Literature

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 »

Speed Reading

The Face in the Lens and Blank Spots on the Map
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THE FACE IN THE LENS: ANONYMOUS PHOTOGRAPHS

By Robert Flynn Johnson

University of California Press

208 pages

$45

A shop in the Tenderloin sells anonymous photos. The pictures are messily packed in boxes and labeled according to whether the subject, sometimes but not always graphic (there are plenty of head shots of failed actors, for example), is heterosexual or homosexual. Read more »

Speed reading

Against Happiness and A Field Guide to Melancholy
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AGAINST HAPPINESS

By Eric G. Wilson

Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

166 pages

$12

Contemporary perkiness has an enemy and timeless melancholia has a defender in Eric G. Wilson, whose Against Happiness is a largely poetic and occasionally prosaic screed. Read more »

Speed Reading

San Francisco Noir 2, Warhol Live, and Andy Warhol: Blow Job
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SAN FRANCISCO NOIR 2: THE CLASSICS

Edited by Peter Maravelis

Akashic Books

300 pages

$15.95

San Francisco has many legacies, including the social movements of the 1960s and '70s. But before more recent utopian impulses, SF was the Barbary Coast — and Chinatown, North Beach, and the Financial District were havens for gambling, prostitution, and crime. Read more »

Speed Reading

The Mammoth Book of Best Horror Comics creeps out
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THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF BEST HORROR COMICS

Edited by Peter Normanton

Running Press

448 pages

$17.95

It probably comes as no surprise that post–World War II Americans decided Hitler was a lot scarier than the Boogeyman. It's a little more shocking to see that fear realized in their comic books. Read more »

All mod cons

Fakers journeys through mazes of truths and falsehood
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johnny@sfbg.com

How can any of us forget 1835, and the heady discovery of spherical amphibians, blue goats, and petite three-foot zebras frolicking on the moon? In Fakers: Hoaxers, Con Artists, Counterfeiters, and Other Great Pretenders (New Press, 245 pages, $24.95), Paul Maliszewski relates that time, when the New York Sun brought news of lunar life to an increasingly large readership that craved delightful information during an economic drought. Read more »

A scar is born

Gary Indiana casts a warm but scathing eye at Utopia's Debris
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johnny@sfbg.com

What does Gary Indiana think of Obamamania? I have to ask, because Indiana is a peerless dissector of contemporary American political symptoms. The evidence includes his blistering appraisal of Jerry Brown's blank gaze and sun-scorched face and other facets of the 1992 presidential campaign in Let it Bleed: Essays 1985-1995. Read more »

Just dandy

Modern Menswear outfits the new aesthete's imagination
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Men dress up. Yes, we do. We dress like animals: peacocks, roosters, cats. We dress like weapons: blades, pistols, and straps. Men dress up. Always have. Always will.

Something has been happening in men's fashion lately, an evolution that's taken place underneath just about everyone's noses. For the longest time it was assumed that men's fashion was about function over style, resulting in an array of boring, drab clothing. Read more »

Speed Reading

Ishmael Reed's pugnacious Mixing It Up
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MIXING IT UP: TAKING ON THE MEDIA BULLIES AND OTHER REFLECTIONS

By Ishmael Reed

Da Capo Press

320 pages

$15.95

Ishmael Reed is one of the most prolific writers, seers, and pundits of the 20th and 21st centuries. The author of nine novels, six books of poetry, six plays, and four books of political essays has been a constant presence and persistent thorn in the sides of various official experts. Read more »