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.

July 29: On this day in 1878 Don Marquis was born.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).