WRITERS We asked Guardian readers to contribute stories or poems that reflected their Bay Area experiences. The catch? Each entry had to be exactly 123 words. So many excellent submissions poured in. Unfortunately, we could only pick 10 winners, which are printed below. Read more »
LIT What Susan Sontag wrote about illness in 1978's Illness as Metaphor and 1989's AIDS and Its Metaphors holds for disaster as well: all too often, widespread devastation is made to serve moralistic meanings. Read more »
REVIEW Given the phenomenal success of Johnny Depp's Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, a revival of appreciation for the granddaddy of all cinematic swashbucklers, Douglas Fairbanks, is long overdue. Read more »
REVIEW Naomi Ophelia Lamar was my cousin, but my big sister. Six years older than me, she ran away from home at 16. Though we stayed in touch, too many years of no contact had changed us both. We tried but could never close the distance. Last year, they found her body in a Dumpster in Birmingham, Ala. She'd been stabbed over 30 times. Her husband had done it. Afterward, he drove to the nearest bridge and threw himself off. She was the grandmother of three. I sat in the bathroom screaming, "We are not garbage!"
EXCERPT My psychiatrist lives just down the street from me. I can walk there. I see her once a month, or once every three months, and she prescribes my pills. The pills make me crazy, I know that, but I don't see the alternative. Read more »
DRUG LIT You can go to these places. Reading Righteous Dopefiend (University of California, 392 pages, $24.95), I kept trying to pinpoint, via clues in the text, where on "Edgewater Blvd." Bayshore the homeless heroin addicts whose lives the book chronicles were encamped. You want to know if you've walked by them. Read more »
DRUG LIT Books claiming to be about drugs in some way whether nominally fiction or nonfiction all run up against the same problem: pharmacodependency is already culture. Or, as the literary theorist and academic Avital Ronell puts it in her brilliant, uncategorizable tract, Crack Wars (University of Illinois Press, 1993), drugs articulate "a quiver between history and ontology."
Put another way, drugs aren't everything, but rituals of self-maintenance and care, from vitamins to exercise and so on, are built on addictive structures. Read more »
DRUG LIT The psychedelic experience is perfectly, if unintentionally, expressed in a poetry collection: Too long I took clockwork as a model instead of following the angle my inclinations make with the ground. So writes Rosmarie Waldrop in A Key into the Language of America (New Directions, 1994), a book based on Rhode Island founder Roger Williams's 1643 guide of the same name. The most "meditative" poets, from Milton and Blake to James Merrill and Denise Levertov, are often those who have reworked historical texts. Read more »
1. Gravity's Rainbow, Thomas Pynchon, 1973. When jazz singer Anita O'Day found herself stuck with an odd group of musicians who weren't drinking alcohol or smoking anything between sets they were reading books she considered such behavior the other side of life. A very Pynchonian phrase. I know more people (two) who claim to have read this novel on acid than any other the writer Kevin Killian and the poet Joshua Clover.
2. The Soft Machine, William Burroughs, 1962. Read more »