Literature

Let's all read Sand Paper

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Charmingly disheveled Adobe Books, strung as it is on the alcoholic's crucifix known as the cross-section of 16th and Valencia, has become a beloved sanctuary for readers, drunkards, and occasionally homeless individuals alike. I always look forward to Adobe Books' events because you can never predict who among the circus just outside will enter and join the fun. Not many bookstores on this dry earth permit customers to imbibe openly from brown bags of Colt 45 during poetry readings. Adobe Books' Dickensian squalor places it fondly in my heart even as its floorboards sink beneath the weight of dusty overladen bookshelves -- and when the smell of stale beer and, somehow, cats, forces me to breathe through my mouth while I peruse.

On Monday, March 1, Adobe Books will host the San Francisco launch party of three new books from Sand Paper Press. It'll be worth holding my nose to dive in.

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Philosophy, get hip: "The Examined Life" comes to the Herbst

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In new documentary The Examined Life, eight of the most famous minds in contemporary philosophy -- Cornel West, Avital Ronell, Peter Singer, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Martha Nussbaum, Michael Hardt, Judith Butler, and Slavoj Zizek -- seem almost unintimidating. Detached from the props of intellectual life and presented in public setting away from rapt crowds, miked podiums, and the protective custody of academia, these philosophers appear comfortingly average, for entire milliseconds. For instance, on a sunny afternoon, post-structuralist scholar Judith Butler could almost be any other leather-jacketed San Francisco Missionite with a cool haircut ambling down Clarion Alley, perhaps en route to Thrift Town for some more leather jackets. That is, until she begins to discuss, in a slow and deliberate manner with eyes fixed intently into the middle distance, the body's morphologies as experienced by the subject. Cover blown.

Examined Life director Astra Taylor will be appearing -- along with philosopher Judith Butler and activist-artist Sunaura Taylor (who appears with Butler during the segment filmed in Clarion Alley) -- at a screening of her film at the Herbst Theater on Thu/25, at 7:30 PM. The three women will participate in a discussion and Q&A session following the screening.

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Snap your fingers for our new poet laureate

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“The only war that matters is the war against the imagination.” Diane di Prima, San Francisco’s new poet laureate as of last year, should be an expert on imagination’s primacy. Her work in such volumes as The Revolutionary Letters (1971) helped to shine a light on the role women played in Bohemia- not always the most well-lit arena. On Fri/19, the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts holds a reception to laud the most well known female voice of the Beat movement, and celebrate her turn as our city’s bard.

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Blow your mind on this lecture, man

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It was a convergence that may have been responsible for the rise of psychedelic drugs, yoga, vegetarianism, and the new age spiritual movement in the western world. And it happened at Harvard University? Don Lattin’s talk on his book The Harvard Psychedelic Club (Harper Collins) next week (Thur/18) narrates one of history’s most momentous groups of college buddies and how their scientific studies on the effects of tripping balls changed American culture in the 1960s.

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The Sexy Professor speaks at City Lights

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Literary critic, Stanford professor, and sexy-brainy scholar Terry Castle will be speaking at City Lights Books on Tuesday, Feb. 9, about The Professor and Other Writings, a series of meditations on topics ranging from Art Pepper to the Polermo catacombs to Susan Sontag. When read together, the essays coalesce into a singular, fearless new memoir.

Castle has produced an incredible body of literary criticism and, in her work, she often explores the complicated relationship between literature and sex. Books like The Apparitional Lesbian and The Literature of Lesbianism examine depictions of love between women in the Western literatary canon. Boss Ladies, Watch Out: Essays on Women, Sex, and Writing investigates female sexuality in works by famous women writers.

But don't let the lit theory put you off. Even those allegedly allergic to theory will enjoy the candid, intelligent essays in Castle's latest work. Her intellectual gifts are obvious -- even her informal pieces have the pleasing effect of making their reader feel smarter -- but Castle remains accessible to a wide audience. In fact, her writing seems targeted at those who exist on the outskirts, or even outside, of the literary cognoscenti. Castle makes no secret of her distaste for the "preening and plumage display" of current day literary criticism, or what she calls "jargon-ridden pseudo-writing," and her informal pepperings of middle- and low-brow references throughout The Professor add to Castle's likableness. None of my college professors would ever (admittedly) discuss the "hotitude" of famous Hollywood stars; neither would they (admittedly) jam out to bass-bomping hip hop on their iPods.

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