"Joanne [Griffith]'s work is centered on one theme: not to offer information as a point of journalistic fact, but to act as a conduit for debate and conversation, especially around issues relating to the African diaspora experience." So writes Brian Shazor, director of the Pacifica Radio Archives, in the foreward to Griffith's new book Redefining Black Power: Reflections on the State of Black America (City Lights Books, 206pp, $16.95). Griffith will be presenting her work, part of an interactive project to archive the state of African Americans in the United States in the Bay Area this week -- starting tonight (Wed/8) at the Museum of the African Diaspora. Read more »
It’s difficult to find anything negatively written about Justin Torres’ debut fiction novel, We the Animals -- and that’s probably because nothing negative has yet been written. Dorothy Allison called it, “a miracle in concentrated pages,” and Michael Cunningham said it was, “a dark jewel of a book.” So Torres is a literary wunderkind of sorts, but despite the buzzy accolades, the current Stegner fellow and queer scribe is still humbly bewildered by the success of a book by a gay brown author – especially his very own.
Poet Kenneth Patchen was born in Niles, Ohio, 100 years ago on December 13, 1911. He died in Palo Alto in 1972. Due to a ruptured spinal disk that was never properly treated, Patchen produced some 30 volumes of poetry and prose largely from the confines of his bed — work, nonetheless, that fiercely engaged the modern world that raged on outside. In his words, “I speak for a generation born in one war and doomed to die in another.” For this, the Beats were deeply indebted to his work. Patchen however, who lived in Telegraph Hill in the 1950s, referred to “Ginsberg and Co.” and the media hype surrounding them as a “freak show.”
Patchen had a broad range — he could be political, tender, devotional, and surreal — and unlike the Beats, he vehemently opposed being labeled as one kind of poet or another. Kenneth Patchen: A Centennial Selection(Kelly’s Cove Press, paperback, $25), edited by Patchen’s friend Jonathan Clark, marks the 100th birthday of the indefinable poet. Clark first met Patchen in the 1960s as a teenager living in the same Palo Alto neighborhood as him. He describes the collection as “a personal selection of some poems in which I hear most clearly the voice of the man I remember...those seeking perfection had best look elsewhere...” Fair enough. However, the collection is also a reasonable review of the poet’s scope. And, if indeed modest, it’s still the only book that has observed the centennial.
"A lot of people are unaware that there are huge sections of Twitter that are all about Def Jam being the root of all evil." Last month, I got to Skype with Nelson George about his new book The Plot Against Hip-Hop (Akashic Books, 176pp, $15.95), a noir mystery that explores the commercialization of the music through the fictional death of a renowned hip-hop historian named Dwanye Robinson. You can catch George at City Lights Bookstore (Thu/1) and Marcus Books' Oakland location (Fri/2) this week.
Robinson bears more than a passing resemblance to George, who has written decades worth of academic looks at hip-hop and R&B. So naturally, our conversation turned to to the more sinister workings of the world (to be clear, he's not committed to the Russel Simmons-as-devil version of things). Turns out George is more than a little frustrated with the state of the music today -- and he thinks the Occupy movement might be the answer to hip-hop's woes. Read more »
HERBWISE Marijuana is California's top cash crop, one that has had a major impact on the state, particularly since it was legalized for medical use in 1996. Nowhere is that impact felt more than in the global epicenter of pot production, the fabled Emerald Triangle — the rural northern counties of Humboldt, Menodocino, and Trinity — which has been transformed by the cannabis boom, in ways good and bad.Read more »
Incredibly, considering what a visual people my lavender tribe are, there has been no major photographic survey of gay men in America until now. (Well, at least in book form. I'm not counting Manhunt, here.) Author-photographer Scott Pasfield journeyed around the country for three years, taking some wonderfully enlightening shots of gay men, couples, and more who had responded to his online ads for photographic subjects who were willing to tell their stories. The tally for his "Gay in America" book: 224 pages, 140 men, 50 states.
Scott will be narrating a slideshow presentation of the book ("Not boring like a travel slideshow!" he says) on Sat/5 at 7 p.m. at Magnet in the Castro. I chatted with him over the phone about the project, the men, and the concept of gay "normalization."
Brower's book, subtitled My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints, is the thrilling and disturbing tale of the private investigator's relentless crusade for justice — not just in the Jeffs case, but against high-ranking FLDS members across Texas, Utah, Arizona, and beyond. The sect, which is completely removed from mainstream Mormonism, is best-known for its polygamist beliefs, often pairing underage brides with elderly church leaders (Jeffs is estimated to have over 50 wives, including the two, ages 12 and 15, that he was convicted of assaulting). They're extremely well-funded, with leaders who live in mansions even as the rank-and-file go hungry. They also don't care much for outsiders.
In Brower's estimation, the FLDS church is "an organized crime syndicate that specializes in child abuse" — after reading his book (with a preface by Krakauer), you'll tend to agree. He'll be reading in Berkeley Tues/15; I caught up with him by phone at his home in snowy Cedar City, Utah, just over an hour's drive from FLDS stronghold Short Creek, an isolated community straddling the Utah-Arizona border.
APPETITE The wine scene never rests, particularly during harvest time. Besides traveling to Bordeaux for harvest a couple weeks ago (where I picked grapes with the harvesters one day in Sauternes), and continued weekends in Napa and Sonoma, I've been savoring the city's latest wine bars, wine books, and a rare panel for Robert Mondavi staff of key Napa winemakers discussing Napa's premier soil.
I bought Oprah’s O Magazine in March — my first — after learning it had 24 glossy pages to honor (or degrade, depending on how you look at it) National Poetry Month. In the issue, among other things, was a photo spread of eight female poets modeling the latest spring fashion. “Spring Fashion Modeled by Rising Young Poets” was one of those rare occasions when mainstream culture and poetry awkwardly attend the same party. It’s the kind of thing that makes poets and scholars blink in disbelief and send heavy sighs over the Internet. One of the poets featured in O was Anna Moschovakis: the author of two books of poems, a translator, and an editor at Ugly Duckling Presse. (Moschovakis, who lives between Brooklyn and Delaware County, NY, reads at San Francisco's Meridian Gallery Sat/29.) She was modeling a pink Candela dress ($359) and an Haute Hippie jacket ($995).