIDS in the 1980’s, the current Covid-19 pandemic finds us scrambling to respond to a little-understood virus. And Dr. Fauci, who above offers his fond remembrances of Larry Kramer, has been a key player in responding to both crises. In mid-March, shortly after confirmed Covid cases had begun spiking in the US, journalist and novelist Tim Murphy wrote about Dr. Fauci for TheBody.com. Reflecting on the history of ACT UP (the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power, co-founded by Kramer) and others, Murphy noted that the growing controversy over Fauci’s complex relationship to President Trump “was all a bit amusing to watch for the handful of veteran AIDS activists who have a long history with Fauci, one that went from frustrated and adversarial to friendly and collaborative in the space of only a few short years in the late 1980s and early 1990s.”
“Says Jim Eigo, also an ACT UP treatment activist veteran, ‘Fauci was a sparring partner with us, and then a friend.’ He recalls the letter of recommendation for parallel tracking that he and other ACT UPers sent to Fauci.” Continue reading…
In the autumn of 1982, in the early days of the AIDS crisis, Larry gave an interview outside the offices of Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the AIDS activist organization he had co-founded earlier that year. It’s remarkable, recorded before the virus that causes AIDS had even been identified. “You try not to think about it. You just know that your best friend has died. You just know that a person you had a love fair with is in Lenox Hill Hospital with PCP [pneumocystis pneumonia], which has an eighty percent fatality rate. And you have to do that for him, and you have to do it for the people who have died…”
Thursday, May 28
Today, some sad remembrances, and some happy ones.
Goodbye, Larry Kramer
Yesterday we were profoundly saddened to learn that Larry Kramer, author of The Normal Heart, Faggots, The Destiny of Me, and a number of other works, has died at the age of eighty-four. Larry was perhaps the most recognizable AIDS activist in the world — a co-founder of Gay Men’s Health Crisis and ACT UP, he was a perennial firebrand, uncompromising, confrontational, and brilliant. He was feared and evaded by those who opposed him, adored and admired by many more whom he inspired and empowered.
Here are a few videos we’re watching today to remember him.
First, one from NewsHour, featuring remarks on Larry’s passing by friend and erstwhile adversary, Dr. Anthony Fauci:
Here’s a short video celebrating the legacies of Larry’s activism, made by Lambda Legal:
Here’s a segment that CBS News aired about Larry in 2006, on his seventy-first birthday:
Here, from just a few years ago, is Larry talking on NBC News about the now-largely-discredited myth of “Patient Zero”:
Here’s Larry talking to the New York Times six years ago, about the then-new film adaptation of his play The Normal Heart. “What inspires me is seeing things that are wrong. It’d wrong to be treated with such inequality.”
Today would also have been the ninety-eighth birthday of Barney Rosset, the iconic longtime director of Grove Press. One of the great heroes of American publishing, Barney was a dogged defender of free speech and a publisher who brought authors like Samuel Beckett, Kathy Acker, Jean Genet, Marguerite Duras, and Kenzaburō Ōe — among many others — to American readers.
We’ll be thinking about Barney today, too, and watching this interview he gave to the City University of New York in 2002:
And here’s a trailer for Obscene, the 2007 movie about Barney:
Wednesday, May 27
“We can encounter astonishing things right on our doorsteps”
In August, we’re publishing Vesper Flights, a new book of essays by Helen Macdonald, author of the New York Times bestseller H is for Hawk. We are, needless to say, very excited. To help pass the time, today we’re enjoying this interview Helen recently gave with the excellent crew at LibraryReads! Helen is one of several wonderful writers who can be seen talking with LibraryReads’ Executive Director, Rebecca Vnuk, on everything from the wonderment and joy of being alive to the spider guarding her eggs by the oven. Check it out! And pre-order Vesper Flights right here.
“What if the facts aren’t the facts at all?”
Lauren Francis-Sharma’s is a big, historical novel, telling a story that spans decades of the nineteenth century, and follows its riveting characters from Trinidad to the American West, and shows how folks from wildly distant places and powerfully varying backgrounds came together — though theirs have often not been the stories we hear told in history and fiction depicting that time. In a stunning essay published last week at LitHub, Francis-Sharma writes with intelligence and candor about the challenges of pursuing what Hilary Mantel has called “honest negotiation with the facts,” when the facts themselves may have been buried or distorted.
“Every year or so, my father tells the story of his Indian Muslim grandfather who fell in love with a Black woman. His grandfather, likely born into a family of indentured servants, changed his surname to ‘Francis’ and began a new life with his wife in another part of Trinidad. Over our most recent Thanksgiving dinner, watching my father grow animated in his retelling, I wondered how much of his story was true, how much imagined over generations…” Continue reading…
Chico Buarque is one of the most respected and beloved artists of his native Brazil, a singer-songwriter and writer admired for his political courage and beloved for his music. Here he is singing his composition Construção. Spend a few minutes with him — your day will be better for it.
Tuesday, May 26
It’s a Tuesday that feels like a Monday in the age of asking what days even are anymore! Here’s hoping you enjoyed a safe Memorial Day. Some links to help you settle in for whatever the week has in store.
Try some Bigfoot with your breakfast
California’s Great Bear Rainforest is a place where “you go into people’s backyards, and essentially it’s the forest.” Last summer, journalist John Zada appeared on Vancouver’s News 1130 to talk about his travels there, to explore both the rich mythology and elusive facts about the Sasquatch. The book that research was crucial to, In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond, is now available in paperback!
In a recent story in People, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka discusses the poems he’s taken to sharing at the end of his daily press briefings to discuss the coronavirus. “It’s difficult to be happy in these difficult, depressing times. But I love to share poetry that is encouraging, inspiring, that gives people a sense of a new day, new opportunity of how to persevere.” Some seem surprised that a politician should wax so poetic on the job, but not us. That’s because of who Baraka’s dad was: the epochal poet Amiri Baraka — a pillar of the Black Arts Movement, one of America’s major postmodern poets, and a proud native son of the city his son now leads, which he called “New Ark.” (We wrote a little about Amiri Baraka on his 84th birthday — you can read it here.) Wonderful to see Amiri Baraka’s son continuing to connect politics and poetry in Newark.
“Toni Morrison’s words ring powerful in Ras Baraka’s baritone voice, and silence follows. It’s not the crowded auditorium the Newark, New Jersey mayor has grown accustomed to. His brow furrows as he looks up earnestly into the webcam, alone in his living room, struggling to find the right words to calm the thousands of people watching him in the midst of a pandemic.” Continue reading…
Sandra Newman reads with Charlie Jane Anders
It may sound like a dream, but as recently as 2019, authors were able to safely tour the United States, reading from their books and meeting their readers. Early last year, the incredible Sandra Newman did just that, reading from her breathtaking novel The Heavens, alongside Charlie Jane Anders, the brilliant author of The City in the Middle of the Night, at Politics and Prose in Washington, DC (who, by the way, are currently offering sales by mail and curbside pick-up). Sandra on genre: “Originally most stories are fantasy stories… And then we gradually invent realism — originally, largely as a way of pretending that something is a true story. Robinson Crusoe was originally sold as a true story, which was just a way of marketing books back in the eighteenth century. And then it turned out that people continued to enjoy those stories even once they knew that they weren’t true.” Yes!