Literature

Dystopian enterprise

Richard North Patterson on Eclipse and the legacy of Ken Saro-Wiwa
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Best-selling author Richard North Patterson stays out of the local limelight, but he's a San Francisco resident — and we caught up with him May 21st to talk about his new book, Eclipse, and the role that U.S. oil companies play in Nigeria.

Before Nigerian environmental activist (and Goldman Environmental Prize winner) Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged in 1995, PEN, the international writers' group, wrote letters and organized protests against the execution. "I was very impressed by Saro-Wiwa," says Patterson, who was on the board of PEN at the time. Read more »

Total 'Eclipse'

Richard North Patterson takes on the Nigerian and Western petrolords
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Tredmond@sfbg.com

REVIEW Mass market novels of the mystery and thriller kind are not known for their progressive politics. The most popular authors of the political adventure set are the likes of Tom Clancy, who thinks we're still at war with Japan and ought to be at war with China. The detective novelists tend to glorify law enforcement and disparage those weak-willed sorts who would rein in the mighty and righteous gun-wielding police. Read more »

Born to be wildly visionary

AFRO-SURREAL: Of black tomorrows, yesterday, today, and antiquity
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AFRO-SURREAL Living in black America means you're already living "science fiction" — already born to be wildly visionary and future- bent in form, function, context, and appearance. Read more »

Devil's poetry

AFRO-SURREAL: Bob Kaufman's California duende blues
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AFRO-SURREAL Sadly, the mythology of poet Bob Kaufman almost rivals all we have left of his poetry. However, to place Kaufman within a mere "cult of personality" (along the lines of some of his contemporaries) undermines the innovation of his process and what it brings to the tapestry of American poetics and the complicated and surreal orality of his poems.

Called "the American Rimbaud" by the French, Kaufman lived as a poetic assassin. Read more »

Afro-lunacy in bloom

AFRO-SURREAL: Fragments from the files of Dr. Snakeskin
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a&eletters@sfbg.com

LOST TELEVISION

"Ticket to Heaven," the last of the series of Our Gang comedies, was produced by Oscar Micheaux in 1944, with music provided by Babs Gonzales and his band, Three Bips and a Bop, on a makeshift sound stage constructed inside of a Harlem tenement building. The plot summary is as follows: With the help of Farina, Pineapple, and Stymie, Buckwee runs amok after reading an early Nation of Islam pamphlet that promises a place in heaven to any Black Muslim who killed a white person for Allah. Read more »

Fill 'er up

New poetry anthology American Hybrid has only half a tank
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a&eletters@sfbg.com

An anthology of poets who allegedly combine mainstream and avant-garde aesthetics, American Hybrid: A Norton Anthology of New Poetry (WW. Norton and Co., 512 pages, $25.95) — edited by Cole Swensen and David St. John — is an idea whose time hasn't come. The word "hybrid" is suspect, its trendiness invented by the auto industry to delay real electric cars, hence the cover's Prius-green font. Read more »

Electric gypsies

A Day in the Life charts the decline of the West and the search for another country
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a&eletters@sfbg.com

Tommy Weber ( Thomas Ejnar Arkner, 1938 — 2006) was a trickster, so I cannot help but love him.

Comin' from where I'm from — three tribal peoples: Pamunkey, Scottish, mystery African — I have always adored the Afro-Kelt über alles, and been at least inchoately hip to the centrality of the trickster, whether Eshú Elegbara, the Diné Coyote, or the Danes' own Loki and his spawn Fenrir the apocalyptic Wolf. Read more »

Speed Reading

The Tyranny of Oil: The World's Most Powerful Industry -- and What We Must Do to Stop It
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The Tyranny Of Oil: The World's Most Powerful Industry — And What We Must Do To Stop It

By Antonia Juhasz

William Morrow

480 pages

$26.99

In responding to an attack on her book in the Washington Post, Antonia Juhasz explained, "My goal in writing The Tyranny of Oil was to offer an analysis that has been sorely missing in U.S. literature since the 1975 publication of Anthony Sampson's classic book, The Seven Sisters: an unapologetically and vitally necessary in-depth and serious critique of the current state of the U.S. Read more »

His royal highness

Excess and seduction rule the vainglorious art of Yinka Shonibare
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REVIEW Yinka Shonibare's 1998 photographic essay Diary of a Victorian Dandy, Member of the Order of the British Empire runs like clockwork.

At 11 a.m., Shonibare the nobleman is shown waking and then donning a nightcap in his gilded bedroom; he's surrounded by four ruddy-cheeked buxom maids and a pale, thin butler, who each cater to his every whim. At 2 p.m., dressed in a three-piece blue-gray suit, he tends to business in his private library. Read more »

Vanishing points

Real change, or changing the subject — the search for truth within Roberto Bolaño's epic 2666
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ESSAY/REVIEW There is a wry but hilarious scene near the very end of Roberto Bolaño's novel 2666 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 912 pages; $30), in which a French literary critic finds a German writer, Archimboldi, lodging at what the critic calls "a home for vanished writers." After checking into a room at the large estate, the elderly vanished writer wanders the grounds, meeting with the other vanished authors, residents whom Archimboldi finds friendly but increasingly eccentric. Read more »