new england literary news | nina maclaughlin

A Grolier fund-raiser; a look at gangland Boston

Boston mobster Joseph Lombardo.
Massachusetts State Police
Boston mobster Joseph Lombardo.

Grolier’s 90th anniversary

The diminutive Grolier Poetry Book Shop, perched at the top of Plympton Street in Harvard Square, has throbbed with the practice of poetry since opening in 1927. Over the years, it’s been hub and hangout for such notable devisers of verse as Conrad Aiken, Allen Ginsberg, John Ashbery, Adrienne Rich, Marianne Moore, Franz Wright, and Donald Hall.

In celebration of its 90th anniversary, the Grolier is throwing itself a fund-raiser to keep the place vital through its centennial and beyond.

“What I am hoping for — if I may dare to hope big — is that the Grolier name will continue into the next century,” says Grolier owner and poet Ifeanyi Menkiti. He talks of the three pillars in place — the brick and mortar store, the Grolier Poetry Foundation and Forums Trust, and the Grolier Poetry Press — and says “the structures are hopefully in place to carry the Grolier forward.”


For Musical Notes at 90, the anniversary celebration event, Boston composers Howard Frazin, Benjamin Pesetsky, Tom Schnauber, and Adam Simon have set to music poems by E.E. Cummings; the performance will also include the premiere of “Letting Go,’’ a song cycle involving six poems by Hall.

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The event will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 14, at 8 p.m. at the Oberon Theater in Cambridge. Tickets are $37.50 and $20 for students.

At the age of 77, Menkiti says, “time is not on my side. My hope, however, is that there are some other people out there, who, realizing what a cultural treasure the Grolier has been, are also willing to embrace the task’’ of ensuring it survives and thrives.

Organized crime beat

Emily Sweeney has been covering crime and other local news for the Globe for more than 15 years, and her new book “Gangland Boston: A Tour through the Deadly Streets of Organized Crime’’ (Lyons), puts her expertise on display. The book reads less like a history and more like a guidebook of famous felonies around Greater Boston: the coffee shops, home addresses, and street corners where gangsters spent time, buried bodies, and met their ends. It’s a chronicle of colorful and violent hoods — with nicknames like Goofy Campbell, Joseph J. “Specs” O’Keefe, Beano Breen, and, of course, Whitey Bulger — and the law enforcement crews who pursued them. Sweeney will discuss her chronicle of the darker side of Boston’s history at the Tewksbury Public Library on Nov. 14 at 7 pm.

Transgender myths and misconceptions

In “You’re in the Wrong Bathroom!: And 20 Other Myths and Misconceptions About Transgender and Gender-Nonconforming People’’ (Beacon), Laura Erickson-Schroth and Laura A. Jacobs set about righting the pervasive myths and misconceptions of about transgender and gender-nonconforming people. With thorough research and warmth, they debunk 21 myths like “It’s rude to ask how to address someone,” “Trans people are secretly gay,” “Trans people are mentally ill and therapy can change them,” and “Trans people are ‘trapped in the wrong body.’ ’’ Their message? “Gender is part of human existence to be toyed with, explored, questioned, deconstructed, and lived in an infinite variety of expressions.” In this book, the authors explore, question, and deconstruct gender in a way that’s accessible and informative. Erickson-Schroth and Jacobs will discuss their book on Saturday, Nov. 18 at 2 pm at the Boston Public Library.

Coming out


“Day In, Day Out’’ by Héctor Aguilar Camín, translated from the Spanish by Chandler Thompson (Schaffner)

“The Book of Formation’’ by Ross Simonini (Melville House)

“Mother of All Pigs’’ by Malu Halasa (Unnamed)

Pick of the Week

Jim Gocha at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, N.H., recommends “Letters to a Young Writer’’ by Colum McCann (Random House): McCann starts each chapter with a quote from a well-known writer, which he uses to dive into a point of consideration. One of the wisest bits he professes here is that it is OK to fail, that failing is a new beginning, like a phoenix rising from the ashes. Some of his best counsel applies not just to scribes: “Be daring. Be original. Nothing good is ever achieved through predictability” and “In the end, the only things worth doing are the things that might possibly break your heart. Rage on.”

Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.” She can be reached at