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, November 20
In case you missed the news, we’ll keep this brief: Yesterday, Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart’s instantly-hailed, utterly admired, exhaustively beloved debut novel, won the Booker Prize. In a word: wow! In another word: hooray! Massive congrats to the brilliant and wonderful Douglas Stuart! If you haven’t seen it yet, the Booker announcement video is sixty seconds of pure book-infused joy.
Stuart Campbell reads from Shuggie Bain
The profoundly excellent folks who administer the Booker Prize also produced this marvelous, one-minute video, in which Scottish actor Stuart Campbell offers a powerful reading of a brief, well-chosen excerpt from the book.
In proof that it’s been one heck of a week, we needn’t look more than twenty-four hours earlier than yesterday’s Booker announcement to see another author we love receive an enormous honor — on Wednesday night, the legendary Walter Mosley received the National Book Foundation’s 2020 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Today, at Literary Hub, we’re reading his monumental acceptance speech. It’s a moving, powerful piece of writing.
“I love writing: its slippery slopes and foolish errands, its silly puns and bone-shaking metaphors, its ability to offer over the millennia the deep well of human invention in defiance of despots, wars, poverty, and ever-encroaching techno-babble. Stories can be transmitted via fiber-optics but they have yet to be usurped by that or any other medium. Stories keep their deep connection to the human heart word by word, sentence by sentence.” Read the full speech…
Thursday, November 19
The National Book Awards were utterly fantastic!
We may not have been able to hug and high-five in person, but anyone who watched last night’s live-streamed National Book Awards saw ample proof that America’s literary community is alive and well, connected despite our social distance, with much to celebrate despite the year’s challenges. We, of course, were especially thrilled to see the peerless Walter Mosley receive the 2020 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, and to see Douglas Stuart’s incredible Shuggie Bain as a finalist for this year’s fiction award, presented by the incomparable Roxane Gay. If you missed it, or you’re just ready to be back there again, you can watch the full live recording here. (To see Walter’s incredible acceptance speech, skip ahead to 31:05.)
Wednesday, November 18
Margaret Atwood on the Odyssey: “Various genders don’t always behave well”
Today marks the 81st birthday of the brilliant and revered Margaret Atwood! We’re wishing her 81 kinds of cake and all the happiness in the world, and meantime watching this video, from the 2006 Hay Festival, of Atwood speculating on the gender of the author of the Odyssey, and the purpose of re-telling its foundational narrative from the perspective of a female character — exactly as Atwood does in her lauded 2005 novel The Penelopiad.
Margaret Atwood on how she came to write The Handmaid’s Tale
Among Margaret Atwood’s well over fifty books, her 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale certainly holds a special place. A massive success with critics and readers, it has spawned a film adaptation, an opera, a TV show, a ballet, and a sequel novel, which shared last year’s Booker Prize with Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other. In a 2018 essay published at Literary Hub, Atwood opens up about how the book came to written — a fascinating story, complete with visits behind the Iron Curtain, a dismissive New York Times review by none other than Mary McCarthy, and much more.
“I began this book almost 30 years ago, in the spring of 1984, while living in West Berlin—still encircled, at that time, by the infamous Berlin Wall. The book was not called The Handmaid’s Tale at first—it was called Offred—but I note in my journal that its name changed on January 3, 1985, when almost 150 pages had been written.” Continue reading…
Margaret Atwood talks to Lauren Oyler: “Get up in the morning, drink some blood…”
In this truly wonderful interview for Broadly, critic Lauren Oyler talks to Atwoood about so much: her daily routine, her uncanny prescience, reproductive freedom, pornography, online publishing, and, of course, women’s rights.
Tuesday, November 17
“People would just spill their guts to him”: Tobias Wolff on Raymond Carver
If you’ve never seen it, you should absolutely drop everything right now and spend thirty-four seconds watching this deeply excellent clip of the legendary Tobias Wolff reflecting on the personality of the equally legendary Raymond Carver. Wolff’s readers know a thing or two about his powers of characterization, and here he paints a fast, dynamic portrait worthy of one of literature’s avatars of pungent concentration.
Megan Hunter’s five books about women transformed
It’s been two excellent weeks since we published Megan Hunter’s The Harpy, a searing depiction of the interplay of power, love, betrayal, redemption, revenge, and renewal in one vividly-imagined marriage. Today, at Book Marks, Megan talks with Jane Ciabattari, discussing five more books about women transformed, including work by the likes of Margaret Atwood and Angela Carter.
“[Surfacing] is another book I read as a teenager, and the ending in particular has always haunted me: the language is so extraordinary. Just one passage that gives a sense of its power: ‘The earth rotates, holding my body down to it as it holds the moon; the sun pounds in the sky, red flames and rays pulsing from it, searing away the wrong form that encases me, dry rain soaking through me, warming the blood egg I carry.’ In terms of a visceral encounter with both nature and memory, the unconscious and the non-human, I think it’s unsurpassed.” Continue reading…
Lisa Moore reads from Caught
When we first published Lisa Moore’s Caught in 2014, praise came swiftly: the Globe and Mail called it “Quintessential Moore: precise, compressed, intimately rhythmic, mesmerizingly smart,” the National Post called it “Gripping, detailed, and wholly convincing,” and Amazon selected it as a Book of the Month. Here, from the Toronto Library’s hilariously-named “Eh List” reading series, is a clip of Moore back in 2014 reading from the book, which tells the story of a twenty-five-year-old fugitive who escapes from jail, where he’s serving time for marijuana possession, and embarks on a soaring caper, intent on pulling off one last job and winning back the woman he loves.
Monday, November 16
“It is not a memoir, but it is drawn very closely from my own life,” the wondrous Douglas Stuart notes about his wildly acclaimed, Booker-, Kirkus-Prize-, and National-Book-Award-nominated debut Shuggie Bain, speaking to Scott Simon of NPR’s Weekend Edition in a stunning, seven-minute interview aired this weekend. Simply put: if you missed it on Saturday, you should clear seven minutes and listen to this right now.
“Not historical artifacts, but examples of abuse”: Yxta Maya Murray on Rodney McMillian
Race, medical ethics, the fate of the Black body, and the politics of art-making are among the concerns animating Yxta Maya Murray’s recent Brooklyn Rail review of “Body Politic,” a new show by American artist Rodney McMillian currently on display at Vielmetter Los Angeles through December 5th. Murray, a law professor in addition to an acclaimed writer, brings keen art-historical awareness and sound political judgment to bear in considering McMillian’s work, noting, “McMillian’s blending of medical barbarism with the history of Abstract Expressionism proves a brilliant connection… Even in its complexity, abstractionism did not expose the bloody and high-definition details of homegrown outrages, such as the US’s schemes of segregation and domination.”
“In the fall of 1977, medical students at Howard University prepared to dissect the anonymous corpse of a Black man that had been sent to them through a lottery administered by the District of Columbia’s Medical Examiner’s Office. This man was Casper Yeagin, a 68-year-old mechanic who had vanished on September 11, much to the distress of his sister, Pearlie Smith, and his niece, Minnie Champ. From the moment of his death (of still unknown causes), Yeagin’s body was treated callously by the police and medical personnel: law enforcement never filed Smith and Champ’s missing persons report, and Yeagin was deposited at Howard as a specimen despite the fact that his pants pocket contained the phone number of a nephew…” Continue reading…
Where the flying ponies collide with the marzipan rainbows: Happy belated, P.J. O’Rourke!
This past Saturday we missed the opportunity to wish the great P.J. O’Rourke a very happy seventy-third birthday! The author of more than 20 books, P.J. is one of the indispensable wits of modern political discourse, voice as tireless in defending what’s right as he is in mocking what’s hilarious. Here, from just before this year’s presidential election, is a recording of P.J. weighing in on that choice (“I’m appalled”), American politics more generally, and much more. “I have always belonged to the pessimistic wing of the libertarian attitude. There are many libertarians who believe that people are ultimately rational. I am not among them.”