Page street - Page 2

YEAR IN LIT: A small assortment of Bay Area book highlights from 2010

|
()

In a city that boasts literally hundreds of theatrical world premieres per year, it's astounding how few make it to the printed page. Bravo, then, to EXIT Press, new publishing arm of the venerable EXIT Theatre, for helping to ensure that at least some of our local play-writing talents will be preserved for posterity. And who better to inaugurate the series than Mark Jackson, whose professional development has been closely tied to the EXIT, and to the San Francisco Fringe Festival, which it produces? Far from being merely a collection of "Fringe-y" experimentation, Ten Plays (EXIT Press, 492 pages, $19.95) is a testament to the tenacity of vision. From reimagined Shakespearean classics (R&J, I Am Hamlet) to Jackson's breakout hit The Death of Meyerhold, the bleakly comedic American $uicide, and the stirring Kurosawa-esque epic The Forest War, what these plays have in common is an audacious commitment to the illimitable possibilities of live theater. Of which, giving these works an opportunity to reach a wider audience is but one. (Nicole Gluckstern)

By any good political standard, John Lescroart's Damage (Dutton, 416 pages, $26.95) is awful. It's all about how a criminal uses the technicalities of law to get released (damn liberal judges) and how his family — newspaper publishers with ties to the (damn liberal) political establishment — protects him even as he continues to rape young women. Reminds me of that atrocious movie Pacific Heights, which is supposed to convince you that eviction protection and tenants rights are unfair to the poor landlords. But Lescroart writes about San Francisco, and does a pretty good job describing the city, and his characters are so real and well-crafted that I'm able to set aside the politics. In this case, Ro Curtlee, the rapist, is such an evil, evil bad guy — but a plausible, privileged evil bad guy — that he comes to life in a way that makes you want to kill him yourself. And makes you understand why a cop might feel the same way. And in the world of crime fiction, making you feel pain is half the game. It'll be out in paper this spring. (Tim Redmond)

What Carl Rakosi was to Objectivism — a significant poet who dropped out of sight only to reemerge an old master — Richard O. Moore is to the SF Renaissance. The 90-year-old Moore was active in Kenneth Rexroth's libertarian-anarchist circle in the 1940s, but abandoned poetry publishing for the more efficacious mass media of radio and TV, cofounding both KPFA and KQED in the process (and shooting the only footage of Frank O'Hara to boot). But Moore never stopped writing, and his debut volume Writing the Silences (University of California Press, $19.95) offers a brief but tantalizing introduction to more than 60 years of poetic activity. Moore's diction is spare but memorable; a hawk's wings, for example, "balance on the blind/ push of air." Yet his low-key tones are wedded to an experimental sensibility; witness 1960's "Ten Philosophical Asides," which might be the first poem in English riffing on Wittgenstein, more than a decade before language poetry. Writing the Silences is thus belated yet ahead of its time. (Garrett Caples)