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Kim Shuck named San Francisco’s new poet laureate

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 22:10:09 UT

Kim Shuck, a native of San Francisco whose work explores her multiethnic roots, has been named the city’s new poet laureate. A descendant of Poles and Cherokees, Shuck is San Francisco’s seventh poet laureate, succeeding Alejandro Murguía. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, co-founder of City Lights Bookstore, was named the city’s first poet laureate in 1998. “Kim’s stirring poetry celebrates the spirit of San Francisco and reflects the open and inclusive values of this city,” Mayor Ed Lee said in a statement. Appointed by Lee, Shuck was nominated by a nine-member committee of past poet laureates, city officials and Bay Area literarians. The new poet laureate will deliver an inaugural address at San Francisco’s Main Library.



Recommended reading, June 25

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 19:59:17 UT

We recommend these recently reviewed titles:



Literary guide

Thu, 22 Jun 2017 19:52:11 UT

Literary guide 7 p.m. City Lights, 261 Columbus Ave., S.F. (415) 362-8193. www.citylights.com. 3 p.m. Mrs. Dalloway’s, 2904 College Ave., Berkeley. Poetry Flash Andrena Zawinski and Cathleen Calbert. 3 p.m. Diesel, 5433 College Ave., Oakland. David Sedaris “Theft by Finding.” Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. Amelia Gray, Rosecrans Baldwin Gray’s “Isadora” and Baldwin’s “The Last Kid Left.” Kim Scott, Jenny Dearborn Scott’s “Radical Candor” and Dearborn’s “Data Driven.” Cubberley Theatre, 4000 Middlefield Rd., Palo Alto. 7 p.m. Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. Commonwealth Club, 555 Post St., S.F. (415) 597-6705. www.commonwealthclub.org. Camille T. Dungy “Guidebook to Relative Strangers.” 7 p.m. City Lights, 261 Columbus Ave., S.F. (415) 362-8193. www.citylights.com. David Gessner “Ultimate Glory.” Lee Kravetz, Julie Lythcott-Haims, Roni Habib Kravetz’s “Strange Contagion” and Lythcott-Haims’ “How to Raise an Adult.” 7 p.m. Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. Stephen Most Stories Make the World: Reflections on Storytelling and the Art of the Documentary. Northern California Book Awards 5:30 p.m. Free. Koret Auditorium at San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin St., S.F. (510) 525-5476. poetryflash.org. 7 p.m. Books Inc., 301 Castro St., Mountain View. Steve Clifford “The CEO Pay Machine.” 7 p.m. Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. Amy Ettinger Sweet Spot: An Ice Cream Binge Across America. 7:30 p.m. Kepler’s, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park. 6 p.m. Borderlands Books, 866 Valencia St., S.F. borderlands-books.com. Laurie R. King “The Anatomy of Innocence.” Inside the Surprising Science of Infectious Behaviors and Viral Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves. Arundhati Roy “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.” 7 p.m. Books Inc., 74 Town & Country Village, Palo Alto. Anastasia Aukerman, Deborah Treisman, Paul Yamazaki “Dream Colonies, Painterlands, and the Intersection of Curating with Creation.” 7 p.m. Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. Al Franken “Giant of the Senate.” Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera.



Weekend booking: ‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’

Tue, 20 Jun 2017 18:07:33 UT

Grounded in her book title’s four elements, Nosrat’s concepts and recipes are accompanied by scores of playful, eye-opening illustrations by Wendy MacNaughton that will keep any reader engrossed, wanting to learning more. Nosrat and MacNaughton will lead a presentation for aspiring chefs — with free beverages and snacks — at 5 p.m. Saturday, June 24, at Green Apple Books on the Park, 1231 Ninth Ave., S.F. (415) 742-5833. www.greenapplebooks.com.



‘Broken River,’ by J. Robert Lennon

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 22:36:45 UT

Located in central New York, perhaps not far from Ithaca, where Lennon teaches at Cornell, it is a dismal, dying place that houses a prison but lacks a bookstore or movie theater. On the outskirts of Broken River, what one resident calls “a small house in the woods, far from anything” sets the savage plot in motion. Renewed attention to the case propels the original perpetrators — Joe, a thuggish psychopath, and Louis, a carpet salesman who is his reluctant accomplice — back into action. Novels such as his 2003 “Mailman” — about a deranged mail carrier, and his 2009 “Castle” — about a man who becomes obsessed with the mysterious structure abutting his own wooded property — have little in common with “Broken River” other than a central New York setting and a pervasive anxiety over the menace of the ordinary. Fearful of litigation, Lennon’s publisher chose not to release “Happyland,” a novel with loose parallels to efforts by Pleasant Rowland, the creator of American Girl dolls, to take over Aurora, N.Y. It was serialized by Harper’s in 2006. A critical darling who began his career with a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Award for his debut novel, “The Light of Falling Stars” (1997), Lennon seems always on the cusp of popular success, and his own uncertain status, dangling between literary and commercial fiction, is reflected in the two artists in his latest novel. Beginning with the double murder that launches the intricately connected proceedings, the Observer sees everything and marvels at “this skein of cause and effect” that constitutes the novel’s plot. [...] what to make of the foolish, self-destructive human species? It is baffling to the Observer, the things they do, the patterns they create that they inhabit and re-create again and again.



Berkeley’s Dark Carnival sci-fi/fantasy bookstore to close

Fri, 16 Jun 2017 22:31:38 UT

The difficulties of running a bookstore in the Internet age have taken their toll on one of the Bay Area’s only science fiction and fantasy bookstores. Dark Carnival’s maze of shelves, spanning 1,700 square feet on two floors, holds 50,000 titles. Located at 3086 Claremont Ave., Dark Carnival is one of a few independent bookstores that help breathe life into the small, unpretentious commercial district that’s anchored by Star Grocery, which dates to the 1920s. “It’s not as big a disaster,” Rems said of the Escapist, located just a couple doors away, at 3090 Claremont. The Escapist takes its name from a character in “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Michael Chabon, who lives in the neighborhood and has patronized both of Rems’ stores. “For 20 years,” Chabon told Berkeleyside, Dark Carnival’s stock-in-trade has fed my work and my imagination, and its twisty warren of bookshelves and generous staff have held a place in the hearts and lives of all the Waldman-Chabons (eldest child Sophie worked at Escapist from 2011-13). Rems said he had taken out high-interest loans — “I have a lot of credit cards that I’m juggling” — to keep the business afloat as sales have declined. Borderlands Books in San Francisco, the Bay Area’s only other bookseller specializing in science fiction and fantasy, was in danger of closing in 2015 before adopting a sponsorship model that has kept it alive. Loyal customers, he said, have been dropping by the store to say their farewells.



‘Caught in the Revolution,’ by Helen Rappaport

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 19:20:39 UT

Is it a revolution? The words of Le Petit Parisien’s Claude Anet capture the chaos of Petrograd (now St. Petersburg) as factory workers, blocked by police from crossing bridges, shuffled “like a chain of black ants” over the frozen Neva River to join the protesting women. What begins as a peek into the embassies and posh clubs where expats sip whiskey with the tsar spills into streets teaming with peasants denied even vodka (banned by the tsar to stem drunkenness), protesting without a leader or even a clear objective. [...] although a more decisive interim leader than Alexander Kerensky might have brought the world a democratic Russia, long bread lines remained and, as one economist noted, “As go these lines, so goes the Provisional Government.” Militant socialists press Marxism on naive workers who absorb it “like blotting paper,” imagining revolution means “a free and continuous meal ticket and a four-hour working day.” Lenin, a bullying Bolshevik, returns from exile with the help of the enemy Germans to incite his followers to violence through “the most incendiary harangues” while purporting to preach “Peace, Bread, Land.” Rappaport has a terrific eye for the ironic, noting the crowd packing the Alexandrinsky Theater for a Gogol political satire while a far greater drama unfolds outside, rooftop machine guns firing on protesters but Cossacks refusing to draw swords against them, insisting, “Sir, I cannot give such an order, for the people are only asking for bread.” In the luxurious Astoria, an Englishwomen sits coolly smoking on her packed trunk while revolving doors spin in blood, soldiers share butter sliced by sword, and more ambitious guests smash the legendary wine cellar until they are knee deep in Champagne and vodka lest the mob get to it — a scene replayed at the Winter Palace months later. Florence Harper, the first female journalist in Petrograd, and former San Francisco Bulletin journalist Bessie Beatty; suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst; nurses, nuns, and nannies; socialites and philanthropists; the occasional countess or princess; and Paulette Pax, a French actress who, as the Bolsheviks prevail, turns her fur collar inward so it doesn’t show. [...] in this impeccably researched recounting we experience through foreigners the plight of Russians for whom “a ‘Free Russia’ had real meaning”: the tsar’s brutal mounted police who end as bodiless heads on pikes; the protestors placed in a vast grave dynamited from frozen earth; the half million survivors listening to cannons salute each coffin.



Tracy K. Smith named new U.S. poet laureate

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 17:55:43 UT

Tracy K. Smith has been named the next U.S. poet laureate, succeeding Californian Juan Felipe Herrera. Smith was a Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University from 1997 to 1999 and is now a professor in humanities and director of the creative writing program at Princeton University. “It gives me great pleasure to appoint Tracy K. Smith, a poet of searching,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said in announcing Smith’s appointment. The poet Toi Derricotte, a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, said, The surfaces of a Tracy K. Smith poem are beautiful and serene, but underneath, there is always a sense of an unknown vastness. The Library of Congress refers to the U.S. poet laureate as “the nation’s official lightning rod for the poetic impulse of Americans. ... [raising] the national consciousness to a greater appreciation of the reading and writing of poetry.”



Short stories by Haruki Murakami, Tessa Hadley, Ellen Klages

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 17:09:44 UT

After publishing more than a dozen major works of fiction, it’s extraordinary Haruki Murakami can still consistently entertain, thrill and move his readers. All the hallmarks of the Murakami universe are here: emotionally struggling characters, nods to magical and Kafkaesque realities (one character awakens as Gregor Samsa), and of course Western culture — the Doors, Woody Allen and Jimi Hendrix get name-dropped. Pursued by a strange entity that knocks at his door, he only begins to feel again as this knocking syncs with his cluttered heart. In “Scheherazade,” a hermit has an affair with a woman who brings groceries, has sex in a “businesslike manner,” and then whispers to him outrageous tall tales. Tokai’s a philandering “veteran bachelor” and plastic surgeon who dates married women. Murakami’s characters carry the weight of failed relationships with them, burdened by former loves. Like Murakami, Tessa Hadley’s marvelous new collection, “Bad Dreams and Other Stories” scrutinizes difficult, messy relationships. [...] her 10 emotionally perceptive tales — which reveal our jealousies, desires and humiliations — are told through the lives of some fascinating women. Fifteen-year-old Jane, from “Abduction,” moves from innocence to experience in a single day. The naive Latin teacher from “Deeds Not Words” has an affair with a married colleague, but she’s blindsided when the man dismisses her because “she was unchaste.” [...] her daughter overturned the chairs as a prank. Young children dash throughout Ellen Klages’ genre-bending collection, “Wicked Wonders.” Klages’ use of mostly youngster narrators — a difficult technique — allows the reader to revisit childhood, especially when she conjures in us feelings of wonder. Artifacts of youth are everywhere: fairy tales, secret passageways, curiosities in the woods. Klages also leans on classic Americana, playing up penny arcades, soda fountains and summer camps. There’s also Polly Wardlow, of “Hey, Presto!” who spends a summer helping her estranged father, a magician, with an illusion. [...] she uses her own magic to protect him. While Klages’ collection lacks the emotional complexities of adulthood predicaments, she’s big on ideas and plot.



‘Murder in Matera,’ by Helene Stapinski

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 17:09:27 UT

Authors and public figures from Camus and Arthur C. Clarke to Robert Kennedy and Hillary Clinton have, through the years, cited in speeches and in writings what they’ve all called “an ancient Chinese curse,” i.e.: A journalist and the author of the engaging 2002 memoir “Five-Finger Discount: A Crooked Family History,” about growing up in a family of grifters and other not-so-petty criminals, Stapinski again mines her family saga in her latest, “Murder in Matera.” A murder mystery, a model of investigative reporting, a celebration of the fierce bonds that hold families together through tragedies, “Murder in Matera” is a gem, its flaws slight enough that they’re unlikely to lessen the satisfaction most readers will feel when they come to the end of Stapinski’s fraught journey into her family’s past. “As she spoke she cooked sauce on the stove,” writes Stapinski, slowly turning the red bubbling lava inside the pot with a big metal spoon, meatballs bobbing at the top. ... [...] reliable information on the killing was nonexistent, at least in the U.S. The why, when and where of the murder and of Vita’s escape to the New World — everything was both outsized and hazy in a tale with the lineaments of myth. [...] as with most myths, Stapinski’s first lessons never left her. Hoping to learn the truth at the heart of the family fable, she walks the streets and visits homes where Vita and her family lived more than a century before — and where descendants on both sides of the murder mystery still reside. [...] the fact that Stapinski learns the truth about Vita, the murder, and so much more is not just a testament to the author’s endurance in the face of endless frustrations. [...] despite Stapinski’s best efforts and formidable journalistic chops, it’s occasionally hard to recall who’s who in the huge cast of wonderfully drawn characters. [...] those drawbacks are, ultimately, negligible in light of the way Stapinski artfully teases out the suspense and the often shocking revelations that she shares here, fearlessly, about her family’s cherished and most troubling myths.



Recommended reading, June 18

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 17:08:57 UT

A Biography Hemingway’s legacy endures in Dearborn’s cautious and yet exhilarating biography. Finkel manages to pry powerful words from the man who may hold the world title for silent retreat. All the News I Need University of Massachusetts Press; 197 pages; $19.95 paperback Frank’s slim but deeply perceptive novel — about two saddish sacks who take a whirlwind trip to France — speaks volumes about our need for companionship, the resilience of the human spirit and our connection to time and place. Howe writes poems with a clarity that approaches sunlight, shining her gaze into underlit places.



Literary guide, June 18

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 17:08:48 UT

Kassidat — Father’s Day Edition Poetry reading with James Ellis, Bear, Global Val, Tongo, Richard Sanderell, Kim Shuck, Windwong. 4 p.m. Adobe Books 3130 24th St., S.F. (415) 864-3936. www.adobebooks.com. Michael Krasny, Jane Smiley “Golden Age.” 4:30 p.m. Sebastopol Community Cultural Center, 390 Morris St., Sebastopol. www.seb.org. 2 p.m. Bird & Beckett Books & Records, 653 Chenery St., S.F. (415) 586-3733. www.birdbeckett.com. Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times. Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution. Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. 7 p.m. Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. Christopher Merrill “Self-Portrait with Dogwood.” Stephen Hinshaw “Another Kind of Madness: A Journey Through the Stigma and Hope of Mental Illness.” Cleve Jones, Mark Leno “When We Rise, Stitching a Revolution.” Commonwealth Club, 555 Post St., S.F. (415) 597-6705. www.commonwealthclub.org. Barry Lancet “The Spy Across the Table.” 7 p.m. Books Inc., 301 Castro St., Mountain View. Erik Brynjolfsson, Andrew McAfee Machine, Platform, Crowd: Commonwealth Club, 555 Post St., S.F. (415) 597-6705. www.commonwealthclub.org. 7 p.m. Books Inc., 2251 Chestnut St., S.F. (415) 931-3633. www.booksinc.net. Commonwealth Club, 555 Post St., S.F. (415) 597-6705. www.commonwealthclub.org. Crime and Punishment in Black America. Paul Hawken “A Plan to Combat Climate Change.” Finn Murphy “The Long Haul: A Trucker’s Tales of Life on the Road.” Paula Poundstone “The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness.” 7 p.m. Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. Alexandra Ballard, Danielle Mages Amato, Rachel Sarah Ballard’s “What I Lost” and Amato’s “The Hidden Memory of Objects.” Prison University Project “Open Line.” 7 p.m. Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. Addictive Recipes from the Crossroads of Southeast Asia. Elaine Miller Bond “Running Wild” and “Living Wild.” 6 p.m. Diesel, 5433 College Ave., Oakland. Barbara Bonner “Inspiring Courage.” 7 p.m. Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. Barry Lancet “The Spy Across the Table.” 1 p.m. Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. 7 p.m. Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. How To Stop the Cycle of Anxiety, Fear & Worry.



‘Letterman: The Last Giant of Late Night,’ by Jason Zinoman

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 17:08:25 UT

When David Letterman first appeared as a talk show host on network television in the early 1980s, the idea that this glib, goofy new guy would put some distance between himself and the traditional role of the television talk show host was broadcast right there in his mischievous grin: A neurotic, prickly, intensely private man, Zinoman’s subject would be an unlikely one for a compelling biography, were it not for the fact that his on-air irreverence defined a generation: he “became the face of an ironic sensibility that permeated comedy, television, and popular culture.” Letterman’s marathon run on your television screen — 33 years, first on NBC (“Late Night With David Letterman”), then CBS (“Late Show”) — was the product of a revolving cast of writers who dreamed up cockamamie concepts that would become TV institutions, from Stupid Pet Tricks and the Top Ten List to the recurring guest spots of the hapless actor who played doughy everyman Larry “Bud” Melman. [...] as Zinoman points out, Letterman’s show covered three distinct eras, from the skewed perspective on TV traditions of his earliest years to the fully committed inanity of the later 1980s, followed by a long, slow descent into a focus on the host’s own bizarre, bitter psyche. Merrill Markoe, Letterman’s longtime girlfriend and head writer (not necessarily in that order), summed it up when she told an incoming staff member the real name of the show was “Dave’s Attitude Problem.” (The author writes that he originally set out to watch all 6,024 late-night episodes that Letterman hosted, though that plan was thwarted by availability and, it’s safe to assume, impending delirium.) Still, Zinoman deftly demonstrates Letterman’s outsize influence with a bonanza of carefully chosen vignettes. When the pop-punk rocker Billy Idol, at the height of his brief popularity, sat down to curl his lip at the host, he bragged that drug dealers were naming their wares after his song titles. [...] Zinoman is careful not to tread too deeply onto the same turf of “The Late Shift,” Bill Carter’s investigation into the backroom deliberations that led to Letterman’s mid-career jump to CBS. [...] Letterman, affectionately known in his heyday as just “Dave” to the people who grew up on his shows, fascinates largely because he’s apparently unknowable. Letterman’s biographer likens the television world that became the host’s life to an early form of reality programming, cast with stock characters — the phony (bandleader Paul Shaffer), the doddering fool (Bud Melman), even Letterman’s own exasperating mother.



A selection of first sentences from new books, June 18

Thu, 15 Jun 2017 17:08:00 UT

In 1972 or 1973, or maybe in 1974, my mother and father hosted a dangerous New Year’s Eve party at our home in Wellpinit, Washington, on the Spokane Indian Reservation. “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” a memoir by Sherman Alexie The demon came as demons do, during the faithless hours of early morning. “Meet Me in the In-Between,” a memoir by Bella Pollen It is a few minutes past one in the morning when the front door slams shut. “Broken River,” a novel by J. Robert Lennon



Zine scene expands to a queer fest in Oakland

Wed, 14 Jun 2017 20:21:51 UT

On Saturday, 40 DIY artists come together for the first annual Bay Area Queer Zine Fest, which features a make-your-own zine workshop, readings and a large zine library. [...] I started making zines, and one of my friends invited me to share their table at East Bay Zine Fest 2014, and I fell in love with tabling and making zines, and the culture and the atmosphere of the zine-making community. The response has been enthusiastic: A group of six Bay Area organizers received twice the number of applications they could accommodate, and a couple of benefit events were well attended. “A lot of times, queer folks are marginalized in multiple ways, whether they’re trans and queer, or if they’re people of color and queer, or femmes and queer, or disabled and queer,” McDermott said, so we’re highlighting specifically multiply marginalized folks. McDermott is part of the three-member Queering Anxiety Babiez Distro, which publishes zines focused on the intersections of gender, queerness and mental health. DIY and queer cultures have an overlapping ethos, placing importance on accessibility and the quirks of individual expression — there is no real barrier to making a zine, and for that reason there are zines about anything one might imagine. Maw Shein Win, the first poet laureate of El Cerrito, kicks off the opening of the Asian Art Museum and Main Library’s Art/Lit Living Innovation Zone, a new work of public sculpture at Fulton and Larkin streets in San Francisco, with a reading and Taiko performance, followed by visual artist Megan Wilson’s “Flower Interruption,” live music, food and drinks (5 p.m. Thursday, Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St., S.F. Free). www.asianart.org The bimonthly Borderlands Lecture Reading Series returns with Scott Duncan, Norman Zelaya, Sara Campos, Norma Liliana Valdez and John Jota Leaños exploring borders and boundaries (7 p.m. Thursday, Alley Cat Books, 3036 24th St., S.F. Free). www.alleycatbookshop.com The literary journal Zyzzyva presents its annual party and fundraiser, emceed by Daniel Handler and featuring a short program by City Lights’ Paul Yamazaki and Zyzzyva contributors Ruth Madievsky and Chronicle columnist Caille Millner; music from the ’80s and ’90s by DJ Teemoney; food, drink specials and a silent auction (7 p.m. Friday, Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St., S.F. $25-150). www.zyzzyva.org