In #BVH02, Joel Johnson sent subscribers a sauerkraut kit, a masher, and the Lay of Hildebrand, “one of the first literary works in German.” Joel’s subscribers know what ties these items together: his eccentric family history——in particular, his grandmother’s——which he explores in his nostalgia-soaked mailings.
This time, Joel dug into the fraught implications of his family name, Hildebrand. Here’s an excerpt from his letter, followed by some questions for the man himself.
“Sure, I’d heard Grandma Vivian tell me about some “bootleggers” in the past, but we were from the Ozarks: Having bootleggers in your past wasn’t so uncommon, nor shameful. Grandma even mentioned casually a couple of times that the ‘Hildebrand Gang’ ran with Frank and Jesse James…”
1. How did you come up with the idea for your latest Quarterly mailing?
I really try to tailor what goes in my Quarterly mailings with what’s going on in my life at that moment. Even thought the theme is about my grandmother and learning more about her life, she so affected me that there’s always something I’m doing at any given moment that I learned from her.
2. What’s the best thing you’ve ever received in the mail?
Oh gosh, I don’t know. Like, ever? Probably a paycheck. I don’t know! Is that unromantic? I got a nice painting from a friend one time that arrived out of the blue. That was nice.
3. What’s the worst thing?
I order a lot of smelly gardening supplies on Amazon. I just got something called “Neptune’s Bounty” that is seaweed and algae fertilizer. It was packed next to a bag of live nemotodes. So maybe not the worst to me, but I bet those things would freak you out if you didn’t know they were coming.
4. What’s your longest-running subscription?
Hrm. National Geographic? I’ve had that on and off (because I move a lot) since I was a kid. It was my upgrade from Ranger Rick magazine.
5. Which other Quarterly contributor intrigues you the most?
Oh man, there are a lot that look interesting! I’m probably most intrigued by House of Harvey.
Thanks, Joel! Sign up for Joel’s next mailing here.