From the archive, an appreciation of cookbook-memoirist Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor.
Vertamae is the sort of person who, while struggling to find work in the broad creative world, came to know James Baldwin as “Jimmy,” played the part of Big Pearl in the infamous Broadway play Mandingo, catered a record-release party for David Bowie, danced and chanted with Sun Ra & his Solar-Myth Arkestra, and inspired her daughter, who was nine at the time, to publish a volume of poems with Doubleday.
An excerpt of The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature.
I grew up in the southwestern frontier near North Augusta, on a ragged, two-hundred-acre family farm where we raised our own beef, grew our own vegetables, and drew our water out of cool, sweet springs. From heaven—or from a high-flying hawk’s viewpoint—I imagine that the plowed fields, pastures, and humble houses looked like a hole punched into the expanse of green. That gap in the wildness was our Home Place.
He was a modernist scholar, one of the earliest, and for decades a leading translator of ancient Greek poetry; but he also wrote with authority on the social history of the pear, Mother Ann Lee and Shaker aesthetics, Dogon cosmogony, the anthropology of table manners, 2 Timothy and the Pauline doctrine, Louis Agassiz, Eudora Welty, geodesic domes, the paintings of Balthus, and the behavior of wasps—which he fed in his home from a saucer of sugar water. He himself subsisted on fried bologna sandwiches and Marlboros.
A short story.
The entrance to the building is lined with prickly bushes. Ellie is there early. Not because she wants the job. It’s just that parking was easier to find than she expected. She could care less about this job. When people ask her what kind of job she wants, she usually says, a job where I can use my hands. “Your hands?” her mother often says. “But we all use our hands.” Her mother sells insurance policies and uses her hands every day. How else would she dial out?
The pieces of Johnny Greene, an Omnivore essay from the Fall 2019 issue.
Johnny used place as a recurrent theme, along with displacement. As a journalist, he was fascinated by communities, by groups of people and the environments which shaped them. As a person, his roads always led back to Alabama.
Every decent boy needs a chaotic idol, an angel of entropy. Every Tom Sawyer needs his Huck Finn. Mine was Charlie Cousins, a beaten-up-looking kid with freckles and a self-inflicted buzz cut. He was not in our bicycle gang and wouldn’t have been welcome in our tree fort back in the bamboo. He would have laughed at us anyway, with our training wheels and curfews.
A guy on the local news said most gas stations lowered their prices at nine in the morning and raised them at four, something about fucking over people who’d already driven to work and drivers who didn’t leave their cubicles until dusk. He didn’t exactly use those words, but any rational cynic knew what he meant.
What will happen when humanity pushes itself to the brink of extinction? That’s the question posed by Corey George in “Alas, Babylon,” a series of photographs documenting Florida’s vast underpopulated suburbs. Slowly yet relentlessly, nature is reclaiming places like Lehigh Acres, with its 100,000 empty lots and 10,000 miles of unused roads. “One day,” George says, “these roads will be gone, and this land will go back to being Florida scrubland and forest.”
A conversation with South Carolina-born comedian Rory Scovel.
When I’m onstage and there’s an audience there, I don’t know if it’s because your back is sort of against the wall in that moment to deliver, whatever reason it is, it somehow works, it somehow pops right. Specifically, that Southern guy character that I do. I even joke that I know that guy better than myself.