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Ringolevio: A Life Played for Keeps

4.13  ·  Rating Details  ·  297 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews
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 Avenu ...more
Paperback, 512 pages
Published October 14th 2008 by NYRB Classics (first published January 1st 1972)
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(showing 1-30 of 637)
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Jan 14, 2010 Jesse rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2010
An immensely faulty book--arrogant, hectoring, repetitive, self amused, not to mention fantastically sexist and homophobic with touches of serious racism--that still remains nonetheless somehow inspiring. Like so many memoirists of the 60s, Grogan is absolutely convinced he is right-- so much so that much of the book is given over to speeches he forces various leftist/radical groups to listen to about how they should do what they're doing. All of these speeches involve him showing up to a meetin ...more
Feb 15, 2009 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the strange but true story of a working class Irish kid from NYC who eventually became one of the core founders of "The Diggers", a radical, anarchist, collective serving free food to people in Haight-Ashbury as well as providing free clothes, and some social services to folks during the Summer of Love. On the way to Haight Ashbury he works as a criminal in NYC, flees to Italy, lives there eventually studying film, goes to Ireland and works with the IRA, becomes a porn writer in London, ...more
Ian Drew Forsyth
A lot can be taken from the Grogan's Digger perspective:
The bs rhetoric and media hungriness of Abbie Hoffman and other New Lefters
The bs psychedelic shamanism of leary
The HIP merchants or Haight Independent Propeiters group that wanted to comidify hippiedom to the rest of the country
The idea of giving things out for free: free food, clothes, health services, entertainment, law assistance etc. adding up to a Free City model
The racial tension of blacks and puerto ricans in the lower east side a
Rand Rhody
Aug 19, 2016 Rand Rhody rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a "good read" - not so much. As a faithful account, at least of the 1966 period when I knew the Diggers, the best you will find. Because he wrote about these events soon after they took place, this book is a reliable chronology and examination of the time and place - a far better resource than all the CNN, Monterey Pop, and Woodstock retrospectives that fixate on the same celebrities and the same hype.

First a disclaimer, in that I have not read the entire book, but found a PDF of Part Three (
Sep 01, 2011 Keller rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved his story. An interesting book that is weirdly inspiring. Before you exit this review: hear me out. Although his lifestyle was quite flawed. (Drug addict, sexist, selfish) Emmett Grogan was unafraid of the cards life dealt him, he took it on the chin and was unafraid to fight for beliefs and do the things he wished to do.
Tom Schulte
Mar 20, 2016 Tom Schulte rated it really liked it
Shelves: bio, sociology
Is this truth and autobiography or more histrionics than history? I don't mind that Eugene "Emmett" Grogan calls himself Kenny Wisdom for this first act of this memoir any more than I care that Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse-Five is not the real name of Vonnegut's comrade-in-arms Edward R. Crone, Jr. I don't know that anything is not factual here, it may all be psychologically correct. Grogan did not appear to care enough about fact checking as to filling in details like looking up the name of ...more
Mar 24, 2010 S. rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't slog through the first 100 pages of egotisical self-mythologizing. I prefer Warhol's brand of self-promotion and ego marketing: at least it is honest lies. And I'd be honestly lying if I said I could finish this book.
May 09, 2014 Patrick rated it liked it
A bit of a scumbag, a lousy lay, full of blarney, sometimes puerile and petty minded, after 400 pages I was fed up with this guy. Still, this was an interesting read.
I wrote this book. Signed, Emmett Grogan.
Jeff Buddle
I both love and hate this book. Boy-oh, boy-oh does it start good, describing a game of ringolevio on the streets of Little Italy in 1950s New York.

Ringolevio is a sort of kid’s wargame in which the object was to capture the majority of the opposing team’s members and hold them in a “prison” while fighting off any attempt to free them. It’s a kid’s game, innocent and brutal at the same time. Grogan’s at his best here, limning the New York streets with hardboiled prose, slapping down the names o
May 25, 2015 Dan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very good. I found it most surprising that I had never heard about Grogan in all the reading I have done about the 60s. He seems to have been so influencial and instrumental, and yet...well, they say that history is written by the winners. What I find most disturbing about the book is that he has such a negative opinion of the people and organisations I grew up to admire and that influenced my own political awareness. While it is a memoir, it is also an important alternative history.
Jan 14, 2016 GBristolUK rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An amazingly good yarn (supposed to be true, very well could be)

Scams along the way in the sixties, probably one of my favourite books, also interesting non rosy tinted glow view of the time
Aug 30, 2012 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An amazing story. A really really amazing story. Emmett Grogan's account is nigh-on unbelievable but true though hyperbolic account of his rise from the streets of Brooklyn through heroin, high-class jewel thievery, the Mafia, Film school in Rome, the I.R.A., and finally the Haight-Ashbury underground during the mid and late sixties. Some parts of the story are pretty hard to take especially when sexism, racism, or homophobia raise their heads. However the stories of the Diggers in the Haight-As ...more
As is so often the case, my edition is not the one shown. I have a hardback published by Little, Brown and Company in 1972. For me, this is an extremely important 1st person history of little known aspects of North American underground radical history. Emmett Grogan was a major participant in founding the more recent version of the Diggers - who created free stores & free food programs. "Emmett Grogan", as a name, also eventually became a "collective identity" (aka: "multiple name") that pre ...more
I'd love to read it again. I picked up a paperback from the SA in PB when I lived there.
Jerry Symons
Jul 26, 2014 Jerry Symons rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has been with me all of my adult life. I love it and hope you do, too.
Justin Hughes
RIP Mick "The letter 2 wrought in the sky!"
Aug 21, 2008 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What I learned from this book: I learned about Haight-Asbury and the "love child" era. I was actually the right age, but in the wrong place;I yearned to know more. Years later, when I read this book I was glad I never made it to San Francisco. But this book talks about the humanitarian efforts of Paul Grogan in rescuing, feeding and saving all of the hippies who tripped their brains out. His group was called the Diggers. More later.
Dec 08, 2009 Dana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
"'This book is true.' But it doesn't mean it all happened." In Ringolvio: A Life Played for Keeps, Emmett Grogan willed himself a hero. (An idea I find really refreshing). Nice memoirs of living in the Bay Area in the 1960s, as well as NYC, Italy; there are passages that took place literally down the street from my apartment. One of the best openings I have read in awhile.
Michelle Mason
Fascinating life and some of it very hard to believe. Though his faults are many the man accomplished much and had an impact. Amazing story of his early life and his times in SF during the 60's....almost gave it 4 stars and honestly found it hard to put down once I began....
Craig Meggy
What al life, Grogan is no choir boy and parts of this book are brutal and dated - another era after all.

Well written and no doubt exaggerated, total faction in short ruth morphed into drug fueled memory
Joe Fletcher
Jul 04, 2013 Joe Fletcher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
God I loved this book, just a wild tale of growing up in a time of turmoil. I read this just after reading On The Road and Electric Kool Aid Acid Trip and loved it just as much as those.
Jul 05, 2010 Caterina rated it it was amazing
Fascinating account of the 60's in San Francisco and the Diggers. Anyone interested in learning about this period and its major actors on the far left should read this!
Jun 04, 2013 Jessicafriedman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If social movements of the 60s and 70s are your thing, you'll enjoy this a lot. Mostly it is a cool look back at a time and a place that are lost except in our memories.
Jul 20, 2012 Bruce rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is hard to put down. I would have to say that some parts of it are not as believable as others, however if even half of it is true it's a he'll of a story
Mar 21, 2007 Graeme rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graemes
His self-righteous and self-mythologising tone grates a bit, but it's still an interesting take on the whole sixties counter culture blah, blah, blah...
Jan 08, 2009 Steve rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lies! Not complete lies, but lies nonetheless. While he may or may not have been the founder of the Diggers is irrelevant. It's a good yarn!
Sep 09, 2009 Derek rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like a lot of the other reviewers have said, I got burned out on all the self-aggrandizement. Emmett Grogan was a great dude though.
Matty B
May 27, 2009 Matty B rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
BIG SHIT! This is how you should live your life. Even if you haven't already, better now than never. Except for the overdose.
Paul Wilner
Jun 19, 2013 Paul Wilner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Emmett Grogan...didn't mess around. Many stories about his life and the causes of his death, some of which may even be true.
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NYRB Classics: Ringolevio: A Life Played for Keeps, by Emmett Grogan 1 7 Oct 30, 2013 12:08PM  
Fact or Fiction? 1 16 Jul 12, 2008 11:09AM  
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Emmett Grogan was a founder of the Diggers in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, California. The Diggers took their name from the English Diggers (1649-1650), a radical movement opposed to feudalism, the Church of England and the British Crown.

The San Francisco Diggers were a legendary group that evolved out of two radical traditions that thrived in the Bay Area in the mid-1960s: the bo
More about Emmett Grogan...

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