Events at City Lights Bookstore, September 2015

Our Fall event season at City Lights Bookstore kicks off this September. As always, there is a mixture of fiction and poetry, noir and nonfiction, local authors and visitors on their nationwide book tour.

This month we have a John Wieners tribute, a discussion of the work of Lucia Berlin, a noir classic by Leonard Gardner, and an exploration through the erotic world of World War II-era Paris.

Each and every event is held at City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus Ave. (at Broadway), San Francisco, CA, 94133 at 7PM, unless otherwise noted.

Tuesday, September 8

87286100921670LStars Seen in Person: A Tribute to John Wieners”

A tribute to John Wieners with Garrett Caples, Michael Seth StewartMicah Ballard, Cedar Sigo, Duncan McNaughton, Bill Berkson, and friends celebrating the release of Stars Seen in Person: Selected Journals by John Wieners published by City Lights and Supplication: Selected Poetry of John Wieners, published by Wave Books.

John Wieners was on the periphery of many of the twentieth century’s most important avant-garde poetry scenes, from Black Mountain and the Boston Renaissance to the New York School and the SF Renaissance. Both of these new books of John Wieners–the journals all previously unpublished and the poetry selected from his entire career–display one of the most influential American poets of the 20th century.

“At long last we have the magnificent John Wieners here before us, in his full undressed splendor: poet, stargazer, philosopher, shaman, flâneur, survivor.”–Wayne Koestenbaum

Wednesday, September 9

71LUIyxNNULCity Lights Booksellers in conjunction with the Book Club of California present:

“Best Kept Secrets: The Fiction of Lucia Berlin”

Celebrating the release of A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories, a compilation of Lucia Berlin‘s legendary short-stories with her trademark blend of humor and melancholy, Berlin crafts miracles from the everyday–uncovering moments of grace in the cafeterias and laundromats of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Northern California upper class, and from the perspective of a cleaning woman alone in a hotel dining room in Mexico City.

Opening statement by Stephen Emerson, with readings by Gloria Frym, Barry Gifford, August Kleinzahler, Jim Nisbet, and Michael Wolfe.

Continue reading

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Planet News

“The impression I have is that a great fat omnivorous crab named United States of America is sitting on top of the Pan-American hemisphere, sucking the marrow from its soft underside. The Coca-Colonization of the world. . .”
Hot on the heels of the recently published Ginsberg/Ferlinghetti letters comes the otherworldly Ferlinghetti Travel diaries Writing Across the Landscape, excerpted on Lithub today

“The narrator (again named Eileen) recalls reading a usually showstopping poem to no response and realizing the crowd was mesmerized by live footage of Acker’s arm being projected on a huge scale on a screen behind her: “I am the backup singer to Kathy Acker’s fucking tattoos.”
Lidija Haas on Dodie Bellamy and Eileen Myles, tricky friendships and tricky writing in Bookforum

“With a title like Purity, Jonathan Franzen’s latest novel sets the reader up for great expectations, and how. What Franzen does well in every novel is to tell a sprawling story with a robust and intimately rendered casts of characters. At the outset of this one, we meet Pip (hello, Charles Dickens), a recent college graduate who is clever and ambitious, but aimless. She’s saddled with student debt (as if her creator had studied a few popular magazines and websites in order to understand the condition of today’s young people), works odd jobs, and struggles to separate herself from an overbearing and possibly insane mother.”
Roxane Gay reviews Purity for NPR

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Planet News

b4_273490_0_ZapComix6Missed our Zap Comix party? Listen to Robert Williams, Victor Moscoso, and Paul Mavrides discuss the wild times and wilder art in a discussion moderated by Gary Groth of Fantagraphics and Ron Turner of Last Gasp right here

“What is perhaps most interesting about the Baldwin dossier is that it reads like a long, poorly written novel itself — it is, in every sense, fiction produced by the state.”
Hannah K. Gold on the FBI’s harassment and surveillance of James Baldwin (via The Intercept)

“Fran Ross’s first and only novel, “Oreo,” was published in 1974, four years after Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye” and two years before Alex Haley’s “Roots.” It wasn’t reviewed in The New York Times; it was hardly reviewed anywhere. It’s interesting to imagine an alternative history of African-American fiction in which this wild, satirical and pathbreaking feminist picaresque caught the ride it deserved in the culture. Today it would be where it belongs, up among the 20th century’s lemony comic classics, novels that range from “Lucky Jim” and “Cold Comfort Farm” to “Catch-22” and “A Confederacy of Dunces.”’
Dwight Garner in the New York Times on Fran Ross’ Oreo, which is also this week’s staff selection at City Lights

“As for Testimony, if you’ve heard of found poetry, that brainchild of the Dadaists, then you are familiar with a claim that any mundane bit of writing (from a circus poster to bathroom graffiti) can, once taken out of its context and with little or no tinkering, become a poem, then, surely, what we have here is the first found epic poem. It certainly reads like one, with its huge cast of evildoers and victims, vast setting, and profusion of breathtaking stories. Murder, treachery, injustice, greed, foolishness, jealousy, rape, anger, revenge, marital squabbles, cruelty to children and animals, bad luck, and many other miseries human beings bring upon themselves and on their fellow men are all here to behold. Injustice and violence, so we discover, were as endemic then as they are today. Since this is America, there are a lot of immigrants, crooked cops, and guns, and, of course, racism.”
Charles Simic on Charles Reznikof’s brutal, beautiful stark epic poetry Testimony in the New York Review of Books

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When Ginsberg Met Monk

Dear Mr Monk,

Allen Ginsberg tells me that he has spoken to you about our mushroom research. We find that they do great things for talented people and we are going to continue giving them to people in the arts and learned professions.

I should like very much to talk to you about our research, and tell you about our results so far. I’ll be in New York the weekend of January 14th and shall give you a ring.

I have followed your work with respect and pleasure and look forward to talking with you.

Sincerely yours,
Timothy Leary

(Letter from Leary to Thelonius Monk c. 1961, published in White Hand Society: The Psychedelic Partnership of Timothy Leary & Allen Ginsberg, published by City Lights, 2010.)

Thelonious Monk & Allen Ginsberg
Monk and Ginsberg in Monterrey, 1963. Photo by Jim Marshall.

“Isn’t it funny? As Jim [Marshall] says, it looks like Ginsberg is looking at God. Again, Jim was there photographing the Newport Jazz Festival and so with all of Jim’s photographs, I think, we talked about that he captured the moment but also, it was really a different time back then. Those types of access–the all access that Jim had–doesn’t happen today because musicians have their handlers, managers. You have all of these layers that you have to go through but back then, there really wasn’t that. He would wander backstage at all of these festivals and concerts and he was able, through becoming a fly on the wall, to capture the moment.

“This was a tribute to Jim again, he saw that Ginsberg was totally stunned and amazed like ‘I can’t believe I’m talking to Monk’ and captured that photograph which is pretty incredible. Ginsberg was well known at that point too because of the ‘Howl’ that he had written. It’s just pretty cool for Ginsberg to be that shot. You almost feel voyeuristic when you look at that because it’s such an intimate moment for Ginsberg because it’s like wow, Jim caught it.”–Amelia Davis, assistant to photographer Jim Marshall.

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Planet News

Charlotte Gomez

“Apartheid South Africa, in fact, offers a rubric for understanding the stratification of race in the US (RFK famously drew this parallel in his 1966 visit to the University of Cape Town). To be Black in America is to live in a cruel and dangerous parallel existence, one mostly invisible to those of other races.

This moment is one that could only have happened now, with the proliferation of cell phone cameras and social media. It was fitting that, for comment, I would seek the voices of the younger generation, those most capable of understanding the current moment. The following authors are some of the sharpest I have encountered, and they are all beginning to make their mark on the world. Some you may already know, and others you will soon. Their talent and promise is an answer to the assertion, made by guns and handcuffs, that black lives are worth nothing.”
Zinzi Clemmons Young Black Writers: After Michael Brown Reflections on One Year of #BlackLivesMatter (via Lithub)

Who doesn’t quest for a vision? I think all of us want sudden illuminations and hard, clear evidence. Even if you’re an atheist, you want moments when the world is with you—or when something substantive arrives out of a huge apparent nihilism.
Barry Hannah (via Bomb Magazine)

“Writers have always been in love with the visual arts. Just think of Frank O’Hara’s sly poem “Why I Am Not a Painter,” which is actually all about the creative entanglement of the two forms—tinged with yearning and a wry bit of envy:

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,


…That’s why it is such a pleasure to walk up the Guggenheim’s white spiral and look at the work on view in “Storylines: Contemporary Art at the Guggenheim.” “Storylines” is about the resurgence of narrative in the visual arts, but it is also about how writers still love to write about the things artists make. In a moment of inspiration, the exhibition’s curators got thirty novelists and poets, from John Ashbery to Jeanette Winterson, to write creative responses to the works in the show.”
At the Guggenheim, writers and artists cross-pollinate. (via Paris Review)

“I want our dead to live, to write their own stories, to laugh and travel and love and fight. I want to live for just a moment in a country where my life and the lives of my sisters and brothers — straight and gay, transgender and cisgender, black and brown — are not imperiled at every moment, even in the homes we make for ourselves as a refuge. This summer has taught me both the limits and the necessity of my faith in these dark times.”
Every Day Something Has Tried To Kill Me
Naomi Jackson author of The Star Side of Bird Hill (via Buzzfeed)

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Rad American Woman Yuri Kochiyama Print Finds Perfect Home at the Japanese American National Library

This past June, at the American Library Association Annual Conference, City Lights held a raffle for a limited edition print of Rad American Woman Yuri Kochiyama, a Japanese-American activist most known for her tireless work seeking justice for political prisoners and reparations for the internment of Japanese Americans. Kochiyama shares space with other rad(ical) American women such as Angela Davis and Temple Grandin in Rad American Women A-Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries Who Shaped Our History . . . and Our Future!The book is written by Kate Schatz with art by Miriam Klein Stahl, and is City Lights’ first book for kids, released on our Sister Spit imprint. The limited edition print of “Y Is for Yuri” was made by Miriam Klein Stahl.

A few weeks later, the winner of that raffle and director of the Japanese American National Library, Karl Kaoru Matsushita, was sitting in the Poetry Room sharing his own rad story.

Karl Kaoru Matsushita in the Poetry Room with a copy of Rad American Women A-Z and the print of Yuri Kochiyama by artist Miriam Klein Stahl.
Karl Kaoru Matsushita in the Poetry Room with a copy of Rad American Women A-Z and the print of Yuri Kochiyama by artist Miriam Klein Stahl.

Back in 1968, strikers at San Francisco State University (led by the Black Student Union and the Third World Liberation Front) were writing up their demands – one being the development of an ethnic studies program for which Matsushita would soon be helping to develop a curriculum. At the time he was a graduate student studying sociology and recalls being approached by the Freshman organizers for guidance. Out of necessity for resources to support the ethnic studies program, the Center for Japanese American Studies was born. The Center became the home of the Japanese American National Library (JANL), now operating independently in the heart of San Francisco’s Japantown.

yuri com
Yuri Kochiyama

The library holds over 1,000 boxes of archival documents and 40,000 books relating to Japanese and Asian Americans. It is internationally known for its massive JACL (Japanese American Citizens League) history collection. Officially founded in 1929, the JACL is the nation’s oldest and largest Asian American civil rights organization. The library keeps archives of the organization starting as early as 1923. Though not a loaner library, the JANL is open to the community, and provides resources to not only students and scholars, but anyone who is interested in these sorts of materials.

Amazingly, the JANL has been able to survive through donations and the loving labor of Matsushita and his colleagues. In an interview posted on Vimeo by Claudia Katayanagi, Matsushita jokes that it has been said that they are the “one organization that shouldn’t be here.” (We highly suggest checking out the interview, it is fantastic.) Matsushita was savvy in his collecting. During college he worked in a used book store and became acquainted with some of the top dealers of antiquarian books. The library also receives book donations from authors as well as 23 different newspapers. Today, it is one of the best research centers for the Japanese in America.

And in another City Lights connection to the JANL and Japanese-American history, it was the longtime executive director of the Japanese American History Archives, Seizo Oka, whose son Francis Oka was a staff member at City Lights from 1967 to his death in 1970. It was Francis who was most responsible for our head book buyer, Paul Yamazaki, being hired here.

Here at City Lights, we believe that Yuri Kochiyama’s image couldn’t have found a better home. Please consider volunteering, or making a donation to the JANL so that we can keep these vital cultural treasures around. It is through the efforts of those like Kate Schatz, Miriam Klein Stahl, and Karl Kaoru Matsushita that help to preserve and share our neglected, painful, overlooked, hidden, or forgotten histories.

To read more about Yuri Kochiyama, and other Rad American Women, stop by the store and pick up a copy of the New York Times Bestseller. Y, of course, is for Yuri.

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Friday Staff Pick

The Liminal People
A Novel

Ayize Jama-Everett





—Recommended by Tân, City Lights Books

Taggert can heal and hurt with just a touch. When an ex calls for help, he risks the wrath of his enigmatic master to try and save her daughter. But when Taggert realizes the daughter has more power than even he can imagine, he has to wrestle with the very nature of his skills, not to mention unmanned and uncreated gods, in order keep the girl safe. In the end, Taggert will have to use more than his power, he has to delve into his heart and soul to survive.

“You’ll be sucked into a fast-paced story about superpowered people struggling for control of the underground cultures they inhabit…. The novel is a damn good read. It’s a smart actioner that will entertain you while also enticing you to think about matters beyond the physical realm.”
—Annalee Newitz, io9

“For all the grit, character and poetry on display here, Everett’s own super power appears to be plotting and set-pieces. Readers will find a quick immersion in the opening scene, and then some secret world-building. Once the plot kicks in, readers had best be prepared to finish the book in one sitting, while experiencing better special effects than you will find in any movie. Indeed, Everett’s prose is cinematic in the best sense; when he puts us in a scene of action, his descriptions take on a hyper-clarity that is better than telepathy. The plot arc is cunning and enjoyably surprising, and the revelations have the shock of the new but the old-school satisfaction of well-woven espionage plots. ‘The Liminal People’ is seriously well-written, but also seriously fun to read. It’s a secret world that deserves the elegant exposition of this engaging novel — and a sequel, sooner rather than later.”
—Rick Kleffel, The Agony Column

“Ayize Jama-Everett has brewed a voodoo cauldron of Sci-Fi, Romance, Crime, and Superhero Comic, to provide us with a true gestalt of understanding, offering us both a new definition of “family” and a world view on the universality of human conduct. The Liminal People—as obviously intended—will draw different reactions from different readers. But none of them will stop reading until its cataclysmic ending.”
—Andrew Vachss

“Ayize’s imagination will mess with yours, and the world won’t ever look quite the same again.”
—Nalo Hopkinson

“The Liminal People has the pleasures of classic sf while being astonishingly contemporary and savvy.”
—Maureen F. McHugh

“Fast and sleek and powerful—a skillful and unique mix of supernatural adventure and lived-in, persuasive, often moving noir.”
—Felix Gilman, author of The Half-Made World

Ayize Jama-Everett was born in 1974 and raised in Harlem, New York. Since then he has traveled extensively in Northern Africa, New Hampshire, and Northern California. He holds a Master’s in Clinical Psychology and a Master’s in Divinity. He teaches religion and psychology at Starr King School for the Ministry when he’s not working as a school therapist at the College Preparatory School. When not educating, studying, or beating himself up for not writing enough, he’s usually enjoying aged rums and practicing his aim.


“I was born in ’74, and if you look at New York in the late ’70s and early ’80s, it was one step away from Mad Max and the Thunderdome. I mean, it was grimy! And I wasn’t cute. I wasn’t perceived as smart. I was a geeky kid with glasses and I was a little stick, very skinny. People forget, it wasn’t always cool to be a geek like it is now, you know? So I was constantly scrutinized and seen as a potential victim. I had to learn how to navigate the world and other people’s perceptions and I think that taught me about narrative. It was like, This is what this other person’s story is about me. Do I want to play into that or do I want to play against that?
The Rumpus Interview with Ayize Jama-Everett

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Planet News

Previously Unpublished Clarice Lispector! (via Tin House)

“For me there is little difference between the blazing sun, the nighttime jazz, the human flaws, the bound novels or the oral tales of this heroic land. It all comes together in my heart. The black man whose mother survived and whose child now thrives expressed a loving pride, an endurance and bravery, that has been kept a secret from the rest of America, even from my own people, sometimes.”
Walter Moseley on Louisiana literature (via New York Times)

“In the pre-MFA days the communities were more organic or developed around places like the Poetry Project or at a person’s house. For several years, when Anne Waldman and I lived together in an apartment on St Marks Place, there were people at our apartment every night, talking about poetry, about each other, listening to music, getting stoned. In other cultures, and in other periods of time, people might meet in cafes or bars. Poets tend to come together for periods of time and then everyone goes their separate ways.”
“Like going back to the beginning of time, and starting over”: Karen Szczepanski in conversation with Lewis Warsh (via Ugly Duckling Presse)

“…because it’s just not right that people who look like you—people who are small, and black, and lonely, but bright, and funny, and sweet—can’t find a way in this world.” Listen to Nikki Giovanni pay tribute to James Baldwin, in honor of what would be his 91st birthday, on this week’s #PENpodcast.

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Planet News

A conversation between Studs Terkel and Hunter S Thompson circa 1967 was discovered! And someone made it into an animated short. (via Paris Review)

“There are few things that depress me more than hearing the word “great” followed by a nationality and then the word “novel.” There is no such thing as the great anything novel…The “Great” thing is so destructive. Why are we striving for one book to be the defining document? The only way to pull off the Great American Novel is if there’s only one America or American. ”
Booker longlist nominee Marlon James interviewed on Midnight Breakfast

Chelsea Girls is an example of a hybrid work that’s taken on cult status. It’s considered an autobiographical novel, straddling the space between nonfiction and fiction. One of the times I meet up with Myles, she is just back from a panel at AWP, the big writers’ conference, with Maggie Nelson, Eula Bliss, and Leslie Jamison, among others, at which she turned to them and said, “Isn’t it a fugitive form you guys are creating?” Well said.”
Eileen Myles’ Fugitive Form (via the Millions)

“Of course, there are plenty of places where people don’t want to talk. Some parts of Mexico, for example, are very hard to report from now. I did a Letter from Michoacán (“Silver or Lead”) a few years ago, during a period when the cartel had really captured the state. People were just terrified about talking, and as I started to understand the situation, I saw that they were right to be afraid. For me even to show up at their offices or their houses was dangerous for them. It was terrible. Some of them actually suffered consequences for having spoken to me. Nobody was hurt or killed, thank God, but people had to go into hiding after my piece came out. It was probably the worst episode of my journalistic career.
Then there are the situations where people are happy to be drawn out, where starting a conversation is like opening a book that turns out to be full of great stuff. I guess I did get into that well before I got into journalism. On that long surf trip through the South Pacific and Southeast Asia, I often found myself hanging out with fishermen who would take us to these small islands, where we were looking for waves. Listening to them talk about their lives, it was like a new form of poetry to me, something I’d been looking for without knowing it.”
William Finnegan interviewed in the Los Angeles Review of Books

Sad news! Much loved literary journal PANK is calling it quits

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Planet News

Bernadette Meyer Poetry trading card!

“…the membrane between fiction and nonfiction is thin as infant’s skin. I think our identities—the ones we live in the real world—are really made partly from stories that we build up around ourselves—necessary fictions—so that we can bear the weight of our own lives.”
Lidia Yuknavitch, in an interview on The Rumpus

“In the last decade, particularly in the age of Obama, the vast majority of the black leadership has been the punditry class—those of us, and I am guilty of this, who are on television, who write books, who give lectures, but don’t necessarily experience on-the-ground direct confrontation with the state.
Now the leadership that is emerging are the folks who have been in the street, who have been tear-gassed. The leadership is black, poor, queer, women. It presents in a different way. It’s a revolutionary aesthetic. It’s black women, queer women, single mothers, poor black boys with records, kids with tattoos on their faces who sag their pants. ”
Rev. Sekou on Today’s Civil Rights Leaders: “I Take My Orders From 23-Year-Old Queer Women” (via Yes! Magazine)

“I often make T-shirts with negative comments about me. I play basketball in them. Time magazine, for Indian Killer, wrote that I was ‘septic with my own unappeasable fury.’ I had that T-shirt for a while.”
Sherman Alexie on the Powell’s blog

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