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A Life Played for Keeps

by Emmett Grogan, introduction by Peter Coyote

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Ringolevio is a classic American story of self-invention by one of the more mysterious and alluring figures to emerge in the 1960s. Emmett Grogan grew up on New York City’s mean streets, getting hooked on heroin before he was in his teens, kicking the habit and winning a scholarship to a swanky Manhattan private school, pursuing a highly profitable sideline as a Park Avenue burglar, then skipping town to enjoy the dolce vita in Italy. It’s a hard-boiled, sometimes hard-to-believe, wildly entertaining tale that takes a totally unexpected turn when Grogan washes up in sixties San Francisco and becomes a leader of the anarchist group known as the Diggers. The Diggers, devoted to street theater, direct action, and distributing free food, were in the thick of the legendary Summer of Love, and soon Grogan is struggling with the naive narcissism of the hippies, the marketing of revolution as a brand, dogmatic radicals, and false prophets like tripster Timothy Leary. Above all, however, he struggles with himself.

Ringolevio is an enigmatic portrait of a man and his times to set beside Hunter S. Thompson’s stories of fear and loathing, Norman Mailer’s The Armies of the Night, or the recent Chronicles of Bob Dylan, who dedicated his 1978 album Street Legal to the memory of Emmett Grogan.Emmett Grogan, introduction by Peter Coyote

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9781590172865
Pages: 512
Publication Date:


Perhaps the preeminent chronicler of the counterculture's activities in San Francisco in the mid-1960s was Emmett Grogan.
— Anne Charters, The Portable Sixties Reader

The best and only authentic book written on the sixties underground.
— Dennis Hopper

Emmett Grogan was a wonderful storyteller, and Ringolevio is a great book.
— Jerry Garcia

This autobiography is at once an amazing example of romantic self-mythologizing and a broad history of the hippie movement of the late nineteen-sixties...Mr. Grogan writes so clearly that he almost convinces us that the whole story could be true.
The New Yorker

It wouldn't be surprising if Emmett Grogan—'60s underground hero, prime mover of the Digger movement in San Francisco—were to come back to life. To know Grogan—a wild phenomenon who made the world his stange and could strut more in a month than Olivier played in a lifetime—was to entertain such possibilities.
The Boston Globe

[Grogan was] the underground superstar of the counterculture, a young man whom everyone who was hip had heard of but whom no one could ever find...Wherever it was happening in the 1960's, Emmett Grogan was there.
The New York Times

The story of the San Francisco Diggers, pioneers of the Haight-Ashbury scene, told engagingly by the head Digger himself.
The San Francisco Chronicle

[The San Francisco Diggers] combined Dada street theater with the revolutionary politics of free. Slum-alley saints, they lit up the period by spreading the poetry of love and anarchy with broad strokes of artistic genius. Their free store, communications network of instant offset survival poetry, along with Indian-inspired consciousness, was the original white light of the era. Emmett Grogan was the hippie warrior par excellence. He was also a junkie, a maniac, a gifted actor, a rebel hero...and above all a pain in the ass to all his friends. Ringolevio [is] half-brilliant.
— Abbie Hoffman

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