Jim Nisbet

Master of hardboiled fiction Jim Nisbet returns to City Lights to celebrate the paperback release of The Price of the Ticket.

Pauley’s done a few bad things in his life. He’s been around the block quite a few times, spending most of his life inside the block. But now, age 52, he’s got an honest job making high-class torture racks and other exquisite playthings for an S&M outfit in downtown San Francisco. His only real problem is he needs a new set of wheels and he’s going to pick one up today, a beat up Ford from one Martin Seam. Sometimes a ticket to Hell only costs $600 . . . nonrefundable, of course.


Jim Nisbet is the author of twelve novels and five books of poetry. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times, shortlisted for the Hammett Prize, and published in ten languages. Visit his website at: http://noirconeville.com

What has been said about Jim Nisbet’s work:

“Nobody has Nisbet’s distinctive style, humor, and sheer craft . . . One of the finest masters of noir.” —Ken Bruen, author of The Guards

“Jim Nisbet has a voice so original . . . it might remind you of a younger Kurt Vonnegut.” —Chicago Tribune

“In the tradition of Jim Thompson and Damon Runyon, Nisbet is too good to miss.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Jim Nisbet—whose pen is mightier than a million swords—does it again.” –Michael Connelly

Speaking about The Spider’s Cage:

“An unheralded masterpiece of the noir genre. Everyone who loves Noir should read this brilliant book.” –James Ellroy

Nelson George

Nelson George celebrates the release of his two new books, The Lost Treasures of R&B and The Hippest Trip in America: Soul Train and the Evolution of Culture & Style with City Lights and Adam Mansbach.

Nelson George is an author, filmmaker, and lifelong resident of Brooklyn. His novels include the first two in his D Hunter mystery series, The Accidental Hunter and The Plot Against Hip Hop. Among his many nonfiction works are The Death of Rhythm & Blues, Hip Hop America, and the recently published The Hippest Trip in America: Soul Train and the Evolution of Culture & Style. As a filmmaker he’s directed the documentaries Brooklyn Boheme for Revolt, The Announcement for ESPN, and Finding the Funk for VH1. The Lost Treasures of R&B, the third book in his D Hunter mystery series, is his latest novel.

Adam Mansbach is a poet, novelist, and screenwriter. His fiction and essays have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Esquire, GQ,  the Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, and on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. He is the author of Angry Black White Boy, The End Of The Jews, Shackling Water, Rage is Back, and the New York Times Bestseller Go The Fuck To Sleep.  He lives in Berkeley, California.

Critical praise for The Hippest Trip in America:

“A kaleidoscopic trip through one of the brightest zones in the evolution of American culture.” —Booklist

“George’s in-depth look at a revered TV show is one of those rare music-centric books that will transcend its subject’s core fan base. Even those with just a casual interest in Soul Train will be happy to take this trip.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“30 years of rapier-keen social history and street-savvy cultural criticism.” —USA Today

“George’s book does a great job of assessing the sociological, stylistic and economic power of ‘Soul Train.'” —New York Daily News

“The definitive book on ‘Soul Train’” —New York Times Book Review

“George is one of the best music writers around… he crafts a compelling narrative.” —Andrea Battleground, AV Club

“A loving history.” —Pitchfork.com

“An engaging read for those wanting to understand more clearly why Soul Train is such a monumental part of popular-music history.” —SoulTracks.com

ZYZZYVA 30th Anniversary Party


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Zyzzyva celebrates its 30th Anniversary at City Lights!

hosted by Laura Cogan and Oscar Villalon

with a special presentation by Octavio Solis, featured in the Zyzzyva Winter issue. Zyzzyva is publishing a piece of his called “Retablos,” vignettes of his youth in El Paso. Octavio will be offering a dramatic reading/performance of this work.

Joining Octavio will be two additional Zyzzyva authors, to be announced.

ZYZZYVA’s first issue was published in 1985, under founding editor Howard Junker. In 2011, Laura Cogan became ZYZZYVA’s first new editor in more than 25 years. She and Managing Editor Oscar Villalon make up ZYZZYVA’s editorial team.

The Zyzzyva publishing history is as illustrious as it is groundbreaking. This is the journal that first published Jim Gavin and Jill Soloway, F.X. Toole and Po Bronson—and introduced American readers to Haruki Murakami (in issue No. 13). Their list of contributors includes, among many others, Peter Orner, Kay Ryan, David Guterson, Tom Bissell, Tatjana Soli, Ron Carlson, Luis Alberto Urrea, Amy Hempel, D.A. Powell, Matthew Dickman, Herbert Gold, Daniel Sada, Adam Johnson, Karl Taro Greenfeld, Sandow Birk, Richard Misrach, Aimee Bender, Diego Enrique Osorno, Sherman Alexie, Daniel Handler, Adrienne Rich, Robert Hass, Czeslaw Milosz, Wanda Coleman, Raymond Carver, Tom Barbash, William T. Vollmann, Dagoberto Gilb, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Ed Ruscha, Richard Diebenkorn, Ursula K. Le Guin, Robert Creeley, and M.F.K. Fisher.

Every issue is a vibrant mix of established talents and new voices, providing an elegantly curated overview of contemporary arts and letters with a distinctly San Francisco perspective.

Barry Gifford

Reading from his new novel
The Up-Down
from Seven Stories Press
A breakthrough novel from an American master about lost loves and the search for meaning in unlikely places. Barry Gifford’s culminating work of fiction follows a man who leaves home and all that’s familiar, finds true love, loses it, and finds it again. His voyage is outward, among strangers, and inward into the fifth direction that is the Up-Down, in a sweeping, voracious human tale that takes no prisoners, witnesses extreme brutalities and expresses a childlike amazement. Here the route goes from New Orleans, to Chicago to Wyoming to Bay St. Clement, North Carolina, but the geography he is charting is always first and foremost unchartable.

The Up-Down is the eighth novel in the Wild at Heart novel cycle that began in 1990, the book that brings the Sailor and Lula story to its natural conclusion, and at the same time a new novel unlike any other Barry Gifford book, and thus the exception that proves the rule.

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 Father were 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 Repubblica, 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, Imagining Paradise: New & Selected Poems and The Roy Stories. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Eli Horowitz

Eli Horowitz reads from his co-authored book with Chris Adrian, The New World, an ambitious and imaginative novel that pushes the boundaries of the science fiction genre.

An innovative story of love, decapitation, cryogenics, and memory by two of our most creative literary minds

Jorie has just received some terrible news. A phone full of missed calls and sympathetic text messages seem to indicate that her husband, Jim, a chaplain at the hospital where she works as a surgeon, is dead. Only, not quite—rather, his head has been removed from his body and cryogenically frozen. Jim awakes to find himself in an altogether unique situation, to say the least: his body gone but his consciousness alive, his only companion a mysterious, disembodied voice.

In this surreal and unexpectedly moving work, Chris Adrian and Eli Horowitz spin a tale of loss and adjustment, death and reawakening. Simultaneously fabulist and achingly human, The New World finds Jorie grieving the husband she knew while Jim wrestles with the meaning of life after death. Conceived in collaboration with Atavist Books, The New World interrogates love and loss in the digital era.

Chris Adrian is the author of The Great Night, Gob’s Grief, The Children’s Hospital, and A Better Angel. Selected by The New Yorker as one of its 20 Under 40, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Eli Horowitz was the managing editor and then publisher of McSweeney’s for eight years. The author of The Silent History, he is also the coauthor of The Clock Without a Face, a treasure-hunt mystery, and Everything You Know Is Pong, an illustrated cultural history of Ping-Pong, and his design work has been honored by I.D., Print, and the American Institute of Graphic Arts. He lives in San Francisco.

Emily Schultz

Emily Schultz reads from her new book The Blondes with special appearances by Joyland Magazine alumni Ruth Galm and Rachel Khong.

During a still hot autumn in New York City, a rabies-like illness spreads among blonde women, causing them to “rage out” and attack passersby. The epidemic shuts down New York where Hazel, a grad student who is pregnant and alone, tries to escape only to find the disease infecting women throughout North America. With echoes of White Noise and a biting satiric wit, Emilhttp://www.citylightspodcast.com/wp-admin/post-new.phpy Schultz’s novel is an examination of what happens in a world where beauty is deadly.


Emily Schultz is the co-founder of the literary website Joyland: A Hub For Short Fiction. She is the author of the short story collection Black Coffee Night and the novels Heaven Is Small and Joyland.

Ruth Galm is the author of the forthcoming novel, Into the Valley (Soho Press, Aug 2015)

Rachel Khong is the senior editor of Lucky Peach Magazine.

Praise for The Blondes:

“Reading The Blondes… Wow!”––Margaret Atwood

“Emily Schultz is my new hero.”––Stephen King

“The Blondes is intelligent, mesmerizing, and fearless. An entirely original and beautifully twisted satire with a heart of darkness.”––Emily St. John Mandel, author of Station Eleven

“Like the literary love child of Naomi Wolf and Stephen King, The Blondes examines our cultural attitudes about beauty through the lens of a post-9/11, high-alert nightmare. The result is a spellbinding brew, both satirical and deeply satisfying.” —Helene Wecker, author of The Golem and the Jinni

“An energetic, startling novel. Emily Schultz is a writer with a deadly sense of humor. You laugh one moment, you’re frightened the next.” Peter Orner, author of Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge

ZAP Comics Celebration

City Lights celebrated the release of The Complete ZAP Comics and ZAP Comics itself at a party on Jaunuary 22nd, 2015.

The Complete Zap Comix

from Fantagraphics

with Robert Williams, Victor Moscoso, and Paul Mavrides

discussion moderated by Gary Groth and Ron Turner

There scarcely was an underground comics world before Robert Crumb’s classic solo first issue of Zap in 1968. By Zap #2, he had begun assembling a Seven Samurai of the best, the fiercest, and the most stylistically diversified cartoonists to come out of the countercultural kiln. All of them were extremists of one sort or another, from biker-gang member Rodriguez to Christian surfer Griffin, but somehow they produced a decades-long collaboration: a mind-blowing anthology of abstract hallucination, throat-slashing social satire, and shocking sexual excess, that made possible the ongoing wave of alternative cartoonists like Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware, and Charles Burns. The Complete Zap Comix collects every issue of Zap — every cover and every story, and even the Zam mini comic jam among the Zap artists — in a multi-volume, slipcased hardcover set. It will also include the 17th unpublished issue with work by Crumb, Moscoco, Wilson, Rodriguez, Shelton, Mavrides, and Williams. Plus, an introduction by founder R. Crumb and an oral history of Zap by Patrick Rosenkranz, and other exclusive bonus features and items TBA. Zap is the most historically and aesthetically important comics series ever published.

Viet Thanh Nguyen

Viet Thanh Nguyen reads a thrilling excerpt from his debut novel, The Sympathizer at City Lights.

“Magisterial. A disturbing, fascinating and darkly comic take on the fall of Saigon and its aftermath and a powerful examination of guilt and betrayal. The Sympathizer is destined to become a classic and redefine the way we think about the Vietnam War and what it means to win and to lose.” —T. C. Boyle

A profound, startling, and beautifully crafted debut novel, from a powerful new voice featuring one of the most remarkable narrators of recent fiction: a conflicted subversive and idealist working as a double agent in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. The Sympathizer is the story of a man of two minds, someone whose political beliefs clash with his individual loyalties. In dialogue with but diametrically opposed to the narratives of the Vietnam War that have preceded it, this novel offers an important and unfamiliar new perspective on the war: that of a conflicted communist sympathizer.

It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong. The Sympathizer is the story of this captain: a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, a man who went to university in America, but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause. Viet Thanh Nguyen’s astonishing novel takes us inside the mind of this double agent, a man whose lofty ideals necessitate his betrayal of the people closest to him. A gripping spy novel, an astute exploration of extreme politics, and a moving love story, The Sympathizer explores a life between two worlds and examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today.

Viet Thanh Nguyen is an associate professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California, as well as a member of the steering committee for the Center for Transpacific Studies. He has won numerous teaching and service awards. He is the author of Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America (Oxford University Press, 2002.) His articles have appeared in numerous journals and books, including PMLA, American Literary History, Western American Literature, positions: east asia cultures critique, The New Centennial Review, Postmodern Culture, the Japanese Journal of American Studies, and Asian American Studies After Critical Mass. His short fiction has been published in Manoa, Best New American Voices 2007, A Stranger Among Us: Stories of Cross-Cultural Collision and Connection, Narrative Magazine, TriQuarterly, the Chicago Tribune, and Gulf Coast, where his story won the 2007 Fiction Prize.

visit: http://vietnguyen.info/

Paul Beatty

Joined by Oscar Villalon, Paul Beatty celebrates the release of his novel, The Sellout.

in conversation with Oscar Villalon

celebrating the release of

The Sellout

from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

A biting satire about a young man’s isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court, Paul Beatty’s The Sellout showcases a comic genius at the top of his game. It challenges the sacred tenets of the United States Constitution, urban life, the civil rights movement, the father-son relationship, and the holy grail of racial equality—the black Chinese restaurant.

Born in the “agrarian ghetto” of Dickens—on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles—the narrator of The Sellout resigns himself to the fate of lower-middle-class Californians: “I’d die in the same bedroom I’d grown up in, looking up at the cracks in the stucco ceiling that’ve been there since ’68 quake.” Raised by a single father, a controversial sociologist, he spent his childhood as the subject in racially charged psychological studies. He is led to believe that his father’s pioneering work will result in a memoir that will solve his family’s financial woes. But when his father is killed in a police shoot-out, he realizes there never was a memoir. All that’s left is the bill for a drive-thru funeral.

Fuelled by this deceit and the general disrepair of his hometown, the narrator sets out to right another wrong: Dickens has literally been removed from the map to save California from further embarrassment. Enlisting the help of the town’s most famous resident—the last surviving Little Rascal, Hominy Jenkins—he initiates the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court.

Paul Beatty is the author of three novels—Slumberland, Tuff, and The White Boy Shuffle—and two books of poetry: Big Bank Take Little Bank and Joker, Joker, Deuce. He is the editor of Hokum: An Anthology of African-American Humor. He lives in New York City.

Oscar Villalon is the Managing Editor of Zyzzyva Magazine and former Book Editor at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Advanced praise for The Sellout:

The Sellout is brilliant. Amazing. Like demented angels wrote it.” —Sarah Silverman

“I am glad that I read this insane book alone, with no one watching, because I fell apart with envy, hysterics, and flat-out awe. Is there a more fiercely brilliant and scathingly hilarious American novelist than Paul Beatty?” —Ben Marcus

“Paul Beatty has always been one of smartest, funniest, gutsiest writers in America, but The Sellout sets a new standard. It’s a spectacular explosion of comic daring, cultural provocation, brilliant, hilarious prose, and genuine heart.” —Sam Lipsyte

“Beatty, author of the deservedly highly praised The White Boy Shuffle (1996), here outdoes himself and possibly everybody else in a send-up of race, popular culture, and politics in today’s America . . . Beatty hits on all cylinders in a darkly funny, dead-on-target, elegantly written satire . . . [The Sellout] is frequently laugh-out-loud funny and, in the way of the great ones, profoundly thought provoking. A major contribution.” —Mark Levin, Booklist (starred review)

Ryan Gattis

Ryan Gattis reads from his latest and best work to come, All Involved, a historical fiction novel that details the brutality of the Rodney King riots at City Lights.

A propulsive and ambitious novel as electrifying as The Wire, from a writer hailed as the West Coast’s Richard Price—a brutal and mesmerizing epic of crime and opportunity, race, revenge, and loyalty, set in the chaotic streets of South Central L.A. in the wake of one of the most notorious, incendiary, and racially charged trials of the 1990s, involving the severe beating of a civilian black man and three white LAPD officers


During the infamous 1992 Rodney King Riots in LA, 4,000 California Army National Guardsmen patrolled the city to enforce the law.

At 3:15 p.m. on April 29, 1992, a jury acquitted two Los Angeles Police Department officers charged with using excessive force to subdue civilian Rodney King, and failed to reach a verdict on the same charges involving a third officer. Less than two hours later, the city of L.A., a powder keg of racial tension, exploded in violence as people took to the streets in a riot that lasted six days. In 144 hours, fifty-three lives were lost. Yet, that number does not account for the murders that occurred outside active rioting sites—some committed by gangbangers who used the chaos to viciously settle old scores.

A gritty and cinematic work of fiction, All Involved vividly recreates this turbulent and terrifying time through seventeen interconnected first-person narratives. Focusing on a sliver of Los Angeles almost completely ignored by the media during the riots, Ryan Gattis paints a portrait of modern America itself—laying bare our history, our prejudices, and our complexities. Resonant with the voices of gang members, firefighters, graffiti kids, and nurses caught up in these extraordinary circumstances, All Involved is a literary tour de force that catapults this edgy writer into the ranks of such legendary talents as Dennis Lehane and George V. Higgins.

All Involved is a symphonic, pitch-perfect, superlative novel.  It is visceral and adrenalin-fuelled, yet tender and even darkly comic.  It is audacious, unflinching and subversive.  It doesn’t judge.  It swallowed me whole.”—David Mitchell, author of The Bone Clocks and Cloud Atlas

Ryan Gattis is a novelist, lecturer at Chapman University, and Creative Director for urban art crew UGLAR

(uglarworks.com). He is the author of the novels Roo Kickkick & The Big Bad Blimp; Kung Fu High School, The Big Drop: Homecoming and The Big Drop: Impermanence. He lives in Los Angeles.