Literature

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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› a&eletters@sfbg.com

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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› a&eletters@sfbg.com

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 »