Literature

Wine tales

Tasty new wine bars, contemplating Grand Cru at To Kalon, and a lively new book about vino

|
()

virginia@sfbg.com

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.

 Read more »

Poet of dissonance: Anna Moschovakis at Meridian Gallery

|
()

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). 

It started something of an Internet brawl.

Read more »

Not just for Halloween: bone tome "Empire of Death"

|
()

Sometimes, you can judge a book by its cover. Case in point: Dr. Paul Koudounaris' The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses (Thames and Hudson, 224 pgs., $50), a hefty black tome emblazoned with shiny gold letters and a photo of a skeleton posed with its arm raised, clad in a helmet and suit of armor.

Sold! So, uh, what's this book about, now? Koudounaris, whose credentials include a PhD in Art History from UCLA and an innate curiosity about things he terms "bizarre and suspicious," spent five years traveling the globe learning more about the ancient (and primarily Catholic) practice of massing bones in charnel houses, often with eerily artistic results. He'll be in town for a series of Empire of Death-related events starting Thurs/20.

Read more »

Get lit! A handy guide to Saturday night's LitCrawl

|
()

LitQuake has been rough. You’ve been dashing out of work, shoving people away from their cabs to make it to the Chuck Klosterman event and sprinting after buses to catch Karen Russell; you’ve had to make the hard decision between “Kafkaesque” and “Rock Out with your Book Out;” and all the while, you keep thinking Jeffrey Eugenides has just passed you on the street. With LitCrawl coming up Sat/15, things become even more overwhelming and terrific. In the Mission, bars, cafes, and bookstores together host 450 readers in 79 readings, all free and open to the public. One way to navigate the event might be to pick your favorite bar or cafe, find a chair, order a drink and wait for something to happen. Or, you can check these readings out:
 
I Live Here: SF. How We Got Here, Why We Stay
Not a lot of us can say we were born and raised in San Francisco. Most of us fled here from elsewhere for one reason or another: failed relationships, parents kicked you out, a nervous breakdown, a mid-life crisis, you formed an indie-rock band. Maybe you came for LoveFest and simply forgot whom you were. There are a thousand reasons for arriving and a thousand more for staying. In Clarion Alley, writers and non-writers alike including Mark Bittner and M.C. Mars talk about what brought them here and why they haven’t budged. 6 p.m., Clarion Alley, between Mission and Valencia, and 17th and 18th Sts, SF

Read more »

City Lights celebrates a vital, veteran publisher

|
()

The avant-garde publisher New Directions was founded in 1936, but the idea was borne two years earlier when Ezra Pound gave some fairly harsh advice to James Laughlin, a 22-year-old aspiring poet and Harvard undergrad. In 1934, Laughlin was ambitious enough to travel to Rapallo, Italy, to meet and study under Pound, who was by that time a fascist and outspoken anti-Semite, but still respected by young writers as the force behind Eliot, Joyce, and Hemingway, as well as Imagism, the movement he helped shape. After two months, though, Pound didn’t think Laughlin possessed enough talent, and told him to return to the states and “do something useful.”
 
Three quarters of a century later, “useful” hardly describes New Directions (which will be celebrated Tues/11 at City Lights Books) and its dedication to publishing eccentric and groundbreaking work, beginning with the likes of Dylan Thomas, Denise Levertov, Tennessee Williams, and Marianne Moore, and continuing today with contemporaries like László Krasznahorkai and Javier Marías.

Read more »

Check yo' head: "The Book of Skulls"

|
()

Sure, it's still only September, but in my mind (and at Walgreens, have you noticed?) it's totally Halloween season. What better time to get your bony hands on The Book of Skulls (due in October from Laurence King Publishing, 160 pages, $14.95), Faye Dowling's new compilation of all things Memento mori? The table of contents page is illustrated by San Francisco's own Matt Furie, people. Get on this!

Read more »

Lit love at Ourshelves, the Mission's new lending library

|
()

Perched on a wooden bench built into the salvaged redwood walls of the back room of Viracocha, surrounded by the Ourshelves lending library she’s created in the nook, the soft-spoken Kristina Kearns reads “literary heroine.” For Pete’s sake, she’s making literature that you can’t find at the library available to the masses in the heart of the Mission. 

But also this: Kearns once worked in a small bookshop on the island of Santorini, Greece. She lived in the store, in fact, tending it while the owner was away during the off season. “That was when Greece started to fall apart,” she says. Political unrest made her stay untenable, so she flew back to the United States -- with very little funds to nurture her bibliophilic nature. Read more »

A fiction writer that beats FOX News for war coverage

|
()

Kudos to the New Yorker for bringing Daniel Alarcón to the attention of the eastern rag's audience. The Oakland writer is one of the three West coast scribes from the New Yorker's 20 Under 40 "young" writers anthology who will be reading at City Lights Books on Weds/19. I suggest you go check up on the event – if not for the magazine's time-proven track record of tagging future lit stars, then because the more people in this country who read Alarcón, the less likely we are to plunge our country into madness.

Read more »

Libidinous literature with Naked Girls Reading

|
()

I had asked Lady Monster, over a pair of red wine glasses and the pleasant buzz of nearby patrons at Revolution Cafe, to tell me what story she'd read at the Halloween installation of her Naked Girls Reading literary series. We were chatting in anticipation of her International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers edition of NGR (Fri/17) which will take place at the Center for Sex and Culture after the day's City Hall vigil and march.

The curvaceous redhead is quite the story teller, even clothed. “I did the elevator scene from The Shining,” she told me, launching into a brief summary of the Torrance family's elevator travails. By the end of it I had the crap scared out of me – and she was fully clothed! Imagine what this lady can get done in the buff – surely, a live literary luminary not to be trifled with. Read more »

'Infinite City' maps out inexhaustible SF

|
()

In the introduction to her thrilling new book, Rebecca Solnit provides the best explanation for why Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas (University of California Press) can only be referred to as a San Francisco atlas, not the San Francisco atlas. “Every place is if not infinite then practically inexhaustible … any single map can depict only an arbitrary selection of the facts on its two-dimensional surface…” Read more »