Literature

All mod cons

Fakers journeys through mazes of truths and falsehood
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johnny@sfbg.com

How can any of us forget 1835, and the heady discovery of spherical amphibians, blue goats, and petite three-foot zebras frolicking on the moon? In Fakers: Hoaxers, Con Artists, Counterfeiters, and Other Great Pretenders (New Press, 245 pages, $24.95), Paul Maliszewski relates that time, when the New York Sun brought news of lunar life to an increasingly large readership that craved delightful information during an economic drought. Read more »

A scar is born

Gary Indiana casts a warm but scathing eye at Utopia's Debris
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johnny@sfbg.com

What does Gary Indiana think of Obamamania? I have to ask, because Indiana is a peerless dissector of contemporary American political symptoms. The evidence includes his blistering appraisal of Jerry Brown's blank gaze and sun-scorched face and other facets of the 1992 presidential campaign in Let it Bleed: Essays 1985-1995. Read more »

Just dandy

Modern Menswear outfits the new aesthete's imagination
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Men dress up. Yes, we do. We dress like animals: peacocks, roosters, cats. We dress like weapons: blades, pistols, and straps. Men dress up. Always have. Always will.

Something has been happening in men's fashion lately, an evolution that's taken place underneath just about everyone's noses. For the longest time it was assumed that men's fashion was about function over style, resulting in an array of boring, drab clothing. Read more »

Speed Reading

Ishmael Reed's pugnacious Mixing It Up
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MIXING IT UP: TAKING ON THE MEDIA BULLIES AND OTHER REFLECTIONS

By Ishmael Reed

Da Capo Press

320 pages

$15.95

Ishmael Reed is one of the most prolific writers, seers, and pundits of the 20th and 21st centuries. The author of nine novels, six books of poetry, six plays, and four books of political essays has been a constant presence and persistent thorn in the sides of various official experts. Read more »

Shock and awe

Aurobora Press and the end of an era
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After 15 years of a labor of printmaking love in what has become the artistic heart of SoMa, Aurobora Press has to be out of its home at 147 Natoma Street by the end of the month. When the landlord came forward with a tenant able to pay three times what the press was shelling out for the historic back-alley building, built in 1907 with bricks from the rubble of the earthquake, Aurobora — no stranger to our languishing economy — was forced to pack its bags. Read more »

The wayward west

America is not a freeway in Jon Raymond's Livability
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The world falls away again and again in Jon Raymond's short stories. The 10 pieces comprising Livability (Bloomsbury, 272 pages, $15), the Portland, Ore., author's first such collection, are introspective ellipses enshrouded in the march of everyday life. We may hear about a job or spouse in passing, but Raymond submerges his characters into stunned states of contingency. Read more »

This land was your land

The American West at Risk confronts mine-all-mine mentality
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Anyone paying any kind of attention has a deep-gut feeling that things aren't going well for Earth. No matter how fancy or technologically advanced we get, everything humans make and break is fashioned from the resources at hand — water, air, petroleum, minerals, soil and its nutrients, and plants and trees and their fruit. Your MacBook may look space age, but it didn't fall from the sky. "Nearly everything you use every day is based on minerals mined somewhere, often leaving behind disfigured land and a toxic mess," Howard G. Wilshire, Jane E. Nielson, and Richard W. Read more »

Speed Reading

83 Days of Radiation Sickness, The Photographs of Stanley Marcus, essays by LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), and stories by Ed Bullins
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A SLOW DEATH: 83 DAYS OF RADIATION SICKNESS

By NHK-TV "Tokaimura Criticality Accident Crew"

Vertical

160 pages

$19.95

It's tacky to begin a review of a book about death by radiation poisoning by praising the design of its jacket. But I'm afraid I have to — John Gall's art for A Slow Death: 83 Days of Radiation Sickness is unique in a gaze-snatching fashion. Read more »

Herself redefined

The word is the thing in The Collected Poems of Barbara Guest
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although I don't enjoy real lakes

Barbara Guest, Biography

Barbara Guest (1920-2006) once told me she shared a taxi in Manhattan with Marianne Moore. Seeing Guest unsuccessfully hail a cab, Moore impulsively instructed the driver of the one she was in to pull over and pick up the young poet. Moore didn't know Guest was a poet, and Guest was too intimidated to confess it, though they had a pleasant chat before Moore dropped her off at her destination.

There's something fitting about this encounter. Read more »

Vive l'amour

Stephanie Young remakes icons and images in Picture Palace
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REVIEW Stephanie Young edited the anthology Bay Poetics (Faux Press, 432 pages, $29), which attempted to take a snapshot of the Bay Area's poetry scene while acknowledging the failure built into such a task. Her second book of poetry, Picture Palace (in girum imus nocte et consumimur igni, 120 pages, $15), is not particularly concerned with choosing between various poetic modes and traditions. Read more »