Summer may be ending, but events at City Lights are just getting started–the month of September is full of authors, illustrators, poets, book parties, rock stars, and more. All of our events begin at 7 PM and are held at the bookstore at 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94133. All events are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted.
From Vikram Chandra, who explains the truly sublime beauty of coding, to self-proclaimed ‘bad feminist’ Roxane Gay, there are a wide range of fantastic events this month at City Lights. Join us for parties too, including celebrations of new publications by City Lights Publishing: Haiti Glass by Lenelle Moïse, the latest from our Sister Spit imprint; Thousand Times Broken by Henri Michaux, new English translations by noted Bay Area poet Gillian Conoley; and as always, celebrations of other small press like the great Wave Books.
Other authors joining us during September include Scholastique Mukasonga, sharing her fascinating perspective of life at a school for young girls in 1970s Rwanda before the Rwandan genocides, and Nayomi Munaweera, who will read from her critically acclaimed debut novel, Island of a Thousand Mirrors, which takes place in Sri Lanka as war breaks loose. We also welcome MariNaomi, an author and illustrator whose work is regularly featured on The Rumpus, as well as Laila Lalami, who has written a new book that provides a fictional account of the first black explorer of America. And lastly, an appearance by Primus!
Find details of each event in September below.
We start off the month with Vikram Chandra, professor at UC Berkeley and author of the new book Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code. The Code of Beauty from Graywolf Press. As both a computer programmer and a novelist, Chandra explores the connections between art and technology in his first work of non-fiction.
“A fruitful exploration of computer-age aesthetics, when artists are making use of programming even as programmers consider themselves artists. . . . An engaging exercise in interdisciplinary thought, both elegant and eloquent. Besides, who can resist a text that works karma, Marcel Duchamp and iterative programming into a single thought?”—Kirkus Reviews
Chandra will discuss all this and more at City Lights, as he explores such varied topics as logic gates and literary modernism, the machismo of tech geeks, the omnipresence of an “Indian Mafia” in Silicon Valley, and the writings of Abhinavagupta, the eleventh-century Kashmiri thinker. Part literary essay, part technology story, and part memoir, it is an engrossing, original, and heady book of sweeping ideas.
In this new book, which brings together previously untranslated works, art and poetry merge in ways never seen before. We are invited to hover between reading and looking, between the ineffable and the known, between body and spirit into a realm where it is possible to perceive “what one otherwise doesn’t perceive, what one hardly suspects at all.”
Conoley will discuss and read from the book and present a multimedia presentation to showcase Michaux’s art.
Another City Lights publication is spotlighted! Come celebrate the release of Lenelle Moïse‘s Haiti Glass, the latest poetry collection in the City Lights/Sister Spit series, edited by Michelle Tea. In her debut collection of verse and prose, Moïse moves deftly between memories of growing up as a Haitian immigrant in the suburbs of Boston, to bearing witness to brutality and catastrophe, to intellectual, playful explorations of pop culture enigmas like Michael Jackson and Jean-Michel Basqui.
“Haiti Glass is a magnificent collection of poetry and prose. Part mantra, part lamentation, part prayer, this incredible book puts us wholly in the presence of an extraordinary and brave talent, whose voice will linger in your heart and mind long after you read the last word of this book.”—Edwidge Danticat
Laila Lalami reads from her new historical fiction novel, The Moor’s Account from Pantheon Books, the story of the first black explorer of America—a Moroccan slave who was left out of the history books.
In 1527, the conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez left the port of San Lucar de Barrameda in Spain, with a crew of six hundred men and nearly a hundred horses. His goal was to claim what is now the Gulf Coast of the United States for the Spanish crown. But from the moment the Narváez expedition reached Florida it met with bad luck, so that, within a year, there were only four survivors: the expedition’s treasurer, Cabeza de Vaca; a Spanish nobleman named Alonso del Castillo Maldonado; a young explorer by the name of Andrés Dorantes; and his Moroccan slave, Mustafa al-Zamori. Because Mustafa was a slave, his experience was considered irrelevant, despite the fact that he had acted as a scout, an interpreter, and a translator. This novel is his story.
City Lights along with Archipelago Books and the Cultural Services of the Consul General of France in San Francisco present an evening with Scholastique Mukasonga, reading from her new novel, Our Lady of the Nile, translated by Melanie Mauthner and published by Archipelago Books.
For her most recent work and first novel–Notre-Dame du Nil, originally published in March 2012 with Gallimard in French–Mukasonga immerses us in a school for young girls, called “Notre-Dame du Nil.” The book is a prelude to the Rwandan genocide and unfolds behind the closed doors of the school, in the interminable rainy season. Friendships, desires, hatred, political fights, incitement to racial violence, persecutions… The school soon becomes a fascinating existential microcosm of the true 1970s Rwanda.
Born in Rwanda in 1956, Scholastique Mukasonga experienced from childhood the violence and humiliation of the ethnic conflicts that shook her country.
Before violence tore apart the tapestry of Sri Lanka and turned its pristine beaches red, there were two families. Yasodhara tells the story of her own Sinhala family, rich in love, with everything they could ask for. As a child in idyllic Colombo, Yasodhara’s and her siblings’ lives are shaped by social hierarchies, their parents’ ambitions, teenage love and, subtly, the differences between Tamil and Sinhala people; but the peace is shattered by the tragedies of war.
Spanning the entirety of the decades-long civil war, this novel offers an unparalleled portrait of a beautiful land during its most difficult moment by a spellbinding new literary talent who promises tremendous things to come.
Primus is responsible for some of the most cutting edge and original rock music of the 1990s. Although originally formed in 1984, it was not until shortly before the end of the decade that the classic Primus lineup featuring Les Claypool (bass/vocals), Larry LaLonde (guitar), and Tim Alexander (drums) was solidified. With most hard rock/heavy metal acts at the time either neatly falling into either “thrash” or “glam” categories, Primus joined a variety of underground bands that refused to be pigeonholed (and by the early ’90s, had fully infiltrated the mainstream)—merging metal, funk, alternative, punk, country, roots rock, and experimental music, along with Claypool’s penchant for witty and often humorous storytelling lyrics.
*Advanced ticketing is required for this event. Tickets are free but only available at the front counter of City Lights beginning on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 on a first-come, first-serve basis. No reservations taken over the phone. Call 415-362-8193 to inquire about ticket availability before dropping by.
MariNaomi, the author of the graphic memoir Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0 to 22, celebrates the release of Dragon’s Breath and Other True Stories published jointly by 2D Cloud and Uncivilized Books, a collection of comics that deal with a wide spectrum of topics including youthful rebellion, mortality, disillusionment, and compassion.
These poignant stories, some filled with hope, others tinged with remorse, are filled with the visual genius of MariNaomi. She is an award-winning author and illustrator, has self published 16 zines and counting, and is a regular contributor to The Rumpus, as well as many other publications.
Roxane Gay discusses her new novel Bad Feminist and shares her journey 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.
“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.”–excerpt from Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
A book party for recent releases from Wave Books, an independent poetry press based in Seattle, Washington, dedicated to publishing exceptional contemporary poetry, poetry in translation, and writing by poets. By publishing strong, innovative work in finely crafted trade editions and hand-made ephemera, we hope to continue to challenge the values and practices of readers and add to the collective sense of what’s possible in contemporary poetry.
Hosted by Wave Books Editor at Large Matthew Zapruder, with City Lights Spotlight editor and Wave Books author Garrett Caples, and Anthony McCann, Hoa Nguyen, Cedar Sigo, & Rachel Zucker.