Posts Tagged ‘writers’

The Mission through British eyes

The Mission district of the city: it’s like Camden only with wider roads and more second-hand bookshops.

She means a U.K. Camden, not the one in New Jersey (but I don’t know if she means Camden Town or the London borough of Camden; I’m thinking the former). Anyway, that was Rachel Cooke, writer for the Guardian (U.K.), in a feature on Dave Eggers in which she visits the writer and publisher’s lair on Valencia and finds him warm, modest, and soft-spoken. She covers his entire career, then visits the pirate store, where “I fall into a swoon of happiness.”

Literary things to do this Saturday

San Franciscans have a choice this Saturday: Apollo or Dionysus?

In Apollo’s corner, publishers and writers from two experimental presses, Sidebrow of San Francisco and Les Figues of Los Angeles, will appear Saturday at 7:30 pm at The Green Arcade, 1680 Market St. at Gough (map). Both presses publish poetry and experimental prose in small, interesting editions. I interviewed Les Figues’ Teresa Carmody a few years ago.

At the same moment, representing Dionysus, Writers with Drinks happens at the Makeout Room on 22nd St. Appearing are Javier Grillo-Marxuach (The Middleman TV series), Mary Robinette Kowal (Scenting The Dark And Other Stories), Kat Richardson (Greywalker), Naomi Quiñonez (Invocation L.A.: Urban Multicultural Poetry), and S. Bear Bergman (Butch Is A Noun).

Stiles, Mayor are National Book Award finalists

Congratulations to San Francisco’s T.J. Stiles, whose nonfiction book The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt has just been named among five finalists for the National Book Award. Here’s the New York Times review of the book, from May. Trivia: according to his website, Stiles is also a karate black belt.

Joining Stiles is Adrienne Mayor and her book The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, also a nonfiction finalist. Mayor is currently a visiting professor at Stanford.

The whole list of finalists is here.

Writers with Drinks, Pamela Z, Easter vigils

pamela_zTonight Writers with Drinks features Pam Houston (Cowboys Are My Weakness), Stacie Boschma (Happy Rainbow Poems from the Unicorn Petting Zoo), Laurie R. King (Touchstone, The Art Of Detection), Sean Stewart (Cathy’s Key, Yoda: Dark Rendezvous), Regina Lynn (SexRev 2.0, Sexier Sex), and Minal Hajratwala (Leaving India: My Family’s Journey From Five Villages To Five Continents). As usual, it’s at the Makeout Room, 3225 22nd. St. near Mission in San Francisco, starts at 7:30 pm, and benefits the Center for Sex and Culture. I’d go just to hear Pam Houston read — she’s always terrific.

If you’d rather see something artsier, experimental music maven Pamela Z (pictured at left) is presenting the second in her ROOM series of performances, tonight at 8:00 pm at the Royce Gallery, 2901 Mariposa St. at Harrison.

And if you’re up for something mystical, dark and theatrical, attend one of the many Easter Vigil services held at Christian churches tonight. Classically, a congregation would meet in the “undercroft” of the church, the sub-basement where the skeletons are buried, to remind them of the tomb from which Jesus rises. Nowadays you’re more likely to find yourself in a candle-lit church basement, but the service is still great theater, with scripture readings that move from the creation to the exodus from Egypt to the passion and resurrection. Good bets are Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in North Beach, 8:00 pm; St. Gregory Nyssa Episcopal Church on Potrero Hill, 8:00 pm; Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill, 8:00 pm; or St. Francis Lutheran Church in the Castro, 7:00 pm.

RADAR reading includes appearance by JT LeRoy hoaxer

Laura Albert (l.) and Savannah KnoopSavannah Knoop, who for several years played the role of JT LeRoy in public, will appear as herself in Michelle Tea’s monthly RADAR reading series tonight at 6:00 pm at the San Francisco Public Library. (Description, times and location of the event here.)

Knoop is the author of Girl Boy Girl: How I Became JT LeRoy from Seven Stories Press. Tea told me Knoop would be “reading something, and that there will be elements of performance art as well” at the event.

Also appearing are filmmaker and writer Hilary Goldberg,performer Lauren LoGiudice, and Fresno poet Bana Witt — who is great. My money’s on Witt to steal the show.

Yiyun Li’s powerful new novel "The Vagrants"

The Vagrants, the first novel by Chinese-American author Yiyun Li — who lives in Oakland and teaches at UC-Davis, and whose 2005 debut story collection A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, garnered much critical praise — is set in 1979 in a provincial Chinese town, where a former Red Guard is being executed as a counter-revolutionary. The novel looks at how this event affects a wide range of people in the town, from poor ragpickers to a powerful, popular radio announcer who knew the condemned as a girl.

As the townspeople witness the condemnation of Gu Shan and its aftermath, each reacts differently. Those who knew her suffer breakdowns or plot to overturn her condemnation; others scheme to take advantage of the situation; still others are preoccupied with the barest details of survival. Li’s large cast of characters are drawn with great precision and insight, and she employs a sweeping, omniscient point of view to illuminate their fears, desires, and crushed hopes. Along the way, the lives of all the characters are touched by the brutality of poverty or of the Chinese police state.

The Vagrants is the best literary novel I’ve read in a long time, and I was excited to be able to interview the author, after the jump.

Li will be appearing around the Bay Area in February to promote the book. See her listing of tour events.

Click to read the interview

Chain stores on Valencia? NFW, says writer-activist

San Francisco writer and activist Stephen Elliott whose Progressive Reading Series raises money for progressive causes and candidates, and who just founded the online magazine The Rumpus, walked up Valencia St. the other day and saw this:

Click for a full-size version

According to the notice, the American Apparel chain of clothing stores wants to open a branch on Valencia St., next to Artists Television Access. Appalled at this prospect, Elliott is organizing people to show up at the February 5 hearing and voice their opposition.

I interview Elliott briefly about his efforts, after the jump.

Stacey D’Erasmo’s new novel ‘The Sky Below’

The third novel by Stacey D’Erasmo — a New York writer but one who lived in the Bay Area for a couple of years as a Stegner fellow at Stanford, and whose second novel was set here — is about a young man named Gabriel and his struggle to become himself — whether that self is actually a bird, an artist, or something else. Along the way, he lives in a seedy motel in Florida, buys a house in Brooklyn, and flees to a commune in Mexico.

Reviews have praised the novel’s beautiful prose. On Sunday the New York Times said: “Gabriel’s voice is irresistible… he’s a brilliant narrator. Vibrant and precise, his storytelling is memorable not so much for its individual phrases (though plenty are exquisite) as for its overall sense of immersion into a distinctive world.”

D’Erasmo appears at City Lights Bookstore on Wednesday at 7:00 pm.

After the jump, a short interview

Interview: novelist Nami Mun

In Nami Mun’s debut novel Miles from Nowhere, the protagonist Joon is a Korean-American Justine, forever suffering pain and injuries at the hands of family, friends, lovers and strangers. Everything she touches turns to dust: when she feeds a starving mutt, she inadvertently kills it by feeding it fried chicken, the bones of which pierce its intestines. She survives — barely — a teen shelter, drug addiction, an abusive family, and faithless boyfriends, before finally cleaning up and moving on.

The book is set in New York and Mun now lives in Chicago. But she graduated from UC Berkeley and was a member of an East Bay writers group for some time, so that makes her a home girl here. She’s on a book tour and will appear Wednesday at 6:00 pm at Book Passage in the San Francisco Ferry Building. After the jump, she answers some questions I put to her through her publicist.
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SF writer, reading series host Kirk Read wins nat’l publishing award

Kirk Read, host of the San Francisco reading series Smack Dab and K’vetsh, has won the first award by the Open Door Project, an effort by publishing figure Don Weise to create more opportunities for gay male writers. (Publishing folks know Weise as a former editor at the Avalon Publishing Group, but before that he worked at San Francisco’s Cleis Press.) (Disclosure: Cleis Press has published two of my books.)

Read is a performance artist and HIV activist in San Francisco in addition to his author/impresario roles.

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