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Stories by Emily Fridlund, T.C. Boyle, James McBride, Jeffrey Eugenides

Thu, 7 Dec 2017 18:45:54 UT

Emily Fridlund became a name to watch with “History of Wolves,” her Booker Prize-nominated debut novel. Now comes “Catapult,” a kind of tasting menu showcasing Fridlund’s stark, dissonant voice. Her descriptions blindside you with rude audacity. On a boyfriend’s hands: “Every time he lifted his sandwich, I could see his veins rise up and do a ghostly glide over his knuckles. ... His veins were like a second, more complicated hand that lived inside the ordinary one.” In artfully imagined predicaments, men, women and kids (even babies) try to figure out how and whom to be. Here’s the title story’s 14-year-old protagonist, bossing younger kids: “I had no patience for pretenders, for people who needed shoes or snacks. ...

Literary guide, Dec. 10

Thu, 7 Dec 2017 18:45:12 UT

Sunday Arree Chung “Ninja! Claus.” 11 a.m. Book Passage, 100 Bay St., Sausalito. Salima Ikram “Food Fit for Pharaoh: Food and Drink in Ancient Egypt.” 3 p.m. Barrows Hall, Barrow Lane and Bancroft Way, UC Berkeley. Mark Noce “Dark Winds Rising.” 2 p.m. Books Inc., 1375 Burlingame Ave., Burlingame. Gears Turning Poetry showcase hosted by Kim Shuck. 4-6 p.m. Adobe Books, 3130 24th St., S.F. www.adobebooks.

‘¡Cuéntamelo! Oral Histories by LGBT Latino Immigrants’

Thu, 7 Dec 2017 18:40:35 UT

“¡Cuéntamelo!,” a rereleased collection of oral histories by seven LGBT Latino immigrants, might have Juliana Delgado Lopera’s name on its cover, but, save for an introduction and some scene-setting details, Lopera very wisely cedes the book to her subjects. Lopera, of course, deserves considerable credit for the hours spent interviewing, transcribing, translating and condensing these histories, but the most difficult task — and one she manages well — is letting a sense of who each of these individuals are come through on the page.

‘Calder: The Conquest of Time: The Early Years: 1898-1940,’ by Jed Perl

Thu, 7 Dec 2017 18:39:29 UT

In “Calder: The Conquest of Time; The Early Years: 1898-1940,” the first biography of the artist, we see a picture of two brass animal figures that Alexander Calder crafted when he was 11. One is a dog, folded, shaped and cut with sleek contours and an expressively tilted head. The other figure is a duck formed by three improbable geometric shapes. The bird seems designed to rock if prodded with a finger. Movement would be a crucial to Calder’s work. So would images of animals. From the young boy, we see skill, imagination, abstraction and humor. Are these objects of destiny, between the toy and the totem? In child’s play, there’s the promise of a stirring epic.

‘Artemis,’ by Andy Weir

Thu, 7 Dec 2017 18:37:27 UT

In 2014, Bay Area software engineer Andy Weir hit the first-novelist jackpot with “The Martian,” a genial sci-fi update of “Robinson Crusoe” set on the Red Planet. First self-published online and benefiting from a cadre of science-minded beta readers, the novel was picked up by a New York publisher and adapted into a successful film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon. Weir is back with a second novel, set in and around Artemis, the first city on the moon. “Artemis” takes some chances and shares some strengths with “The Martian,” but the book never achieves liftoff, held back by heavy-handed plotting, facile characterizations and a narrator who’s not as funny as she thinks she is.

‘The Doomsday Machine,’ by Daniel Ellsberg

Thu, 7 Dec 2017 08:01:00 UT

Daniel Ellsberg is admired by millions, but in the 46 years since he leaked the Pentagon Papers — a noble deed that helped end the Vietnam War — he’s been nagged by the notion that his work remains incomplete. In his new book, the dauntless whistle-blower reveals that he planned another big leak in the 1970s but was foiled by, of all things, “an act of nature.” This second cache of documents — its existence “a closely held secret, until now” — detailed the dire business of building, testing and deploying nuclear bombs. Ellsberg, 86, says he’ll “always deeply regret” that he wasn’t able to release the papers to the public; he suggests that they might have forced a reckoning with America’s vast arsenal.

‘A Uterus Is a Feature, Not a Bug,’ by Sarah Lacy

Thu, 7 Dec 2017 08:01:00 UT

Bay Area tech reporter Sarah Lacy’s memoir-cum-manifesto starts hitting hard with its title: “A Uterus Is a Feature, Not a Bug: The Working Woman’s Guide to Overthrowing the Patriarchy.” This is a book conceived in a vision of Hillary Clinton’s America, but written in the fury of waking up in Donald Trump’s. The core of Lacy’s book — her first memoir, after two books about Web 2.0 — is the wholehearted embrace of “having it all”: power, money, family and the strength to keep going. While many parents scale back their professional ambitions when raising young children because time is finite and so are the abilities of our bodies, Lacy sets out to refute what most consider to be common sense.

Silicon Valley historian, author Leslie Berlin to discuss ‘Troublemakers’

Tue, 5 Dec 2017 21:13:11 UT

Leslie Berlin’s “Troublemakers: Silicon Valley’s Coming of Age” may well be the bildungsroman of the modern era, excavating the stories behind the generation that launched major tech industries like video games and personal computing. The book narrates “thirty-five miles and seven years,” 1969-1976, detailing the careers of a select cast of “troublemakers.” The visionaries chronicled in the book include household names like Steve Jobs as well as under-the-radar figures like Sandra Kurtzig, the first woman to take a tech company public.

S.F. literary journal Zyzzyva devotes new issue to art and resistance

Tue, 5 Dec 2017 18:23:02 UT

The simple, bold word on its cover says it all: No. Zyzzyva, the San Francisco literary journal, has devoted its latest issue to “art and resistance amid turmoil.” Published a year after the election of Donald Trump, the special issue — with an elegant illustrated cover by Josh Korwin — includes essays by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer T.J. Stiles of Berkeley, fiction writer and memoirist Robin Romm, and poet Victoria Chang. “In general, we keep partisanship and day-to-day politics out of the journal,” Zyzzyva editor Laura Cogan and managing editor Oscar Villalon write in a letter posted on the journal’s website.

The past is past: Rabih Alameddine on the loss of our collective memory

Tue, 5 Dec 2017 00:50:07 UT

Writing “The Angel of History” began with anger, says author Rabih Alameddine. An unidentified anger that suddenly sprouted for a period a few years ago. Early on in Alameddine’s fourth novel, recently released in paperback, the protagonist, a gay poet in San Francisco named Jacob, explodes with a furious tirade in the middle of a restaurant. After a much younger gay writer commiserates Joan Didion’s loss of loved ones, Jacob lashes out — he had lost five close friends and a husband in a matter of months during the AIDS epidemic, a dark period that the young writer seemed positively ignorant about. The scene was semi-autobiographical for Alameddine, who also endured the AIDS crisis in San Francisco.

RADAR Productions stages first ‘drag ball for kids’

Wed, 29 Nov 2017 21:47:18 UT

For the past two years, RADAR Productions, a San Francisco queer literary nonprofit, has been hosting Drag Queen Story Hour. The event is exactly what it sounds like: drag queens in schools, libraries and bookstores reading to children. The idea is to get kids introduced to “glamorous, positive, and unabashedly queer role models.” It’s been such a hit that it now happens in Los Angeles and New York City. Now RADAR is looking to raise money to continue the story hour series — which is free to the public — with We Are All Queens, a drag ball for children on Sunday, Dec. 3 at Verdi Club.

‘Ghost Notes’ Brian Cross and Jeff Chang in conversation at City Lights

Wed, 29 Nov 2017 01:23:45 UT

Brian “B+” Cross’ resume as a staple of the hip-hop scene is extensive: He photographed album covers for heavy hitters like Blackalicious, Eazy-E and DJ Shadow. He is co-founder of the production house Mochilla and served as photo editor of music magazine Wax Poetics. His first book, “It’s Not About a Salary: Rap Race and Resistance,” published in 1993, offered an early exploration of West Coast hip-hop. Cross’ new book, “Ghost Notes: Music of the Unplayed” (from University of Texas Press, out in December) is a “visual mixtape” of artists and producers, representing the African musical diaspora here and abroad. “Ghost Notes” includes an introduction by Jeff Chang as well as essays by musician/producer Greg Tate and writer Dave Tompkins.

‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies,’ by John Boyne

Mon, 27 Nov 2017 22:19:19 UT

At nearly 600 pages, Ireland native John Boyne’s 10th novel for adults is what one might call epic. Or, to use another tread-worn phrase, sweeping. Spanning seven decades, from 1945 to 2015, the door stopper of a book checks every box when it comes to literary themes: a young protagonist’s coming of age, Great Love found and lost, hard-won triumph over prejudice, and so on. Yet despite its ambitious scope, “The Heart’s Invisible Furies” also narrows in on something very specific. On a molecular level, it traces one man’s life and struggles across two continents and three countries.

‘The Extra Woman,’ by Joanna Scutts

Mon, 27 Nov 2017 21:36:42 UT

Every generation has its single-gal icon: tantalizing train-wreck Hannah (Lena Dunham) on “Girls”; glamorously aspirational Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) on “Sex and the City”; full-on sweetheart Mary (Mary Tyler Moore, on her eponymous show). Styles change, as does the velocity of sex (or lack thereof), but the single woman by any name remains a lightning rod. Ambitious and romantic, fizzy and fab and vulnerable, she is the woman you want to be (or meet) and at the same time, not. Is she enviable (she can, theoretically, do whatever the hell she wants, with whomever she wants) or piteous (because, you know, wouldn’t she rather be ... settled?). To the happily or otherwise coupled, her independence can be seen as threatening, even selfish.

‘Return to the Dark Valley,’ by Santiago Gamboa

Mon, 27 Nov 2017 05:31:34 UT

Writing in praise of the movie “Casablanca,” Umberto Eco once claimed, “two cliches make us laugh. A hundred cliches move us.” Whereas one or two lonely banalities come off as lame, a whole stampede of them can inspire: “just as the height of pain may encounter sensual pleasure, and the height of perversion border on mystical energy, so too the height of banality allows us to catch a glimpse of the sublime.” I believe Eco is right, and, moreover, this represents the best that can be said about Santiago Gamboa’s new novel, “Return to the Dark Valley.