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Chronicle photographer Scott Strazzante to discuss ‘Shooting from the Hip’

Wed, 21 Feb 2018 18:58:44 UT

San Francisco Chronicle staff photographer Scott Strazzante will discuss mobile phone street photography and his new book “Shooting from the Hip” during SF Camerawork’s Storytellers Lecture Series on Wednesday, Feb. 28. The event, curated in collaboration with Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer Judy Walgren, presents cutting-edge photographers from across the country whose approach to visual storytelling often blurs the lines between journalistic, documentary, and fine art photography. Since 2012, Strazzante has utilized his iPhone and the Hipstamatic app to capture the whimsy and irony, struggle and strength of everyday America.

Morgan Jerkins on being a black woman — and a human, too

Wed, 21 Feb 2018 18:24:02 UT

A couple of years ago, writer Morgan Jerkins went on a lunch date at the home of an academic administrator who had championed her while she was an undergraduate at Princeton. There, Jerkins met the administrator’s uncle, who appeared to quietly observe her after their introduction. Eventually, the man, who said he had read Jerkins’ work, asked her why she would want to call herself a black woman, and not instead, simply a “human.” His extended questioning made the initial query even more problematic.

Weekend Booking: ‘Don’t Skip Out on Me’ by Willy Vlautin

Wed, 21 Feb 2018 01:11:38 UT

Willy Vlautin is the author of five novels and founder of the alt-country band Richmond Fontaine. The author’s penchant for dark storytelling informs his music as well as his novels, which include the award-winning “Lean on Pete.” Born and raised in Reno, Vlautin excels in gritty narratives of the American West and has earned a reputation for his economy of words and the courage with which he tells the stories of his working-class characters. Vlautin’s latest novel, “Don’t Skip Out on Me,” follows a half-Irish, half-Paiute ranch hand who trades in his life herding sheep in the near-vacant Nevada hills to try his hand as a boxer.

‘May We Forever Stand,’ by Imani Perry

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 19:49:00 UT

“May We Forever Stand,” by Imani Perry, is far more than a simple examination of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the song commonly referred to as the black national anthem. In 1900, James Weldon Johnson wrote the lyrics to music composed by his brother John Rosamond Johnson for a song that was initially conceived as a poem to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. Instead, it became the rallying hymn black people used at civic associations, schools and churches to plan protests, boycotts and court cases.

‘White Houses,’ by Amy Bloom

Fri, 16 Feb 2018 19:40:29 UT

Amy Bloom has long been drawn to inconvenient, inappropriate, illicit or just plain quirky love stories. With “White Houses,” her first fully historical novel, she’s found a tailor-made subject: the love affair between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok. One might well wonder what Bloom can add to this no longer secret chapter in history, already chronicled in Blanche Wiesen Cook’s prodigious three-volume biography, Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “No Ordinary Time” and Sally Quinn’s “Eleanor and Hick.” In a word: intimacy. If you like to make a meal out of ungarnished facts, stick to the history books. But “White Houses” serves up a plate piled with delectable trimmings. As E.L.

‘Enlightenment Now,’ by Steven Pinker

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 20:48:34 UT

Steven Pinker’s new book is a meticulous defense of science and objective analysis, a rebuttal to the tribalism, knee-jerk partisanship and disinformation that taints our politics. “Enlightenment Now” not only tackles widely held misconceptions about major issues, but also quantifies the many ways in which cool-headed inquiry has improved the lives of billions. At more than 500 pages, the latest from the two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist features an array of “arguments directed at people who care about arguments.” That’s not everyone, of course. But if you’re among this number, the follow-up to Pinker’s “The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined” can feel like an uncommonly heartening book.

‘Winter Kept Us Warm,’ by Anne Raeff

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 20:37:43 UT

Few words make a reviewer happier to write than “From its opening sentences...” Oddly, they can also make a reviewer sad, because they confirm that the beloved book in question had to end. Anne Raeff’s radiant new novel, “Winter Kept Us Warm,” warrants both responses. Signaling from the start that it will give nonstop beauty and insight, the novel repays close attention with what the best fiction can bestow: a larger, deeper understanding of the spinning world. Reminiscent at times of the work of poet/novelist Anne Michaels (“Fugitive Pieces”), every word here feels set down with care and fierce conscience. The resulting narrative glows as if distilled.

‘Back Talk,’ by Danielle Lazarin

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 20:36:03 UT

My favorite description of literary form comes from one of Shakespeare’s sonnets: “A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass.” The line identifies the paradoxical freedom afforded by poetic form: The perfume remains potent and liquid because it’s contained, just as the poem receives its flexibility and power from its ordered restraint. Shakespeare’s description serves just as well for short stories. In the hands of an Alice Munro, formal compression doesn’t prevent but enables imaginative expansiveness. The constraining walls of the story form allow for a particularly exhilarating kind of liquidity — a limber movement through time and theme that should be impossible but isn’t.

Lit picks: Recommended reading, Feb. 18

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 20:34:40 UT

We recommend these recently reviewed titles: The Audacity of Inez Burns Dreams, Desire, Treachery & Ruin in the City of Gold By Stephen G. Bloom (Regan Arts; 428 pages; $28) Bloom tells the captivating story of a bold, independent woman who performed as many as 50,000 abortions during her career and became one of the wealthiest women in California.

Literary guide, Feb. 18

Thu, 15 Feb 2018 20:34:32 UT

Sunday Lisa Church “Welcome to Kimmensville.” 1 p.m. Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. Kassidat: Spoken Word and Music Genesis Montalvo, Kim Shuck, Windsong, Global Val, Hellen Kang, E.K. Keith, Bloodflower, and music by Lip Service Horn Trio. 4 p.m. Adobe Books, 3130 24th St., S.F. Keris Salmon “We Have Made These Lands What they Are.” 4 p.m. Grace Cathedral, 1100 California St., S.F. www.gracecathedral.

Weekend Booking: Jasmin Darznik to discuss her new novel at Booksmith

Tue, 13 Feb 2018 20:10:52 UT

Forough Farrokhzad, an Iranian poet writing in the 1950s and ’60s, lived a life of stark contrasts as she voraciously pursued her independence in a society ruled by strict tradition. Farrokhzad’s story — and her revolutionary poetry — are celebrated in a new novel by Jasmin Darznik titled “Song of a Captive Bird.” The novel is Darznik’s second book, after her memoir “The Good Daughter” (published by Grand Central in 2011), which explored the author’s own history and her mother’s story as a young woman in Iran. Darznik teaches at the University of San Francisco and is scheduled to read from her new novel at the Booksmith, 1644 Haight St., at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15. For more information, go to

Activists call on Bay Area bookstores to cancel readings by former Border Patrol agent

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 21:48:36 UT

Some activists are calling on two Bay Area bookstores to disinvite Francisco Cantú, a former Border Patrol agent, from his scheduled appearances next week.

‘Ransoming Pagan Babies: The Selected Writings of Warren Hinckle’

Sat, 10 Feb 2018 00:11:19 UT

By my count, Warren Hinckle made journalistic history three times before he turned 35. Under his leadership, Ramparts magazine earned a Polk Award for its “explosive revival of the great muckraking tradition.” At Scanlan’s Monthly, he paired Hunter S. Thompson with illustrator Ralph Steadman, thereby birthing gonzo journalism. And by infuriating a contributing editor at Ramparts, Hinckle ushered in Rolling Stone, which Joel Selvin, the former Chronicle critic, described as “the journalistic voice of its generation.” Hinckle, who died in 2016, is most famous for his work at Ramparts, which began as a Catholic literary quarterly in 1962.

‘The Audacity of Inez Burns,’ by Stephen G. Bloom

Fri, 9 Feb 2018 21:25:39 UT

In 1872, California joined a national crusade and adopted an antiabortion statute. But illegal did not mean stifled. In every city, word of mouth, and advertisements that offered treatment for “female problems,” led women to practitioners who performed the procedure. For more than 40 years, San Francisco’s premier abortionist was Inez Burns, born Inez Ingenthron in 1886. Journalist and author Stephen G. Bloom first heard of Burns in 1992, when he interviewed her granddaughter. He could not shake the tale of a bold, independent woman who performed as many as 50,000 abortions during her career and became one of the wealthiest women in California.

‘Daphne,’ by Will Boast

Fri, 9 Feb 2018 20:32:41 UT

If you have only a glancing knowledge of Greek myth, Roman poetry or the sculptural masterpieces of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, then you know the story of Daphne and Apollo: Struck by vindictive Cupid’s arrow, the god chases the nymph. She cries out to her father, the river god Peneus, to save her — which he does by turning her into a laurel tree. “A heavy numbness seized her limbs, thin bark closed over her breast, her hair turned into leaves, her arm into branches, her feet so swift a moment ago stuck fast in slow-growing roots,” as the Ovid goes. Will Boast’s “Daphne” takes that moment, abstracted, as its theme.