Jarett Kobek and Kevin Killian

 

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City Lights welcomed Jarett Kobek, author of I Hate the Internet, for a discussion and Q&A, accompanied by guest speaker Kevin Killian.87286100650100L

What if you told the truth and the whole world heard you? What if you lived in a country swamped with Internet outrage? What if you were a woman in a society that hated women?

Set in the San Francisco of 2013, I Hate the Internet offers a hilarious and obscene portrayal of life amongst the victims of the digital boom. As billions of tweets fuel the city’s gentrification and the human wreckage piles up, a group of friends suffers the consequences of being useless in a new world that despises the pointless and unprofitable.

In this, his first full-length novel, Jarett Kobek tackles the pressing questions of our moment. Why do we applaud the enrichment of CEOs at the expense of the weak and the powerless? Why are we giving away our intellectual property? Why is activism in the 21st Century nothing more than a series of morality lectures typed into devices built by slaves?

Here, at last, comes an explanation of the Internet in the crudest possible terms.

Frank Lima Tribute

 

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City Lights celebrates the release of Incidents of Travel in Poetry: New and Selected Poems, a collection of Latino poet and visionary Frank Lima’s most celebrated work, along with previously unpublished material. The evening included readings of Lima’s poems from editors Garrett Caples and Julien Poirier, and other guest readers including Cedar Sigo, Joseph Lease, Jackson Meazle, Rod Roland, Brian Lucas, and Chris Carosi.
This event was recorded in the Poetry Room at City Lights – toward the end of the reading (recorded on Mardi Gras), a band can be heard playing down in Kerouac Alley, which certainly added to the evening!


 

Protégé of Frank O’Hara, Kenneth Koch, and Allen Ginsberg, the streetwise Puerto Rican/Mexican poet Frank Lima was tfrank limahe only Latino member of the New York School during its historical heyday. Born in Spanish Harlem in 1939, he endured a difficult and violent childhood, discovering poetry as an inmate of the juvenile drug treatment center under the tutelage of the painter, Sherman Drexler, who introduced him to his poet friends. Rubbing shoulders with everyone from Edwin Denby and Joe Brainard to Jasper Johns and the de Koonings, Lima appeared in key New York School anthologies and published two collections of his own with prominent publishers. In the late seventies, Lima left the poetry world to pursue a successful career as a chef, and though he rarely published, and his work fell out of circulation, he continued to write a poem a day until his death in 2013.

Incidents of Travel in Poetry is a landmark re-introduction to the work of this major Latino American poet. Beginning with poems from Inventory (1964), his installment in the legendary Tibor de Nagy poetry series, Incidents includes selections from Lima’s previous volumes, tracing his development from his early snapshots of street life to his later surrealist-influenced abstract lyricism. The bulk of the collection comes from his later unpublished manuscripts, and thus Incidents represents the full range of Lima’s work for the first time. Edited by poets Garrett Caples and Julien Poirier, and including a biographical introduction.

Finn Brunton

Finn

 

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Finn Brunton joined City Lights to celebrate the release of Obfuscation: A User’s Guide for Privacy and Protest, published by MIT Press. At the event, Brunton discussed the meaning of obfuscation, explained why it’s necessary to fight against data collection and theft, and took questions about the future of surveillance and what we can do right now to combat it.

With Obfuscation, Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum mean to start a revolution. They are calling us not to the barricades but to our computers, offering us ways to fight today’s pervasive digital surveillance—the collection of our data by governments, corporations, advertisers, and hackers. To the toolkit of privacy protecting techniques and projects, they propose adding obfuscation: the deliberate use of ambiguous, confusing, or misleading information to interfere with surveillance and data collection projects. Brunton and Nissenbaum provide tools and a rationale for evasion, noncompliance, refusal, even sabotage—especially for average users, those of us not in a position to opt out or exert control over data about ourselves. Obfuscation will teach users to push back, software developers to keep their user data safe, and policy makers to gather data without misusing it.

Brunton and Nissenbaum present a guide to the forms and formats that obfuscation has taken and explain how to craft its implementation to suit the goal and the adversary. They describe a series of historical and contemporary examples, including radar chaff deployed by World War II pilots, Twitter bots that hobbled the social media strategy of popular protest movements, and software that can camouflage users’ search queries and stymie online advertising. They go on to consider obfuscation in more general terms, discussing why obfuscation is necessary, whether it is justified, how it works, and how it can be integrated with other privacy practices and technologies.

Finn Brunton is Assistant Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University and the author of Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet (MIT Press).

Helen Nissenbaum is Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication and Computer Science at New York University and the author of Privacy in Context. She is one of the developers of the TrackMeNot software.

Robert Jensen

 

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Featured several times in past City Lights line-ups, author Robert Jensen returns to celebrate the release of his new book, Plain Radical: Living, Loving and Learning to Leave the Planet Gracefully, published by Soft Skull Press.

RobertJensenThere was nothing out of the ordinary about Jim Koplin. He was just your typical central Minnesota gay farm boy with a Ph.D. in experimental psychology who developed anarchist-influenced, radical-feminist, and anti-imperialist politics, while never losing touch with his rural roots. But perhaps the most important thing about Jim is that throughout his life, almost literally to his dying breath, he spent some part of every day on the most important work we have: tending the garden.

Plain Radical is a touching homage to a close friend and mentor taken too soon. But it is also an exploration of the ways in which an intensely local focus paired with a fierce intelligence can provide a deep, meaningful, even radical engagement with the world.

Drawing on first hand accounts as well as the nearly 3,000 pages of correspondence that flowed between the two men between 1988 and 2012, this book is about the intersection of two biographies and the ideas two men constructed together. It is in part a love story, part intellectual memoir, and part political polemic; an argument for how we should understand problems and think about solutions—in those cases when solutions are possible—to create a decent human future.

Robert William Jensen spent his twenties working at newspapers as a reporter and copy editor, receiving an M.A. in journalism and public affairs from American University. After earning a PhD in media ethics and law from the University of Minnesota, in 1992, he began his teaching career at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is a professor in journalism and interdisciplinary programs. Jensen is also active in a variety of national political movements and community organizations.

Kathryn S. Olmstead and Eric Rauchway

 

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Authors and historians Kathryn S. Olmstead and Eric Rauchway discuss their new books: Right Out of California: The 1930s and the Big Business Roots of Modern Conservatism by Kathryn S. Olmstead and The Money Makers: How Roosevelt and Keynes Ended the Depression, Defeated Fascism, and Secured a Prosperous Peace by Eric Rauchway.

about Right Out of California:

87286100004370LIn a major reassessment of modern conservatism, noted historian Kathryn S. Olmsted reexamines the explosive labor disputes in the agricultural fields of Depression-era California, the cauldron that inspired a generation of artists and writers and that triggered the intervention of FDR’s New Deal. Right Out of California tells how this brief moment of upheaval terrified business leaders into rethinking their relationship to American politics—a narrative that pits a ruthless generation of growers against a passionate cast of reformers, writers, and revolutionaries.

Olmsted reveals how California’s businessmen learned the language of populism with the help of allies in the media and entertainment industries and in the process created a new style of politics: corporate funding of grassroots groups, military-style intelligence gathering against political enemies, professional campaign consultants, and alliances between religious and economic conservatives. The business leaders who battled for the hearts and minds of Depression-era California, moreover, would go on to create the organizations that launched the careers of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. A riveting history in its own right, Right Out of California is also a vital chapter in our nation’s political transformation whose echoes are still felt today.

about The Money Makers:

87286100496990MAn absorbing narrative history showing how FDR and his advisors pulled the levers of monetary policy to save the domestic economy and propel the United Sates to unprecedented prosperity and superpower status.

Shortly after arriving in the White House in early 1933, Franklin Roosevelt took the United States off the gold standard. His opponents thought his decision unwise at best, and ruinous at worst. But they could not have been more wrong.

With The Money Makers, Eric Rauchway tells the absorbing story of how FDR and his advisors pulled the levers of monetary policy to save the domestic economy and propel the United States to unprecedented prosperity and superpower status. Drawing on the ideas of the brilliant British economist John Maynard Keynes, among others, Roosevelt created the conditions for recovery from the Great Depression, deploying economic policy to fight the biggest threat then facing the nation: deflation.

Daniel Sada Tribute

 

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In an evening of celebration of the life and work of the late great Mexican writer Daniel Sada, translator Katherine Silver, literary critic Scott Esposito, and Graywolf Press Editorial Director Ethan Nosowsky join City Lights for discussion and reading of One Out of Two, Sada’s last published work before his passing.

DanielSadaAlmost Never author Daniel Sada, who passed away in 2011, has been hailed as one of the greatest Latin American writers of his generation. In One Out of Two, Sada’s second novel to be translated into English, his talent is on full display in a giddy and comic tale reminiscent of a Shakespearean farce. Sada weaves a mesmerizing portrait of two identical twin sisters in a small town in rural northern Mexico who spend their days happily running a tailoring business, while they delight in confusing people about which sister is which. Gloria and Constitución spend every waking minute together until a suitor enters the picture, and one of the sisters decides that she doesn’t want to live a life without romance and all the good things that come with it. The ensuing competition between the sisters brings their relationship to the breaking point until they come up with an ingenious solution that carries this buoyant farce to its tender and even liberating conclusion.

Suffused with the tension between our desire for union and our desire for independence, One Out of Two is a briskly entertaining novel by an author whose work displays “a whirling riot of color, a wild cacophony of voices, an extravagant display of pyrotechnical prose” (The Washington Post).

Barry Gifford

 

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Barry Gifford reads from his latest work, Writers: 13 Vignettes, recently published by Seven Stories Press.

87286100759960LIn Writers: 13 Vignettes, great American storyteller Barry Gifford paints portraits of famous writers caught in imaginary vulnerable moments in their lives. In prose that is funny, grotesque, and a touch brutal, Gifford shows these writers at their most human, which is to say at their worst: they are liars, frauds, lousy lovers, and drunks. This is a world in which Emily Dickinson remains an unpublished poet, Ernest Hemingway drunkenly sets explosive trip wires outside his home in Havana, Marcel Proust implores the angel of death as a delirious Arthur Rimbaud lies dying in a hospital bed, and Albert Camus converses with a young prostitute while staring at himself in the mirror of a New York City hotel room.

In Gifford’s house of mirrors, we are offered a unique perspective on this group of literary greats. We see their obsessions loom large, and none more than a shared needling preoccupation with mortality. And yet these stories, which are meant to be performed as plays, are also tender and thoughtful exercises in empathy. Gifford asks: What does it means to devote oneself entirely to art? And as an artist, what defines success and failure?

BARRY GIFFORD‘s fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have been published in twenty-eight languages. His novel Night People was awarded the Premio Brancati, established by Pier Paolo Pasolini and Alberto Moravia in Italy, and he has been the recipient of awards from PEN, the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Library Association, the Writers Guild of America, and the Christopher Isherwood Foundation. His books Sailor’s Holiday and The Phantom Fatherwere each named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times, and his book Wyoming was named a Novel of the Year by the Los Angeles Times. He has written librettos for operas by the composers Toru Takemitsu, Ichiro Nodaira, and Olga Neuwirth. Gifford’s work has appeared in many publications, including The New Yorker, Punch, Esquire, La Nouvelle Revue Française, El País, La Republica, Rolling Stone, Brick, Film Comment, El Universal, Projections, and the New York Times. His film credits include Wild at Heart, Perdita Durango, Lost Highway, City of Ghosts, Ball Lightning, and The Phantom Father. Barry Gifford’s most recent books include Sailor & Lula: The Complete Novels, Sad Stories of the Death of Kings, Imagined Paradise: New & Selected Poems, and The Roy Stories. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Barbaric, Vast & Wild

 

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City Lights celebrated the release of Poems for the Millennium, Volume 5: Barbaric Vast & Wild: An Assemblage of Outside & Subterranean Poetry from Origins to Present, with an event featuring readings by editor Jerome Rothenberg, joined by guest readers Jack & Adelle Foley, Michael McClure, David Meltzer, & Julie Rogers.

BARBARICBarbaric, Vast & Wild is a continuation and a possible culmination of the project that began with Jerome Rothenberg’s Technicians of the Sacred in 1968 and led to the first four volumes of Poems for the Millennium in the 1990s and 2000s. In this new and equally groundbreaking volume, Rothenberg and John Bloomberg-Rissman have assembled a wide-ranging gathering of poems and related language works, whose outside/outsider and subterranean/subversive positions challenge some of the boundaries to where poetry has been or may be practiced, as well as the form and substance of the poetry itself. It also extends the time frame of the preceding volumes in Poems for the Millennium, hoping to show that, in all places and times, what the dominant culture has taken as poetry has only been part of the story.

Divided into four “books” – Visions, Voices, Extensions, and Performances – Barbaric Vast & Wild brings together on a global and historical scale – from the paleolithic caves to the immediate present – works from the hieratic and sacred to the mundane and the radically transgressive and politically subversive. The range here is enormous: Egyptian pyramid texts, biblical prophecies, pre-Socratic poet-philosophers, Buddhist wanderers and “divine madmen,” along with poems and related language works from dialects and “nation languages,” thieves’ cants and other argots or vernaculars, working class and lumpen poetries, popular and newspaper poetry, sermons and rants, glossolalia and glossographia, slogans, graffiti, private writings (journals and diaries) or semi-private (correspondence, blogs, or social-networkings), and the “art of the insane” (Art Brut) that marked the early turning of avant-garde artists and poets to the idea of an “outside” poetry and art.  The work as a whole may be taken as another step toward what the editors have called an “omnipoetics” and an “anthology of everything.”

Edward Hirsch

 

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Poet and author Edward Hirsch shares selections from Gabriel: A Poem, his landmark work celebrating and mourning his late son, whose explosive presence and misadventurous life shines through every line of Gabriel.

Never has there been a book of poems quite like Gabriel, in which a short edward-hirschlife, a bewildering death, and the unanswerable sorrow of a father come together in such a sustained elegy. This unabashed sequence speaks directly from Hirsch’s heart to our own, without sentimentality. From its opening lines—”The funeral director opened the coffin / And there he was alone / From the waist up”—Hirsch’s account is poignantly direct and open to the strange vicissitudes and tricks of grief. In propulsive three-line stanzas, he tells the story of how a once unstoppable child, who suffered from various developmental disorders, turned into an irreverent young adult, funny, rebellious, impulsive. Hirsch mixes his tale of Gabriel with the stories of other poets through the centuries who have also lost children, and expresses his feelings through theirs. His landmark poem enters the broad stream of human grief and raises in us the strange hope, even consolation, that we find in the writer’s act of witnessing and transformation. It will be read and reread.

Edward Hirsch is the acclaimed author of numerous books of poetry including: For The Sleepwalkers, Wild Gratitude, The Night Parade, Earthly Measures, On Love, Lay Back the Darkness, Special Orders, and The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems. He is also the author of five prose books, including A Poet’s Glossary, Poet’s Choice, How To Read A Poem And Fall In Love With Poetry, Theodore Roethke’s Selected Poems, The Making Of A Sonnet: A Norton Anthology. He also edits the series “The Writer’s World” for Trinity University Press. He has received numerous awards and fellowships, including a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Ingram Merrill Foundation Award, a Pablo Neruda Presidential Medal of Honor, the Prix de Rome, and an Academy of Arts and Letters Award. In 2008, he was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. He is currently president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

Hal Niedzviecki

 

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Hal Niedzviecki appeared at City Lights to speak on and answer questions about the challenging material he presents in Trees on Mars: Our Obsession with the Future, an examination of modern culture’s preoccupation with the “next” and the consequences of faster-than-light-speed innovation for innovation’s sake.

What is it like to live in a society utterly focused on what is going to happen next? In Trees on Mars: Our Obsession with the Future, cultural critic and indie entrepreneur Hal Niedzviecki asks how and when we started believing we could and shoulhal niedzvieckid “create the future,” arguing that the short-term purview of innovation is not always as effective as we think it is. On the contrary, it’s often damaging. “Innovation” may be the most overused and fetishized term of the past five years. Tech bloggers livecast the launch of the latest Kindle, crowds form serpentine lines outside of Apple stores on the eve of new iPhone releases, stock markets surge and recede on rumors of what Intel and Microsoft have in the pipeline, and, on college campuses across the country, universities offer master’s degrees in Future Studies. . . .

87286100803890LTrees on Mars will introduce readers to futurist consultants who preach the need for constant change, to a fourth-generation New Jersey dairy farmer grappling with the increasing complexities of a once-bucolic industry, to a group of Stanford undergraduates pulling all-nighters in an effort to produce the next must-have app, to a Michigan teacher struggling to integrate mandatory iPad use into her third-grade curriculum, and to a recently laid off auto worker being sent to state-sponsored retraining. Through these characters and others, Niedzviecki shows how future-obsession and future-anxiety are affecting real people.

Hal Niedzviecki is a writer, speaker and teacher. His work is known for challenging preconceptions and confronting readers with the offenses of everyday life. He writes and thinks about the effects of mass media, pop culture and consumer technology on individual life and society. He is the author of books of nonfiction and fiction, most recently the collection of short stories Look Down, This is Where it Must Have Happened (City Lights Books) and the nonfiction books Trees On Mars: Our Obsession with the Future (Seven Stories Press) and The Peep Diaries: How We’re Learning to Love Watching Ourselves and Our Neighbors (City Lights Books).