Literature

You'll go blind doing that

Solitary Vice wants you to put the book down and go play
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ISBN REAL Nobody knows better than writers that there's nothing inherently special or ennobling about reading a book. Read more »

After the ruins

SF's pasts and futures -- and Chris Carlsson's Nowtopia
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ESSAY In a journal entry dated Dec. 27, 1835, from his 1840 book Two Years before the Mast, student-turned-seafarer Richard Henry Dana recorded his first impressions of the area we know as the City, while his ship, The Alert, traveled through the Golden Gate:

We passed directly under the high cliff on which the presidio is built ... from whence we could see large and beautifully wooded islands and the mouths of several small rivers ... Read more »

Speed Reading

The Death of the Critic and Headless Body in Topless Bar
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THE DEATH OF THE CRITIC

By Rónán McDonald

Continuum

160 pages

$21.95

Rónán McDonald notes that upon hearing his book's Roland Barthes–inspired title, people assume he is celebrating the death of so-called (and often self-deemed) experts. The Death of the Critic's jacket image mordantly plays off this assumption — one might think the contents were a fictive, rather than nonfiction, whodunit. Read more »

Outlaw representation

Richard Bruce Nugent's Gentleman Jigger sprawls forward
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I love Dick and I cannot lie. I am of course referring to my Chocolate City homeboy Richard Bruce Nugent — who was never called "Dick," but was outfitted with "Paul Arbian" and other choice names by his friend, rival, and fellow Harlem/Negro Renaissance leader Wallace Thurman. Nugent, who died impoverished but grand in 1987, has been one of my abiding heroes since childhood. Read more »

Magazinester

A spree-killer's attack on the magazine rack
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Vanity Fair would like to know: "Who Says Women Aren't Funny?" Magazinester would like to know: "Who Says Women of Color Aren't Funny?" Granted, Wanda Sykes and Maya Rudolph represent. But why no Margaret Cho? Read more »

Karaoke revolution

The world won't listen -- but it will sing, thanks to the younger Phil Collins
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REVIEW The radio at my neighborhood Laundromat is a source of pop music melancholy. That a-ha song "Take on Me" gets me misty while folding socks — damn it.

Something similar happened when I first saw British artist Phil Collins's captivating Smiths karaoke video project, dünya dinlemiyor (Turkish for "the world won't listen") at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2006. Read more »

Where's Otto?

Alex Cox repossesses the graphic novel with Waldo's Hawaiian Holiday
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ISBN REAL Graphic novels, obviously, aren't just movies with a lot of missing frames. In the hands of artists like David B. or Craig Thompson, the elastic potential of their subjects, and of the panels that hold them, is realized in a manner entirely at odds with the medium of film.

From the perspective of screenwriters, however — particularly ones beaten repeatedly over the head with the knotty stick of the studio system — that's nothing that can't be worked out over a cup of coffee. Read more »

Big book, tiny topic

Some eccentric notes on a favorite tactic of the publishing industry
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johnny@sfbg.com

REVIEW This week, I'm reviewing a book about toothpicks, a book about citrus, and a book about pigeons. When I first mentioned this plan to a fellow editor, she said it prompted visions of a surrealist game of Clue: the orange stabbed the pigeon in the study with a toothpick.

In truth, my motivation is pragmatic. I want to draw attention to the publishing industry's love of big books devoted to tiny topics. It seems that one surefire way of selling a nonfiction tome is by focusing on a very specific subject. Read more »

One ear to the ground

Yousef Al-Mohaimeed's storytelling transcends bans
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REVIEW Ah, the morality police — you've gotta love 'em. At least artists who get free publicity from the overzealous watchdogs should. Read more »

Ghost writer

Roberto Bolaño travels from the grave to the future with Nazi Literature
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REVIEW In the English-speaking press, Roberto Bolaño is widely touted as the hottest novelist to come out of Latin America since Gabriel García Márquez. There are no levitating virgins in the work of Bolaño; he depicts instead a more recognizable if still defamiliarized Western Hemisphere, full of intellectuals, tragic activists, poets, queers, prostitutes, and drug dealers. Read more »