Back in 1980, a collection of the plays of Gregory Corso, a young fixture of the Beat scene with pals Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Burroughs, was set to be published by City Lights Books. The book never appeared: a strung-out Corso smashed a window to break into the store to steal money one night, and the folks who ran the press didn’t want him coming around anymore. Last week, the Arlington-based Tough Poets Press published Corso’s “Collected Plays” with an introduction by Rick Schober that thoughtfully contextualizes the work. The anthology includes six plays, two of which have never before been published; “Sarpedon” was written while crashing at Harvard’s Eliot House. The tone see-saws between playful rhymey absurdism and weighty social critique with moments of strange-and-savvy wisdom. “If the earth is round like they say and not attached to anything then that means the sky is underneath the earth too! So down too is the sky! . . . How nice it is that I’m always discovering things, just by doing nothing!” He writes of the atomic bomb, of lingering on streets, of battling a bug, and the book is peppered with his spirited line drawings.
Candelaria Norma Silva, inimitable force of Boston’s cultural scene, has just published her first children’s book. As the director of ACT Roxbury, she brought about the Roxbury Literary Annual, the Roxbury Film Festival, and Roxbury Open Studios, and helped the birth of the Roxbury Center for the Arts at Hibernian Hall, among other programs and initiatives. In “Stacey Became a Frog One Day,” richly illustrated by Justin Aquidad, young Stacey wakes up each morning and becomes anything she wants, launching out into her imagination, hopping like a frog, galloping like a horse, flying like a bird. Her Black family is loving, and the refrain “when will she be a kid again and get to play with all her friends?” gives the book a good, dreamy atmosphere, as do the gentle rhymes and repetitions: “Stacey woke as a cat on Tuesday, and as a cat she napped all day. Napped and napped and napped all day, stretched and yawned and purred this way.” Silva reflects about the books she loved as a young reader, and notes that she “still loves to read, with a special focus on reading and collecting children’s books that portray children of color.”
Local independent bookstores continue to find creative ways to put books in the hands of readers and connect with community during the pandemic. Over the holiday season, in an effort to maintain a sense of normalcy and offer a way to get books to kids during a Covid-altered holiday season, the Book Shop of Beverly Farms worked with librarians and organizations on the North Shore to hold virtual holiday book fairs, curating lists of books aimed at certain age groups and making them available to order and pick up at respective schools. The Book Shop then donated 20% of sales for each town’s fair and donated proceeds to that school. Over $6000 was generated across the schools, yielding a total donation from the Book Shop of $1229 to schools across the North Shore.
“Aftershocks” by Nadia Owuso (Simon & Schuster)
“W-3” by Bette Howland (A Public Space Books)
“Detransition, Baby” by Torrey Peters (One World)
Pick of the Week
Kat Feraco at Toadstool Books in Keene, New Hampshire, recommends “Burning Down the Haus: Punk Rock, Revolution, and the Fall of the Berlin Wall” by Tim Mohr (Algonquin): “This book is about young punks in East Germany in the 80s, their ethos, their music, and their radical and democratic efforts to change their world. Prescient and important, this history of punk rock in an authoritarian state is inspiring to everyone who wants to change their world for the better.”