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. This gritty, nefarious reputation was enhanced in the '30s by Dashiell Hammett's novel The Maltese Falcon, and in the '40s by John Huston's film version, among other SF-set stories. SF was a noir city, defined by hard drinking and hard living. This is a legacy that the current city perhaps would prefer to forget, much like a blackout during a drunken binge.

In his excellent introduction to the first San Francisco Noir anthology in 2005, editor Peter Maravelis writes, "Crime fiction is the scalpel used to reveal San Francisco's pathological character." With San Francisco Noir 2: The Classics, Maravelis does more than pick up the scalpel once again. Using a timeline, he reprints some of the grainiest SF snapshots by Barbary Coast writers. He starts with Mark Twain's hard-boiled description of the infernal Hall of Justice in the late 19th century — a rogues gallery of vermin, where judges drop like flies from stress-induced heart-attacks. He then traces these noir elements to a doppelganger tale by Jack London, on to Hammett, and to contemporary authors such as William T. Vollmann, who writes what Maravelis calls "splatter-noir, where plutocracy has won and the dispossessed give graphic descriptions of the tears in the social fabric." Through recent stories by Janet Dawson, Oscar Penaranda, and others, Maravelis ups the ante, as if to say: this is the real San Francisco. Always has been, always will be. (D. Scot Miller)

ST. VALENTINE'S DAY NOIR

Sat/14, 8 p.m.

Ha Ra Club

875 Geary, SF

(415) 362-8193

www.citylights.org

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WARHOL LIVE

Edited by Stéphane Aquin

Prestel

272 pages

$75

Roger Copeland has his claws out at the very beginning of "Seeing Without Participating," an essay in Warhol Live, the LP-size silver-covered brick of a monograph accompanying an exhibition of the same name devoted to music and dance within Warhol's gargantuan oeuvre. The target of his attack isn't as noteworthy as the argument that follows, which is in sync with Peter Gidal's recent writing on Warhol's distinct repositioning of traditional forms of participation and spectatorship. From there, Copeland reveals filmmaker and choreographer Yvonne Rainer's influence on Warhol. Some other musings within Warhol Live spotlight obvious or over-familiar aspects of Pop or rock history. But John Hunisak convincingly argues that Warhol shared Ondine's love of Maria Callas and recognized her as a punk pioneer; Branden W. Joseph digs up uncommon information about Warhol's brief stint as a member of a band called the Druds; and Melissa Ragona perceptively taps into Warhol's (by way of Brigid Berlin's) recordings.

The book's vibrant and powerful visual presentation hints that the exhibition — which opens this week at the De Young Museum— might be more rewarding in terms of organization than content. Fluorescent 1980s portraits and Interview covers don't flatter Warhol, who had fallen into embracing the past-prime Cars and talent-less groups such as Curiosity Killed the Cat by the time of his death. Still, it's refreshing to see a gathering of sleeve art for his albums, and here and there there's a surprise pleasure, such as the potent pages devoted to the color slides used at Exploding Plastic Inevitable events.