Literature

See monsters

It's a Big Machine, it's a mean machine, it's a big, mean story by Victor LaValle
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a&eletters@sfbg.com

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!"

Bizarre and horrible things happen. Read more »

'The Adderall Diaries'

A dose from San Francisco author Stephen Elliott's memoir of moods, masochism, and murder
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a&eletters@sfbg.com

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 »

Made in USA

THE DRUG ISSUE: Under the overpass, Righteous Dopefiend finds a different kind of San Francisco drug story
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a&eletters@sfbg.com

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 »

This land is 'Methland'

THE DRUG ISSUE: A new book tracks a drug through America's cracks and faultlines
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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 »

The elephant in the shroom

THE DRUG ISSUE: It's time to start being realistic about magic mushrooms
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a&eletters@sfbg.com

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 »

Drunk on words

THE DRUG ISSUE: 12 hallucinogenic novels and 8 inebriated memory pieces
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12 HALLUCINOGENIC NOVELS

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 »

Capitalmania

William I. Robinson's latest outlines a mad rush toward a world where cars consume cereal
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a&eletters@sfg.com

REVIEW UC Santa Barbara sociology professor William I. Robinson was recently in the news for having the temerity to criticize the Israeli military's assault on Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Right-wing groups including the ADL orchestrated a campaign attacking Robinson with the implication that any criticism of Israel's military abuses in the occupied territories somehow equates to anti-Semitism.

It would be nice if Robinson also received some press for the incredibly rich body of work he has produced in his career. Read more »

Zine it like you mean it

Goteblüd is a treasure trove of DIY publishing
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johnny@sfbg.com

INTERVIEW Nestled in the corner of the old New College building, true seekers will find Goteblüd. Matt Wobensmith's zine emporium keeps the building's dedication to countercultural self-publishing alive. As characterful as it is small, Goteblüd places shelves of photocopied DIY writings amid a brown shag paneling motif that wittily references the cat-scratch antics found within Ed Luce's comic Wuvable Oaf, the store's main link to contemporary publications. Read more »

Paging all freaks

THE QUEER ISSUE: Queer print fetishists still have reasons to browse
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johnny@sfbg.com

QUEER ISSUE As May gave way to June, news arrived that a veteran gang of gay magazines — Honcho, Inches, Mandate, Playguy, and Torso — were printing their last glossy naked pages, no thanks to the unending onslaught of Internet porn and hookup sites. For print fetishists of the queer variety, this would seem like a sign of the gloomy end times. But signs can be wrong. Read more »

A distant memory

In Attica Locke's Black Water Rising, the surprises extend beyond suspense
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a&eletters@sfbg.com

REVIEW I was cautious when I got the galley for Attica Locke's first novel Black Water Rising (Harper, 448 pages, $25.99). Read more »