Ringolevio: A Life Played for Keeps

From street-smart New York punk to West Coast hippie prankster: that?s how Emmett Grogan, who died in 1978, would like readers of his self-aggrandizing autobiography to remember him. But in the age of James Frey, we?re more likely to wonder how much of this wild tale is actually true. The first half of Grogan?s fantastic account -- the childhood tale of Kenny Wisdom -- beggars belief. Born in postwar Brooklyn in a tough neighborhood, he becomes a heroin addict at age 11, a Park Avenue burglar at 13, a runaway to Europe at 14, a murderer at 15, and, to cap it off, an IRA terrorist at 16. Women everywhere fall for his freckle-faced good looks, and jail time simply strengthens his will to get over. A scholarship to an elite Manhattan school helps him sharpen his wits, hone his basketball skills, and once again prove what a tough customer he can be. Along the way, Kenny picks up a stack of hip paperbacks and evolves into the legendary Emmett Grogan, best known among cultural historians as a co-founder of the Diggers, a quasi-anarchistic group who tried to undermine the System by giving stuff away for free-food, clothing, and lots of drugs. They accompanied this with disruptive of street theater, and often to the live soundtrack of the emerging San Francisco sound: the Dead, Janis, and Jefferson Airplane. This half of Grogan?s romp includes appearances by a full cast of '60s characters, some celebrated (Dylan, Brautigan, leftover Beats), others mocked (Abbie Hoffman, Leary and Ram Dass, Jerry Rubin). In true post-Salinger fashion, Grogan reserves his harshest criticism for ?the phonies,? all those who exploit the scene for commercial gain. Whatever you feel about Grogan or the '60s, his semi-apocryphal account is an unforgettable portrait of a strange time, an essential document of a tumultuous era.

April 24: "[The HST] lifted a curtain from our view of the universe, changing it so profoundly that no human can look at the stars in the same way..."

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.