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, October 30
In this wonderful announcement, Eat, Pray, Love author Elizabeth Gilbert shares some very exciting news about the Onward Book Club, the group she founded to “spotlight and celebrate and study and honor the works of Black female writers.” The next book up is… Sarah M. Broom’s National Book Award-winning The Yellow House! Gilbert aptly describes it as “a book of amazing reportage, a book of oral history, of urban history, of cultural history, it’s a deeply moving and affecting memoir, it is as well-written as a book can be.” Watch the full announcement — complete with Emily Dickinson recitation! — right here:
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Hi everybody! I’m delighted to announce that the next selection in the Onward Book Club is the award-winning memoir THE YELLOW HOUSE, by the great @sarah_m_broom. This book is an unforgettable and incredibly powerful multigenerational true story of one family’s history in a small yellow house in New Orleans — before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina. @sarah_m_broom will be joining me for a conversation about her book on November 30 at 2 PM EST, on my Instagram live — please read the book and join us! I gently suggest buying the book from a Black female-owned bookstore… My favorite is @elizabethsofakron. Also: if you want more information about The Onward Book Club, I’ve posted a link in my bio where you can see all the books we’ve read already this year, as well as all my interviews with the authors. Sarah: I’m so honored and excited that you agreed to be in the Book Club, and I can’t wait for everybody to read your story! See you on November 30th, and I love you all. #sarahmbroom #theyellowhouse #onwardbookclub
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Today would be the eighty-fifth birthday of Ágota Kristóf, the Hungarian-Swiss writer best remembered for her powerful Notebook trilogy. (Fun fact: Kristóf was born the same day as American biographer and journalist Robert Caro, to whom we’re wishing a very happy birthday today.) At once a stark landmark in postmodern fiction, a searing remembrance of WWII-era Europe, and the high water mark in the career of a furiously applauded novelist, the trilogy is a powerful, disquieting, and absolutely singular achievement. It is also, as Slovene philosopher Slavoj Žižek wrote in the Guardian in 2012, not long after Kristóf’s death, a stinging and at times counterintuitive meditation on ethics.
“There is a book through which I discovered what kind of a person I really want to be: The Notebook, the first volume of Ágota Kristóf’s trilogy, which was followed by The Proof and The Third Lie. When I first heard someone talk about Ágota Kristóf, I thought it was an east European mispronunciation of Agatha Christie; but I soon discovered not only that Ágota is not Agatha, but that Ágota’s horror is much more terrifying than Agatha’s…” Continue reading…
Have dinner with Henry Miller
It’s the end of a long week in what may be the longest month in what may be the longest year in any of our memory. Unwind with this outstanding video of Henry Miller eating dinner with his close friend, the actor, artist, and dancer Brenda Venus. Miller, who would die the next year at the age of eighty-eight, speaks volubly, in his wonderfully thick New York accent, about winning the Nobel Prize (he’d like to), his Swiss-French contemporary Blaise Cendrars (Miller admires him endlessly and appreciates his nom de plume), and more. They don’t make ’em like Henry Miller anymore.
Thursday, October 29
“I sort of wish I’d worn a helmet”: Kay Ryan reads her poems among neuroscientists
Seven years ago, Litquake and the Hellman Visiting Artist Program at the UCSF Memory and Aging Center hosted an unusual event: an evening called “Poetry & Science,” at which four neuroscientists spoke to current findings in research on language, cognition, and emotion, and four poets shared their work — Jane Hirshfield, David Watts, Forrest Gander, and former US Poet Laureate Kay Ryan. Ryan’s astute, playful, disarming intelligence is ripe for listening with neuroscientific sensitivity, and her genial presence and perceptive, inimitable work are a nourishing pleasure as always.
May we recommend Eileen Myles’s animals?
Eileen Myles is one of the most acclaimed, admired, and beloved poets in the world. They’re also one of the world’s great animal lovers. You might know this if you’ve read their remarkable dog memoir Afterglow, and you will definitely know it after reading the marvelous “Animals” section of their website. Included is Rosie, the pit bull who is the subject of Afterglow, as well as any number of worthy other dogs, horses, goats, and more. Trot, gallop, or canter over — this page is a joy.
“These are Mary Farley’s goats, Little Vie and Topes. They are Nigerian dwarf goats. If you have a cup of coffee with Mary these guy will perform for you, though they are simply being themselves – variously standing on a trash can, hopping up on Mary’s lap and then butting each other out of any good position the other attains. That’s what they like to do is stand on elevated spots and butt away at each other with their horns. It reminds me of the graphic novel Saga in which a sexy dad has horns. The woman he’s married to has wings. Their kid has both I believe. Horns seem like a wonderful body part to have though these goats are pretty wild and not reasonable at all. They sleep outside but prefer to be indoors so imagine having goats that think that way. Bang bang bang. Hey it’s us the goats.” Meet all the animals…
Timothy Donnelly reads (and discusses) John Ashbery
Back in April, when we were all still getting accustomed to the weird era of Covid, poet Timothy Donnelly appeared in the Paris Review’s “Poets on Couches” series — a sequence of YouTube videos in which poets, appearing from home, share work by other poets, and then comment on their choices, explaining why they picked the poems they did and what the work they’ve shared means to them. Donnelly chooses John Ashbery’s “Rain Moving In,” which the Paris Review published in 1983, and he goes on to give a five-minute talk that helps unlock the pleasures of the text, stopping by reference points that include film noir, farm life, and what it means that “a crisis may become our home.” If you missed this back in April, do yourself a favor right now.
Wednesday, October 28
In 2002, ASIFA, the International Animated Film Association (the acronym comes via French), proclaimed October 28th International Animation Day, a holiday that celebrates the art of animation in all its many forms. This year, we’re especially keyed into the occasion as we prepare to publish Reid Mitenbuler’s Wild Minds on December 1st. It’s a vivid, colorful history of cartooning’s Golden Age, looking to creators like Chuck Jones, Walt Disney, and many more. The Simpsons creator Matt Groening calls it “a must-read for all fans of the medium.” Needless to say, we can’t wait. But, with just over a month till publication, we also must wait.
Here, in the meantime, is one of the very first animations ever produced: Winsor McCay’s Gertie the Dinosaur. McCay, also known for his creation of Little Nemo, is one of the earliest pioneers of animation, and Gertie was just his third film. As Reid writes, “It was the kind of masterpiece that can change an artist’s perspective… Walt Disney spoke of his first time seeing Gertie the same way priests talk of finding God.” After finishing the cartoon, McCay took it on the road, touring the Vaudeville circuit with an act in which he would crack a bullwhip and issue commands with which “the only dinosaur in captivity,” by turns impish, demure, and friendly, would comply.
Reid Mitenbuler interviewed in Publishers Weekly
Now that you’ve put in a good day’s dino-watching, why not continue the festivities by reading this excellent interview Reid gave to Publishers Weekly last week, in which he talks about the book’s origins, his own stylistic decisions as he wrote it, the interplay between animation history and world history at large, and more.
“Q: How did the idea for this book come about?
A: I got really interested in Fleischer Studios, because they were the number two to Walt Disney. Max Fleischer did all this innovative work but he was a little bit weirder, a little bit funkier, and he’s not the marquee name. At that point, there wasn’t a biography, although there is one now. But when there’s a topic that you’re interested in, and you don’t see the book you want to read, that’s when you know. So I dug more into the history of some of these old cartoons. There were lots of great books about them, but they tended to be a little more academic. I wanted a book you could read on an airplane or on the beach, one that really brings you into the story.” Continue reading…
The Curse of Oak Island is returning to TV!
It is a fact universally acknowledged that we’re big Curse of Oak Island fans — so much so that we published Randall Sullivan’s book of record on the mysterious island and ongoing attempts to turn up the treasure that many, for centuries, have been convinced is hidden there. Today, good news for Oak Island enthusiasts: the History Channel has a new season of its wildly popular reality series The Curse of Oak Island ready to premier in just under two weeks! Here’s a trailer to help build the anticipation:
Tuesday, October 27
This week, the legendary British songwriter and producer Fraser T. Smith, recording under the name Future Utopia, releases 12 Questions, an album of collaborations with rappers and musicians including Stormzy, and Simon Armitage. Smith, who is responsible for 8 #1 songs and 18 #1 hits in the UK, calls the record “the most ambitious, exciting and terrifying thing I’ve ever done,” adding that “it’s a celebration of humanity, whilst shining a light on some of the cruel injustices in the world.” We’re particularly stuck on the thirteenth track, which features vocals by grime pioneer Kano as well as our very own Albert Woodfox, whose memoir Solitary, describing the more than forty years he spent in solitary confinement for a crime he did not commit, has been shortlisted for both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and has won the Stowe Prize, the National Book Award, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and more. “That’s what freedom is — it’s the ability, like I said, to take your philosophical views or your theoretical views or your personal views or whatever and make it real.” Give it a listen — this’ll get the blood pumping.
The Carnegie Medal longlist is out!
Yesterday, the wonders of the American Library Association announced the longlist for the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction — an extraordinary list that testifies to the vitality and vibrance of American publishing. We are tremendously proud and delighted to have published two of the twenty-six books longlisted in fiction: Crooked Hallelujah by Kelli Jo Ford, and Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart. Both are debut novels we published this year to instant acclaim, and both are hard-won literary achievements we couldn’t be prouder to be involved in. Massive congrats to our brilliant authors!
“A total of 46 books (26 fiction, 20 nonfiction) has been selected for the longlist for the 2021 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction. The six-title shortlist—three each for the fiction and nonfiction medals—will be chosen from longlist titles and announced on November 17, 2020. The two medal winners will be announced by 2021 selection committee chair Bill Kelly at the Reference and User Services Association’s Book and Media Awards (BMAs) event, which will take place online on Thursday, February 4, 2021, 3-4pm CST.” Read the full list…
The delightful Steve Almond turns fifty-four today. In 2002, we were delighted to publish Steve’s debut collection, My Life in Heavy Metal, which featured twelve stories of young people in thrall variously to love, lust, confusion, loneliness, exaltation, and, at times, heavy metal. “The Pass,” included in the collection, won a Pushcart Prize. Steve is one of a kind, and today we’re celebrating his unique mind and musical expertise by watching this ace deconstruction of the lyrics to Toto’s 1982 megahit “Africa” that he delivered in 2009 at Tin House’s tenth anniversary bash. “The dogs remind our hero that he is on a quest — in fact, he has a moral obligation whose looming presence he compares to a famous mountain rising like another famous mountain over a famous desert. Although, intriguingly, the mountain in question does not actually rise over the desert in question because it is several hundred miles away.” This will make you smile.
Monday, October 26
Viet Thanh Nguyen: “That sense of always being an observer, always being a spy has continued to stay with me.”
In 2017, after the soaring success of his Pulitzer Prize-winning debut novel The Sympathizer, we were honored to publish Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Refugees, a landmark short-story collection exploring themes of migration and belonging, love and family, alienation and belonging. As the world impatiently awaits the release this spring of The Committed, the sequel to The Sympathizer, and with a third, conclusory volume of what will be the Sympathizer trilogy already in progress, we’re revisiting Viet’s 2017 appearance to discuss The Refugees on PBS NewsHour. “I am a refugee. I write about refugees. We need to think about the necessity of opening our doors and letting refugees in.”
The New York Times makes it official: Shuggie Bain is this year’s breakout debut
Speaking of astonishing debuts: When we published Douglas Stuart’s debut novel Shuggie Bain earlier this year, we knew it was something special. The literary world has overwhelmingly agreed: the Washington Post called it “a debut that reads like a masterpiece,” in the New York Times Book Review Leah Hager Cohen was left “gutted and marveling,” and in short order the book has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the National Book Award, and named a finalist for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the Kirkus Prize. Last week, in the New York Times, the great Alexandra Alter profiled Douglas, sharing the remarkable story of how a boy growing up in public housing in Glasgow went on to produce one of the most acclaimed works of literary fiction in recent memory. If you missed it last week, read this immediately.
“Stuart based the novel on his own childhood in Scotland, as the lonely youngest son of a single, alcoholic mother. Still, he sees Shuggie’s story not as a tragedy, but as a tale about unbreakable filial bonds.
“‘For me, Shuggie Bain is a love story,’ Stuart, 44, said during an interview on a drizzly day in downtown Manhattan this month. ‘It’s about love before it’s about addiction.’” Continue reading…
Something scary’s cooking in Val McDermid’s kitchen…
It’s safe to say that Val McDermid knows a thing or two about cooking up a book, have written more than forty of them. We were, however, scared out of our minds to discover this ghoulish video Val dropped this morning, promising a special Halloween edition of her instant classic “Cooking the Books” YouTube series. Abandon all hope, ye who watch this extreme literary spookiness.