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Historic literary journal Reed magazine celebrates 150 years

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 21:24:00 UT

To look at the story of Reed magazine is to glimpse the panoply of American history. One of the nation’s oldest literary journals west of the Mississippi, Reed was founded in 1867 by the female students of California State Normal School, a teachers school that would become San Jose State University. “It’s kind of a staggering concept. We were founded two years after the Civil War ended,” says Cathleen Miller, Reed magazine’s editor in chief. “We are almost as old as the state of California.” Back then, the journal, which celebrates 150 years in 2017, was handwritten and called the Acorn — a small booklet of student musings and reflections.



Weekend booking — Francis Ford Coppola, Sept. 21

Tue, 19 Sep 2017 20:55:30 UT

Ever curious and ever the maverick, Francis Ford Coppola is now spreading the gospel of something called live cinema. Mixing techniques from theater, TV and film, the medium lets audiences watch performances, shot by many cameras, in real time. The director outlines the concept in his new book, “Live Cinema and Its Techniques” (Norton; $25.95), his second published work, after last year’s “The Godfather Notebook.” “The purpose of this book,” Coppola writes, “is not to indulge in nostalgia, whether for live television or for the early days of filmmaking, but to explore this new medium, to discover how it is different from other creative forms ... and especially, to look at how it can be used and taught.



Brontez Purnell reading, performance at City Lights

Mon, 18 Sep 2017 23:34:06 UT

Brontez Purnell, a fixture of the Bay Area queer-punk-art scene for more than a decade, will read from his novel, “Since I Laid My Burden Down,” at City Lights on Wednesday, Sept. 20. His band, the Younger Lovers, is also set to perform. The reading and performance begin at 7 p.m. at City Lights, 261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco. — Ryan Kost



‘An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic,’ by Daniel Mendelsohn

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 21:39:16 UT

The critic James Wood begins his book “How Fiction Works” with this little dictum: “The house of fiction has many windows, but only two or three doors.” The same basic tenet can be applied, I think, to literary criticism. There are only so many ways one can write about a book. There is the New Critics-style textual approach: a no-frills method that sticks to the text itself, analyzing its properties and techniques wholly from within. One may take the historical stance (think of New Historicist critic Stephen Greenblatt) — that is, telling the history of the work itself, its cultural peculiarities, as well as its influence on subsequent generations, in order to gain insight into the time in which it was written.



‘Forest Dark,’ by Nicole Krauss

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 19:52:29 UT

Nicole Krauss writes novels the way James Wood writes critical essays: They are cerebral and contemplative, intimately engaged in a dialogue with literary predecessors. But her books aren’t merely brainy. This author is incapable of writing a sentence that does not seem chiseled to perfection. Krauss’ previous novel, “Great House,” followed four disparate characters thousands of miles apart, apparently linked by a huge, mysterious writing desk that’s gone missing. Though some reviewers found the links between these people so enigmatic as to make for an unsatisfying whole, the judges for the National Book Award were impressed. They named it a finalist for the prize.



10 fiction contenders named for National Book Award

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 17:28:13 UT

Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s first novel saw the light of day last month. And just like that, the Oakland resident — a New Orleans native and graduate of UC Berkeley School of Law — is now one of the contenders for the National Book Award for Fiction. “A Kind of Freedom,” published by Berkeley’s Counterpoint Press, is one of 10 titles that made the longlist, announced Friday morning. The novel tells of an African American family in New Orleans over three generations. In her review of the book for The Chronicle, R.O. Kwon wrote, “Sexton details some of the many ways racism adds to the difficulties faced by [its characters]. ... The white police officer who extorts money ...



J.P. Donleavy, author of ‘The Ginger Man,’ dies

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 01:58:12 UT

LONDON — J.P. Donleavy, the incorrigible Irish-American author and playwright whose ribald debut novel “The Ginger Man” met scorn, censorship and eventually celebration as a groundbreaking classic, has died at age 91. Mr. Donleavy, a native New Yorker who lived his final years on an estate west of Dublin, died Monday in Ireland. His death was confirmed by personal assistant Deborah Goss. The author of more than a dozen books, he sometimes was compared to James Joyce as a prose stylist, but also was admired for his sense of humor. “The Ginger Man,” first published in 1955, sold more than 45 million copies and placed No.



Recommended reading, Sept. 17

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 17:23:18 UT

We recommend these recently reviewed titles: The Golden House By Salman Rushdie (Random House; 380 pages; $28.99) Rushdie’s latest novel is a dirge for the American dream, a Greek tragedy with Indian roots and New York coordinates.



Literary guide

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 17:23:06 UT

Sunday Florencia Ramirez, Pope Brock, Karen Gettert Shoemaker Once and Future Planet: Plants, Water and People 5 p.m. City Lights, 261 Columbus Ave., S.F. Charles Rubin “Leaning On Thin Air.” 4 p.m. Book Passage, 100 Bay St., Sausalito. Monday Bruce Henderson “How the Ritchie Boys Defeated Hitler.” 7:30 p.m. Kepler’s, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park. Joyce Maynard, Lucy Kalanithi “The Best of Us.” 6:30 p.m. $8-$50. Commonwealth Club, 555 Post St., S.F.



‘The Burning Girl,’ by Claire Messud

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 17:16:24 UT

Adolescent female friendship is at the heart of Claire Messud’s sixth book, “The Burning Girl.” For readers of Messud, this narrative might appear to be a departure from her previous novels (most recently “The Woman Upstairs” and “The Emperor’s Children”), where the author took on complicated characters while commenting on the social norms and constructs of our society. Her new novel falls into the coming-of-age genre, an unadorned narrative that charts the broken friendship of two teenage girls, but as her readers have come to expect, Messud is committed to the deep emotional excavation of her characters, revealing and exploring the complex inner impulses that fuel their stories.



National Book Award longlist for nonfiction announced

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 15:57:18 UT

Racial injustice and the legacy of American slavery are the dominant themes of several of the 10 books named as contenders for the National Book Award for Nonfiction. Half of the works nominated delve into this country’s ignominious treatment of minorities. They are: “The Blood of Emmett Till,” by Timothy B.



‘Black Moses,’ by Alain Mabanckou

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 00:50:53 UT

Alain Mabanckou has been called Africa’s Samuel Beckett. The back cover of “Black Moses,” his latest novel, mentions Dickens, Hugo and Brian De Palma’s “Scarface.” I get it: African writers can be a hard sell in the West. But when critics and publishers propagate such facile comparisons, nobody wins. Readers lured in this way are apt to exit in a fog of bewildered disappointment. Inaccuracy aside, these comparisons are insulting — as if an African artist’s worth is to be measured by how he stacks up against Western models. You can call the great King Sunny Ade “Nigeria’s Elvis Presley” until the cows come home and, in the end, you’ll be miles from understanding King Sunny Ade.



Litquake comes of age, ready for its 18th year

Wed, 13 Sep 2017 14:10:02 UT

Litquake has officially grown up. The Bay Area’s oldest literary festival turns 18 this year and, appropriately enough, it’ll take up some weighty issues during its nine-day run, from Oct. 6-14. Social activism, protest and global warming are a few of the topics that will be explored at the festival’s panels. The man who inspired such programming will be the subject of one event, titled “Parsing the President: Experts Discuss the Behavior of Donald J. Trump.” Three panelists, joined by moderator David Talbot, will have the challenge of bringing clarity to that much-discussed matter in just two hours; they are comedian Will Durst, psychiatrist and activist Dee Mosbacher, and linguist Geoffrey Nunberg.



Weekend booking: ‘Six Words Fresh Off the Boat’

Wed, 13 Sep 2017 00:27:47 UT

“From migrant farmworker to NASA astronaut.” “Retired Marine, looked upon as outsider.” “Hoping my school lunch doesn’t ‘smell.’” Entire life stories are evoked in these simple six-word phrases. They’re among many collected in a timely new book, “Six Words Fresh Off the Boat: Stories of Immigration, Identity, and Coming to America.” Edited by Larry Smith as part of the Six-Word Memoir series (paired with the TV comedy series “Fresh Off the Boat”), the book showcases stories from an array of immigrants, including authors Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (“Nobody is ever just a refugee”), Aziz Ansari (“Every immigrant’s journey is truly incredible”) and Junot Díaz (“We immigrants are America’s true superpower.”).



‘Survivor Café,’ by Elizabeth Rosner

Tue, 12 Sep 2017 00:06:03 UT

Elizabeth Rosner opens “Survivor Café: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory” with “The Alphabet of Inadequate Language,” a harrowing list that begins with “A is for Auschwitz, where more than a million were gassed and then burned into ash. The word that could speak for everything that follows.” This abecedarian of horror upon horror upon reckoning with horror — “N is for Nuclear bomb and Neutron bomb. N is for Nagasaki. N is for Neighbors, the ones who hid Jews and the ones who denounced Jews or denounced other neighbors for hiding Jews. N is for Nuremberg. The place of the trials. The place of a nearly impossible quest for justice. N is for Nazi” — drives home how limited words can feel in the face of mass atrocity.