The Performant: Poetry in motion


"You Need to Read Poetry" and "Ragged Wing" take flight

Against the back curtain of the stage, empty save a couple of small platforms, a mysterious tree, represented by a rainbow of colored scarves, stretched its silken boughs. Cut to the “great before,” when humans were still a figment of the future, and Mol’-luk (Liz Wand), a brooding, powerful condor, sat perched on a rock, little suspecting that the “mountain” is pregnant with his peregrine falcon son, Wek Wek (Juliana Lustenader), whose dramatic birth by fire was further facilitated by a chorus of rattlesnakes (select members of the oddience armed with noisemakers).

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Free the free

San Francisco icon Xara Thustra looks back at 15 years of underground art


VISUAL ART It starts with the streets. Walls, the texture of walls, rough and colored in swirls of graffiti letters. Walls you feel you could reach out and touch their cold and grit. Establishing shots — the streets of San Francisco in the dot-com era. The photos are of their times: an unattended shopping cart in the streets appears as early as page three. Soon follows the spray-painted legend, "Don't let the good times fool you."Read more »

Freedom fighter: SF underground art icon Xara Thustra


Since the late 1990s, Xara Thustra's art has been inseparable from resistance and community in San Francisco, providing many of the signature visual images of the anti-displacement and anti-war struggles of the era. His work first appeared as graffiti in the streets of the city during the height of the first dot-com boom and soon grew to include artistic collaboration with and in support of neighborhood organizations, like the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition and the Coalition on Homelessness.

As his work evolved over time from agitprop street art into elaborate performance and filmmaking, Xara has collaborated with countless others on many now-legendary art events like the Anti-Capitalist Fashion Show, the 949 Market Squat, and the band Manhater, while contributing stunning murals to Clarion Alley Mural Project and the Mission Neighborhood Health Center (with Kyle Ranson). Xara appeared in the 2002 Bay Area Now show at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, but has since resisted overtures from the art world, and preferred to instead make work in spaces like Adobe Books, Needles and Pens, and, still, in the streets.

Thu/6 at a presentation of new work at Needles and Pens, Xara and friends will celebrate the release of the self-published, 500-page book, Friendship Between Artists is an Equation of Love and Survival. It's an epic photo documentation of the past 15 years of his work and collaborations in San Francisco.
Note: this interview took place between Erick Lyle (in Brooklyn) and Xara Thustra (in the Redstone Building) over Skype ...

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A sizzling tale

'Zodiac' author Robert Graysmith talks San Francisco history and his new book, 'Black Fire'


LIT Every San Franciscan has at least some knowledge of the city's pre-1906 earthquake days (Gold Rush!), with the more curious able to rattle off a few more random tidbits (Emperor Norton!)Read more »

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and timewarp

New book lays bare the countercultural roots of the Renaissance Faire


Shake, rattle, and read

Litquake's biblio-pocalypse approacheth


LIT What do you get when you bring together a horde of ravenous bibliophiles in a city that's known for the possibility of a future catastrophic event? No, not the zombie-nerd apocalypse: Litquake, the largest annual independent literary festival on the West Coast. This year's nine-day festival runs from Fri/5 through Sat/13, ending with Lit Crawl, the infamous booklovers pub-crawl that words up the Mission. The festival's venues are as diverse as its writers, ranging from theaters, coffee houses, bars to a barbershop, a bee-keeping supply store, even a parklet. Read more »

'Fire' insight: talking with David Wojnarowicz biographer Cynthia Carr


The following interview took place with Cynthia Carr, author of Fire in the Belly: The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz (Bloomsbury USA, 624 pp., $35), on an early fall afternoon at the old Odessa Restaurant on Avenue A in the Lower East Side, New York City — one of the few places left where you can still pretend you're in the LES of Wojnarowicz's day. Carr will be at the San Francisco Art Institute Wed/3 to discuss her book. Read Erick Lyle's review of the book here.

San Francisco Bay Guardian Your book is the first real biography of David Wojnarowicz. Up until now, the best book on him I thought was that Semiotext(e) book, David Wojnarowicz: A Definitive History of Five or Six Years on the Lower East Side. Your book has a lot of that same feel, the layers and layers of neighborhood detail. But, of course, your book has the advantage of having all of David's thoughts and perspective on the same events because you have his journals and his correspondence. How were you able to access all of that material?

Cynthia Carr All of his papers are at Fales Library at NYU — all of his journals and the letters he kept. And I did get letters from quite a few other people, like his boyfriend in Paris, Jean-Pierre. At the beginning of the relationship, David wrote to JP at least every other day and later at least once a week.

When I went to Paris I took a scanner with me and back home I printed them out. The stack was like four inches thick! It was filled with information about what he was doing or working on every day. While the journals from those times are mostly about him going to the piers for sex, which he didn’t tell his boyfriend too much about! [Laughs.] The letters, though, are all about where he was living or where he was working, or ... really, most of the time, he was looking for work… I was very fortunate to get that.

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Pop thrills

A romp through this year's bumper crop of trash lit


LIT So much trash lit, so little summer left. It hasn't been the greatest of years for beach and backyard reading (seriously, more trash than lit), but we struggle on. Some selections:


By Lee Child

Delacourte Press

405 pp, hardcover $28

Jack Reacher is one of the best action characters of our time, up there with Spenser and Travis McGee.Read more »

Tasty reads

Blue Bottle, SPQR, Foraged Flavor....: Fresh new cookbooks to spice up your repertoire


LIT A harvest of cookbooks, some set for release in the fall, some ready for your shelf, cupboard, or bar hot off the press.


By James Freeman, Caitlin Freeman, and Tara Duggan

Ten Speed Press

240 pp, paper $24.95Read more »

Pagoda madness

A native son counters the myths of Chinatown in a new book


LIT Either I'm terrible at parking or Philip P. Choy was exactly the right person to author his recently-released San Francisco Chinatown: A Guide to Its History and Architecture (City Lights Publishers, 184pp, $15.95). We find a spot for my car in a well-hidden lot, tucked into an alleyway behind the Chinese Historical Society of America. It's the first sign of the day that Choy's knowledge of the area goes beyond tea shops and Peking duck.Read more »