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, December 4
Lisa Brennan-Jobs on her dad, Steve Jobs
Two years ago, we published Small Fry, Lisa Brennan-Jobs’s memoir of growing up amid the dynamism of Silicon Valley in the seventies and eighties, and the pull of two parental worlds — those of her mother, artist Chrisann Brennan, and her father, complex tech legend Steve Jobs. It was instantly greeted as a literary remembrance of raw power and clear-eyed lyricism, named one of the Ten Best Books of 2020 by both the New York Times and the New Yorker, universally praised by critics. In this Today show clip from shortly after the book’s release, Lisa discusses the book with Hoda Kotb. “I remember feeling just profound love and admiration, because we did have joyful, tender, dear moments together. He made the decision to come back and get to know me after he hadn’t really been around when I was younger. And also I must have felt so confused and angry. It was some combination of these things.”
In 2008’s The Comeback, Daniel de Visé tells the remarkable story of cyclist Greg LeMond, one of America’s greatest athletes, whose career has been perhaps as remarkable for the swing between its ups and downs as for its enduring accomplishment. From LeMond’s confrontation with Lance Armstrong over doping allegations, to his remarkable comeback, after a hunting accident that threatened to end his career entirely, to win his third Tour de France by a razor-thin margin of eight seconds, it’s an incredible story. This week, in a piece for the cycling magazine VeloNews, de Visé offers a wonderful update to LeMond’s narrative: next week, he is expected to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the United States’ highest civilian honors. (What modesty may have prevented de Visé from mentioning in the piece is that, in an interview last year with the Star Tribune, Rep. Mike Thompson, the driving force behind the award, credits The Comeback with moving him to act: “It just came together with that book,” the Congressman said.)
“On Sunday, Greg LeMond is expected to become America’s 10th individual athlete—and the first cyclist—to receive the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the nation’s highest civilian honors.
“LeMond was the first American to win the Tour de France in 1986. Following the subsequent disqualifications of Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis, LeMond stands as America’s only official Tour champion.” Continue reading…
Today marks the twenty-seventh anniversary of the death of Frank Zappa, the legendary, genre-busting, persistently kooky, intermittently controversial, entirely brilliant rock legend behind songs like Baby Snakes and Valley Girl and albums like Freak Out! and Sheikh Yerbouti — and the subject of Barry Miles’s altogether wondrous eponymous biography. For dyed-in-the-wool Zappologists and curious newcomers alike, here’s a mighty performance of one of Zappa’s best-loved songs, Cosmik Debris. You could make more money as butcher — but waste your time on this anyway.
Thursday, December 3
One thing we’re tremendously excited to do is publish, this spring, Last Chance Texaco — the no-holds-barred memoir by brilliant songwriter, and one of the hardest-working women in rock, Rickie Lee Jones. To help pass the time till the book’s April publication, and as a reminder of Jones’s subtlety and genius in working with whatever material she’s given, here’s Jones in 2009, singing Bob Dylan’s era-defining Subterranean Homesick Blues.
Theodore R. Johnson on Black patriotism in America
Another book we’re tremendously excited to publish — this one next summer — is When the Stars Begin to Fall by Theodore R. Johnson III. A Navy vet and former speechwriter to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff, Johnson is presently a senior fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, and an increasingly in-demand commentator on race and American society. We’ve still got a while to go before the book’s June 2021 publication (trust us, it’s worth the wait), so here in the meantime is Johnson’s utterly remarkable New York Times magazine piece exploring the history, challenges, and contradictions of Black patriotism in America. A powerful, urgent read.
“‘I love America more than any other country in the world,’ James Baldwin wrote in ‘Notes of a Native Son,’ ‘and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.’ Or, as [James G.] Thompson concluded in his letter to The Courier, ‘I love America and am willing to die for the America I know will someday become a reality.’ This is the crux of Black patriotism, an expression of national praise and chastening drawn from the same well. It cannot know only uncritical adoration because history and lived experience remind us the nation has often been too cruel, and it cannot be only sharp tongues and elbows because our work and faith have had a hand in America’s existence and evolution.” Continue reading…
A quick look at Glasgow in the eighties
At this point, it’s pretty much official that Shuggie Bain, Douglas Stuart’s magnificent debut novel, is one of the year’s biggest literary stories — it’s won the Booker Prize, has been named a finalist for the National Book Award, is currently enjoying its second straight week on the New York Times Best Sellers list, and has been widely proclaimed a masterpiece. The moving story of a “no right” young boy and his alcoholic mother, the book has also been noted for offering a powerful snapshot of 1980’s Glasgow — Douglas’s hometown, and the book’s gorgeously-rendered setting. For those of us who may never have seen the Glasgow of a few decades ago, here’s a brief, fascinating video clip, from the Kinolibrary Film archives.
Wednesday, December 2
David Rabe and Kenneth Lonergan on the state of American theater
For insights into American theater, you couldn’t do much better than to listen to David Rabe and Kenneth Lonergan. In this brief video clip of the two appearing on New York’s public radio station, WNYC, in 2009, they discuss how they got into playwriting, the differences between writing for the stage and writing for the screen, and more. (Viewers of HBO’s recent miniseries The Undoing may notice a family resemblance between David Rabe and noted actor Lily Rabe, who plays Sylvia, the lawyer friend of Nicole Kidman’s Grace Fraser, on the show.)
It’s here again: NPR’s Book Concierge!
Ah, the pleasures of December! In exchange for diminishing daylight and plummeting mercury, we get the light and warmth of the holidays, the promise of a new year, and, not least of all, the opportunity to look back on an entire year’s worth of books. As years go, 2020 has been, let us say, rather a humdinger, and for all its tremendous hardship, it has also been, frankly, an excellent year for books. As they do every year, the geniuses at NPR Books are marking the year’s impending close with their splendid Book Concierge — an interactive website brimming with recommendations for readers of all stripes. We’re delighted to have five titles included among this year’s recs: Helen Macdonald’s Vesper Flights, Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir’s Miss Iceland (translated by Brian FitzGibbon), Kelli Jo Ford’s Crooked Hallelujah, Lily King’s Writers & Lovers, and Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain!
Coming to HBO: The Art of Political Murder
In 2007, we published Francisco Goldman’s The Art of Political Murder to immense acclaim. Salman Rushdie called it “extremely important,” the New York Times compared it to Gabriel Garcia Márquez and praised its “intricate and insightful reporting,” and the Washington Post called it “a passionate cry of outrage that should be read and passed on by anyone who believes, as Goldman proves here, that truth is always more improbable than fiction.” Two weeks from today, on December 16th, a documentary adaptation of the book by Paul Taylor makes its screen debut on HBO. If you haven’t seen the trailer yet, you should.
Tuesday, December 1
Today is December 1, designated by the United Nations in 1988 as World AIDS Day, a time to raise awareness about AIDS and mourn those lost to it. This year, we’re marking it by releasing All the Young Men, the remarkable memoir by Ruth Coker Burks, written with Kevin Carr O’Leary. In this moving segment that aired last year on the “Today” show, Ruth remembers discovering a young man alone in an Arkansas hospital room in the early eighties, calling for his mother as he lay dying of AIDS, a disease still little-understood. Ruth would go on to provide end-of-life care to hundreds of victims of the AIDS pandemic. To read her account of those difficult days, or even to watch this short video segment, is to be powerfully moved by her extraordinary compassion, and the remarkable course of caregiving and activism it set her on.
“Death and I got to be old friends”: Ruth Coker Burks on “CBS This Morning”
Here’s one more news piece on Ruth Coker Burks, which aired on “CBS This Morning” a year ago today. The segment, which won an Excellence in Journalism Award from the Association of LGBTQ Journalists, begins with the surprising story of how a family fight made Ruth the owner of 262 cemetery plots. As Burks, years later, remembers some of the intimidation she faced from groups like the KKK, her remarkable courage is palpable: “I had a killer on my hands. I was dealing with AIDS. Why was I gonna be afraid of someone burning a cross in my yard?” Like the “Today” clip above, this segment also features a brief appearance by the wondrous Larry Kramer.
The New York Times recommends Eileen Myles’s Instagram
In an excellent New York Times story last month, critic Martha Schwendener recommends five Instagram accounts that are part of “the battle against stale ideas and narratives at a moment when technology, politics and the environment are changing at warp speed.” All five are great, but perhaps we can be forgiven for having a favorite: that of the acclaimed poet Eileen Myles. Myles has called Instagram “a real new playground” and described the cover of their most recent collection, Evolution, as “an Instagram photo of an Instagram photo of an Instagram photo.” Schwendener is clearly onto something.
“Mx. Myles has an Instagram feed filled with photographs that are lyrical and moving. Small quiet observations like the slant of sunlight across a wall recall Emily Dickinson. Sharp, pleasing jabs like a lollipop with a scorpion embedded in it make you question a bit of reality.” Continue reading…
Monday, November 30
Today marks the seventy-third birthday of the great David Mamet, surely a contender for America’s greatest living playwright. From his Pulitzer Prize-winning Glengarry Glenn Ross and American Buffalo, which won an Obie Award and Drama Critics Circle Award, to movies like House of Games and State and Main, Mamet’s work is characterized by an uncanny ear for the cadences of American speech, deep (and at times controversial) insights into human motivations, and a clever, street-smart sense of humor. There are many clips with which we might celebrate — Mamet discussing his divisive play Oleanna in 1994, Mamet discussing his conservative political awakening with the Wall Street Journal, even Mamet’s daughter, Girls star Zosia Mamet, reminiscing about the impact he’s had on her career as an actor. But this clip may be the most apt of all — the famous “coffee’s for closers” scene from James Foley’s celebrated 1992 screen adaptation of Glengarry Glen Ross, featuring Alec Baldwin, Jack Lemmon, and Ed Harris.
“We only swept up the place”: Dantiel W. Moniz in O, the Oprah Magazine
In February, we’ll publish Milk Blood Heat, the arresting debut short story collection by Dantiel W. Moniz that Kirkus, in a starred review, calls “a wonderland of deep female characters navigating their lives against the ever changeable backdrop of Florida.” If February sounds like a long wait, here’s some good news: this week, O, the Oprah Magazine is sharing “Exotics,” a short, stingingly powerful story from the collection that you simply won’t be able to forget. As the magazine puts it in introducing the story, “Despite its short length, Dantiel W. Moniz’s short story — a juicy piece of flash fiction — is a whole meal. It’s like ceviche, or tuna tartare, a tasty morsel to be devoured ravenously, one that both slakes your hunger and makes you startlingly aware of that hunger.”
“Among themselves, the members called it the Supper Club; to us it was only our J-O-B, and no one, not them or us, spoke of it outside of the building’s walls. Concealed in the center of the city in a plain, tan-brick building that could have been the dentist’s or the tax attorney’s office, the club was exclusive in the way that too much money made things. We couldn’t have joined — not that we wanted to, we often said. Even if our fathers had handed us riches from their fathers and their grandfathers before them, made off of the lives and deaths of black and brown bodies, none of us would want to be complicit in such terrible opulence; we only swept up the place.” Continue reading…
Today also marks the 105th anniversary of the birth of the poet Robert Lax, known for his powerful, minimalist writing and the hermetic lifestyle he enjoyed for many years on the Greek island of Patmos. If Lax never became as well-known as close friends like Thomas Merton and Jack Kerouac, it is surely in part because he lived modestly, eschewing literary fame and publicity in favor of a nearly monastic lifestyle of reclusion. Nicolas Hubert and Werner Penzel’s film portrait of Lax, Why Should I Buy a Bed When All I Want is Sleep?, was completed in 1999, a year before the poet died at the age of eighty-four.