Wracked with confusion as to what to gift your compatriots with? Fear not! Here are some suggestions from the shelves of City Lights… Simply click on the images to purchase the books, and if none of these will do there’s always a HOWL onesie or City Lights giftcard
“This is a guide for instructing posthumans in living a Dada life. It is not advisable, nor was it ever, to lead a Dada life.”–The Posthuman Dada Guide
The Posthuman Dada Guide is an impractical handbook for practical living in our posthuman world–all by way of examining the imagined 1916 chess game between Tristan Tzara, the daddy of Dada, and V. I. Lenin, the daddy of communism. This epic game at Zurich’s Café de la Terrasse–a battle between radical visions of art and ideological revolution–lasted for a century and may still be going on, although communism appears dead and Dada stronger than ever. As the poet faces the future mass murderer over the chessboard, neither realizes that they are playing for the world. Taking the match as metaphor for two poles of twentieth- and twenty-first-century thought, politics, and life, Andrei Codrescu has created his own brilliantly Dadaesque guide to Dada–and to what it can teach us about surviving our ultraconnected present and future. Here dadaists Duchamp, Ball, and von Freytag-Loringhoven and communists Trotsky, Radek, and Zinoviev appear live in company with later incarnations, including William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Gilles Deleuze, and Newt Gingrich. The Posthuman Dada Guide is arranged alphabetically for quick reference and (some) nostalgia for order, with entries such as “eros (women),” “internet(s),” and “war.” Throughout, it is written in the belief “that posthumans lining the road to the future (which looks as if it exists, after all, even though Dada is against it) need the solace offered by the primal raw energy of Dada and its inhuman sources.”
Through original interviews, conversations, surveys, projects, diagrams and drawings from over six hundred contributors—including Miranda July, Cindy Sherman, Elif Batuman, Mac McClelland, Lena Dunham, Molly Ringwald, Tavi Gevinson, Rachel Kushner, Roxane Gay and Sarah Nicole Prickett—Women in Clothes explores the wide range of motives that inform how women present themselves through clothes, and what style really means.
“It is a riot of opinions from women of all backgrounds; women born as women and those not, women of different religions and none at all…It is about commonality without being common, authentic experience without touching on cliche…As a snapshot of a moment and a portrait of women today, Women in Clothes is a significant sign of the times.”
—The Irish Times
“Old and young women, fat and thin ones, bag ladies and Bergdorf bag ladies, we’re a pack, a pod, a gam, a herd—birds of a feather. And long before feminism made fashion a guilty pleasure, my first experience of the sisterhood among strangers took place in a communal dressing room. I had a version of that experience reading Women in Clothes, a communal dressing room in book form conceived and edited by Sheila Heti, Heidi Julavits, and Leanne Shapton. They gathered the testimony—fashion-related interviews, lists, memories, dreams, poems, secrets, diagrams, fantasies, comic riffs, and, in some cases, accounts of oppression—of more than six hundred women from around the globe, and distilled them to five hundred pages, an Augean labor.”
—The New Yorker
“A collaged, zine-like anthology…Women In Clothes is a welcome life raft in a sea of what can be, for many women, confusion and mixed messages about why to wear what, when and how to wear it—and more importantly, how to intuit and shape your own style.”
I compulsively read Roxane Gay’s Bad Feminist whenever I could get a spare moment. My commute (my life!) was vastly improved as it felt like my coolest, smartest, pop-culture literate, and humane friend was sharing the ride, offering the low down on—and a considered critique of—the too numerous troublesome aspects of American life and culture. —Recommended by Stacey, City Lights Publishing
A collection of essays spanning politics, criticism, and feminism from one of the most-watched young cultural observers of her generation, Roxane Gay.
“Pink is my favorite color. I used to say my favorite color was black to be cool, but it is pink—all shades of pink. If I have an accessory, it is probably pink. I read Vogue, and I’m not doing it ironically, though it might seem that way. I once live-tweeted the September issue.”
In these funny and insightful essays, Roxane Gay takes us through the journey of her evolution as a woman (Sweet Valley High) of color (The Help) while also taking readers on a ride through culture of the last few years (Girls, Django in Chains) and commenting on the state of feminism today (abortion, Chris Brown). The portrait that emerges is not only one of an incredibly insightful woman continually growing to understand herself and our society, but also one of our culture.
Bad Feminist is a sharp, funny, and spot-on look at the ways in which the culture we consume becomes who we are, and an inspiring call-to-arms of all the ways we still need to do better.
Claudia Rankine’s bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seemingly slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV—everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person’s ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named “post-race” society.
“[Citizen] is an especially vital book for this moment in time. . . . The book explores the kinds of injustice that thrive when the illusion of justice is perfected, and the emotional costs for the artist who cries foul. . . . The realization at the end of this book sits heavily upon the heart: ‘This is how you are a citizen,’ Rankine writes. ‘Come on. Let it go. Move on.’ As Rankine’s brilliant, disabusing work, always aware of its ironies, reminds us, ‘moving on’ is not synonymous with ‘leaving behind.'”—The New Yorker
“So groundbreaking is Rankine’s work that it’s almost impossible to describe; suffice it to say that this is a poem that reads like an essay (or the other way around) — a piece of writing that invents a new form for itself, incorporating pictures, slogans, social commentary and the most piercing and affecting revelations to evoke the intersection of inner and outer life.”—Los Angeles Times
Translated from the German by Pierre Joris—winner of the 2004 PEN Translation Award for Celan’s Lightduress—the is the first of Celan’s three major books of poetry before his death by suicide. Considered by many to be one of Celan’s major writings, Breathturn brilliantly reveals the “Wende” or turn of writing.
In Europe, Celan has become an increasingly important poet of the second half of the 20th century, largely for his efforts to create a post-Holocaust language for German poetry. The facts of his life seem inseparable from his work: his term in a Nazi work camp, the murder of his parents by the Nazis, his death by suicide in his adopted France in 1970. Joris, a poet and professor at SUNY-Albany, places Celan and this work (Atemwende, originally published in 1967) in context for the uninitiated American reader and discusses the problems in translating this poet’s writing. Celan consciously attempted to move the German language away from lyricism toward a terse, charged accuracy that could reflect the unrepresentable: “Down melancholy’s rapids/ past the blank/ woundmirror:/ there the forty/ stripped lifetrees are rafted./ Single counter-/ swimmer, you/ count them, touch them/ all.’ Joris’s translations (on pages facing the German text) capture much of the multilingual resonance, subtlety and compressed power of Celan’s brilliant, difficult work, which has absorbed the interest of such critics as George Steiner and Jacques Derrida.(Publishers Weekly)
What makes a place? Infinite City, Rebecca Solnit’s brilliant reinvention of the traditional atlas, searches out the answer by examining the many layers of meaning in one place, the San Francisco Bay Area. Aided by artists, writers, cartographers, and twenty-two gorgeous color maps, each of which illuminates the city and its surroundings as experienced by different inhabitants, Solnit takes us on a tour that will forever change the way we think about place. She explores the area thematically–connecting, for example, Eadweard Muybridge’s foundation of motion-picture technology with Alfred Hitchcock’s filming of Vertigo.
Across an urban grid of just seven by seven miles, she finds seemingly unlimited landmarks and treasures–butterfly habitats, queer sites, murders, World War II shipyards, blues clubs, Zen Buddhist centers. She roams the political terrain, both progressive and conservative, and details the cultural geographies of the Mission District, the culture wars of the Fillmore, the South of Market world being devoured by redevelopment, and much, much more. Breathtakingly original, this atlas of the imagination invites us to search out the layers of San Francisco that carry meaning for us–or to discover our own infinite city, be it Cleveland, Toulouse, or Shanghai.
- Listen to a podcast of Lawrence Ferlinghetti reading a series of his thoughts from Poetry As Insurgent Art.
After a lifetime, this (r)evolutionary little book is still a work-in-progress, the poet’s ars poetica, to which at 88 he is constantly adding.
From the groundbreaking (and bestselling) A Coney Island of the Mind in 1958 to the “personal epic” of Americus, Book I in 2003, Lawrence Ferlinghetti has, in more than thirty books, been the poetic conscience of America. Now in Poetry As Insurgent Art, he offers, in prose, his primer of what poetry is, could be, should be. The result is by turns tender and furious, personal and political. If you are a reader of poetry, find out what is missing from the usual fare you are served; if you are a poet, read at your own risk—you will never again look at your role in the same way.