Literature

The American imagination

Rose Aguilar looks for change on Red Highways
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REVIEW If you're one of the 200,000 San Franciscans who voted for Barack Obama, maybe you're staring at that map of red and blue states wondering, "How could 56 million people vote for John McCain? Why is there still this incredible swath of crimson belting our country?"

Similar questions have been burning in the minds of liberals since the 2000 election. Read more »

Bill Berkson

GOLDIES 2008 winner: Fifty years of slow-dawning epiphany
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Bill Berkson's poetry is a tortoise-and-hare countryside — no one's watching the clock, although it's lunchtime in early fall. When you read his poems, you say, "They're doing it for me, I'll do it for them." His life in art (first as a self-described "kid on the scene of the first New York School," later as a sleeper cell in the New York–Bolinas "axis of poetry evil") could be signified by a freshly minted tarot card: Collaboration. Read more »

V. Vale and RE/Search Publications

GOLDIES 2008 Lifetime Achievement winner: The monkish punk elder of counterculture in the Bay
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Call him the monkish punk elder of counterculture in the Bay and fringes wherever they may fray. Behind a monochromatic, black-clad, black-banged façade and unassuming demeanor, V. Vale is a man of so many interests and accomplishments that it's hard to know where to start. How about with Vale as Punk Showman?

"In 1984 I'm sure I put on one of the greatest shows ever to celebrate our J.G. Ballard book," the 50-plus publisher says. Read more »

Lawrence Ferlinghetti and City Lights Books

GOLDIES 2008 Lifetime Achievement winner: Anything but a vanity press
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The first book I held close to my heart was Italian poet Antonio Porta's 1987 Kisses from Another Dream, number 44 in the ongoing City Lights Pocket Poets Series. I bought it on a trip to the city from Santa Cruz when I was around 17, and I savored every line, whipping out the book at coffee shops and other high school hangouts, in attics late at night, at beach bonfires, and even for a speech at one friend's funeral. Read more »

Magazinester

Mr. Peanut is back! A trip through the latest racks
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My heart's made of paper and held in place with two staples: I'll always love zines. Recent issues of David Brazil's and Sara Larsen's biweekly roundup Try include Dana Ward's languorous thoughts on feeling and some playful lyricism courtesy of Julian Brolaski (e-mail trymagazine@gmail.com.). Runx Tales #1 is a collection of comics by Matt Runkle (runkle.matt@gmail.com). Read more »

Speed Reading

Wolfgang Voigt -- Gas and The Book of Lists: Horror
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WOLFGANG VOIGT — GAS

By Wolfgang Voigt

Raster-Noton

128 pages with CD

$46.49

One of many noms de guerre of Kompakt Records founder Wolfgang Voigt, Gas represented the vanguard of a techno-ambient hybrid that flourished throughout the 1990s. Read more »

Surrealism's island

Breton's Martinique still works like a charm
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REVIEW Since his death in 1966, André Breton has received more than his fair share of knocks. I've heard both critics and poets call him "fascist," though if pressed, they can only cite Breton's sometimes dogmatic leadership of the surrealist movement. Such loose talk is tiresome and ahistorical. A staunch Communist, Breton was nonetheless the first to denounce the totalitarian Stalin when the rest of the French Left turned a blind eye. He never went for Mao like the Tel Quel crowd. Read more »

Speed Reading

Chuck Klosterman's Night Owl wakes up sleepyville
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DOWNTOWN OWL

By Chuck Klosterman

Scribner

288 pages

$24

Nothing ever changes. Until it does. Then everything is different.

Such is the case in pop culture laureate Chuck Klosterman's first novel, Downtown Owl. It tells the story of a sleepy town that isn't really there. According to Walter Valentine, the principal of Owl High, "You're going to like it here. It's not Monaco. Read more »

Garrison killer

ISBN Real: Death in a Prairie House revisits the Taliesin murders
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ISBN REAL On Aug. 15, 1914, seven people were murdered at Taliesin, the famed Prairie-Style Wisconsin house that Frank Lloyd Wright designed for himself and his out-of-wedlock companion, Mamah Cheney. The victims of the gruesome occurrence were Cheney, her two children from a previous relationship, and four men in Wright's employ.

The Taliesin murders have been recounted many times by Wright scholars, but William R. Read more »

McShhhhh!

Quiet, Please scarcely scratches the surface of the library experience
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REVIEW Whether you admired his fierce intelligence or considered him a negative influence on the young, you have to admit that David Foster Wallace was one of the few contemporary writers who managed to pin down and unpack questions of writerly narcissism and grasp their implications. The McSweeney's brand owes its greatest debt to Wallace. Read more »