Richard Grossinger: Biography

Richard Grossinger

A native of New York City, Richard Grossinger was born November 3, 1944, and grew up in Manhattan, living at 96th Street and Park Avenue until age twelve and Central Park and 90th from age twelve till the end of high school.  During elementary-school years he had his stepfather’s surname and was known as Richard Towers.  He attended P.S. 6, Bill-Dave Group, and Camp Chipinaw and then, with his new name, began taking the subway to Horace Mann School in Riverdale in 1956.  A student there for six years until he graduated in 1962, he began writing in Kingsley Ervin’s creative-writing class in 1960, a class that also spawned his lifelong association with Charles Stein (and in which Stein initiated his peers in tarot cards and the poetry of Charles Olson).

After being introduced to his father Paul at age nine, Grossinger spent considerable time at his resort hotel, Grossinger’s, a place that figures prominently in his early mythology.  At age thirty he learned that his mother had conceived him by an affair and neither his stepfather nor his legal father was his genetic father (see “Father” on this website).  He never met his genetic father (Brandt).

Grossinger graduated from Amherst College in June 1966 with a B.A. in English.  That same month in Denver he married Lindy Hough who attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, near Amherst.

His odd jobs through college included editing the Kenmont Clarion at a summer camp in Kent, Connecticut (1961); working in his father’s hotel’s mail room in Ferndale, New York (1963); serving as a reporter for The Sullivan County Democrat in Callicoon, New York (1964); and bussing tables and cleaning the bar at Sunnie’s Rendez Vous in Aspen, Colorado (1965).

He received a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Michigan for an ethnography incorporating economic and ecological studies of fishing communities in Eastern Maine.  He conducted his fieldwork from Mount Desert Island in 1969-1970, going east as far as Maces Bay, New Brunswick, and west as far as Brunswick, Maine.  He completed his degree and thesis defense in 1975, ecological anthropologist Roy A. Rappaport serving as his advisor and committee chairman.

In the years 1970-1972 he taught anthropology at two campuses: the University of Maine at Portland and Gorham State Teachers College.  In 1971 he wrote a position paper for founding a Department of Anthropology-Geography when the two schools merged as the University of Maine at Portland-Gorham (now the University of Southern Maine).

For five years beginning in 1972 he taught interdisciplinary topics at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont, including courses entitled: Dreams; Ethnoastronomy; Freud, Reich, and Jung; Herman Melville, Charles Olson, and the Ethnography of Whaling; Physical Anthropology; Classical Greek; Creative Writing; Twentieth-Century European and American Novels; and Alchemy, Astrology and Totemism.

He taught a one-month course on Hesiod’s Theogony at Kent State University in Ohio in 1973 and was briefly on the faculty of the short-lived Pacific College of Naturopathic Medicine in 1978.

In 1964, with his then-girlfriend Lindy Hough and the assistance of high-school friend Charles Stein, poet-mentor Robert Kelly, and Amherst buddy Nelson Richardson, he started Io, a literary and esoteric journal.  Io formed the basis of North Atlantic Books, which he and Hough inaugurated in 1974 in Vermont.  Io published 23 autonomous issues through 1976 before merging with North Atlantic and converting its collections to anthologies thereafter.  Grossinger and Hough served as the copublishers of North Atlantic Books from 1974 till Hough retired in 2010, and Grossinger now functions mainly as acquisitions editor and overall organizer, while the company is run day to day by the staff under Douglas Reil, associate publisher (see the press history elsewhere on this site).   North Atlantic later added separate lines under the imprints Frog in 1992, Blue Snake in 2004, and Evolver Editions in 2011.

Io and North Atlantic Books were moved cross-country from Vermont to the East Bay of the San Francisco in 1977 and been in the Berkeley area through the present.  North Atlantic now employs twenty-five full-time people, a dozen or so freelancers, and publishes about eighty new titles a year.  See www.northatlanticbooks.com.

Grossinger is the author of many books including Planet Medicine, The Night Sky, Embryogenesis, New Moon, Migraine Auras, On the Integration of Nature, and The Bardo of Waking Life (see the separate list on the righthand column of this website under “Books by Richard Grossinger” not  “Books” next to this bio, which is a selective sample).  His writing can be divided into three overlapping categories: general experimental prose; books on topics in science viewed historically, cross-culturally, epistemologically, esoterically, and in terms of pop culture; and autobiographical memoirs.  All of the work arises through a literary sensibility.

He read and spoke at a number of institutions, mainly during the seventies, including: University of California at Santa Cruz, SUNY New Paltz, Franconia College, Kent State University, the Chicago Poetry Festival, West Virginia University, Keyser State University, St. Marks Church, San Francisco State, JFK University, and College of the Atlantic.

Grossinger studied tarot through Builders of the Adytum during the sixties; t’ai chi ch’uan with Andy Shapiro, Carolyn Smithson, Paul Pitchford, Benjamin Pang Jeng Lo, Martin Inn, Peter Ralston, and Ron Sieh, respectively, for a period from the mid-seventies through the late nineties; hsing-i with Ron Sieh; craniosacral therapy for three years under Randy Cherner and then through the Upledger Institute during the early nineties; and chi gung with Paul Weiss during the aughts.  During the seventies and early eighties he did dreamwork with Charles Poncé, bioenergetic therapy with Ian Grand, Lomi work with Polly Gamble, and gestalt and movement work with Richard Strozzi Heckler.  He also took Breema classes from Manocher Movlai (the nineties) and yoga classes from Patricia Fox (the aughts).  More recently he attended “psychic kindergarten” at the Berkeley Psychic Institute (2008-2009) and then continued his psychic studies under Sethian John Friedlander.  He coordinates a Psychic Group seasonally when he is in Maine.

Grossinger has rooted avidly for the New York Mets (baseball) since 1962, the New York Jets (American football) since 1967, and the New Jersey Nets (basketball) since 1984.  As a child he rooted for the New York Yankees but dropped them for good in 1967.  He rooted for the New York Rangers during high school and now roots for the Ottawa Senators (hockey).

His and Lindy Hough’s children are Robin Grossinger (born 1969), an environmental scientist at the San Francisco Estuary Institute, and Miranda July (born 1974), a performance artist, writer, and film director.

Grossinger and Hough live about three-quarters of the year outside Berkeley, California, and the rest in Manset, Maine, near where he did his anthropology fieldwork with fishermen.

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