On December 11, 2012, at City Lights Bookstore, City Lights Publishers and Eleven Eleven: Journal of Literature and Art at California College of the Arts warmly welcomed Aron Aji, who discussed his latest work of translation, A Long Day’s Evening (City Lights Books) by the great Turkish experimental modernist Bilge Karasu.
When Leo III, Emperor of Byzantium outlaws all religious paintings and icons, Constantinople is thrown into crisis. A palace official overseeing the destruction of an image of Christ is murdered by a band of irate women, and an atmosphere of danger grips the city’s monasteries, strongholds of icon veneration. Living amidst unacknowledged stirrings of resistance, watching for cues from the other monks, Andronikos is deeply confused about his own beliefs, and fears the consequences of exposing himself. One night he decides to escape, leaving behind his beloved Ioakim, who must confront his own crisis of faith and choose where to place his allegiance. Against a backdrop of religious and political upheaval, the two experience their love as the absence that each becomes for the other. In language that builds to an operatic intensity, the dualities of dogma and faith, custom and law, truth and lies, individual and society, East and West, Byzantium and Rome, are embodied in a story of prohibited love and devotion to the Unseen.
“From 8th century Constantinople to Istanbul in 1960, Karasu’s words travel the temporal distance like a flock of storks, flying to a horizon where history intersects with faith, religious and political, and where memory looks and finds meaning. Only a master can choreograph such a difficult journey . . . and Karasu is one. This is a fascinating novel and a pleasure to read.” — Sinan Antoon, author of I’jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody
“It might seem odd to find such crafted postmodernist writing coming out of Turkey. [Karasu] is a rare find indeed. Fascinating … an illuminating transitional work between the work of Turkey’s romantic realist Yashar Kemal and contemporary postmodernist Orhan Pamuk. More please.” — Kirkus Reviews
“One of Turkey’s most interesting modern writers.” — Booklist
Bilge Karasu (1930-1995) was born in Istanbul. Often referred to as “the sage of Turkish literature,” during his lifetime he published collections of stories, novels, and two books of essays.
Dobby Gibson is the author of Skirmish and Polar, both of which were finalists for the Minnesota Book Award. Polar also won Alice James Books’ Beatrice Hawley Award. Gibson has recieved fellowships from the McKnight Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, and two Pushcart Prize nominations.
D. A. Powell is the author of Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys, Tea, Lunch, and Cocktails, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry. He teaches at the University of San Francisco and lives in the Bay Area.
Mary Szybist is the author of the poetry collection, Granted. She was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and in 2009, she won a Witter Bynner Fellowship. She is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work has appeared in the Iowa Review and Denver Quarterly and was featured in Best American Poetry (2008). She is an associate professor of English at Lewis & Clark in Portland, Oregon.
City Lights in conjunction with the UCSF Medical Humanities Initiative presents Louise Aronson reading from her new collection A History of the Present Illness (Bloomsbury Books) on January 24, 2013.
A History of the Present Illness takes readers into overlooked lives in the neighborhoods, hospitals, and nursing homes of San Francisco, offering a deeply humane and incisive portrait of health and illness in American today. An elderly Chinese immigrant sacrifices his demented wife’s well-being to his son’s authority. A busy Latina physician’s eldest daughter’s need for more attention has disastrous consequences. A young veteran’s injuries become a metaphor for the rest of his life. A gay doctor learns very different lessons about family from his life and his work, and a psychiatrist who advocates for the underserved may herself be crazy. Together, these honest and compassionate stories introduce a striking new literary voice and provide a view of what it means to be a doctor and a patient unlike anything we’ve read before.
In the tradition of Oliver Sacks and Abraham Verghese, Aronson’s writing is based on personal experience and addresses topics of current social relevance. Masterfully told, A History of the Present Illness explores the role of stories in medicine and creates a world pulsating with life, speaking truths about what makes us human.
Louise Aronson has an MFA in fiction from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers and an MD from Harvard Medical School. She has won the Sonora Review prize, the New Millennium short fiction award and has received three Pushcart nominations. She is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of California where she cares for diverse, frail older patients and directs the Pathways to Discovery Program, the Northern California Geriatrics Education Center and UCSF Medical Humanities. She lives in San Francisco.
Walking the Circle: Prison Chronicles
from Grizzly Peak Press
Tony Serra is the epitome of counter-cultural hero. He has spent his life defending society’s marginalized citizens in the courtroom. His role in the Chol Soo Lee case was depicted in the film True Believer and he has gained national prominence for his closing argument techniques. Mr. Serra has consulted with hundreds of professional organizations on various legal issues in multiple forums in 14 different states. He is a life-long tax resister who has spent time in federal prison in protest of what he perceives to be an unjust political and legal system. His recent stay in Lompoc Federal Prison Camp yielded the release of this new book that sheds light on the conditions prevalent in the prison system. Not one to be content with fighting for a more civil and just society only in the court-room, Tony Serra has taken the fight to the front-lines. His examination and criticism of the prison system complex adds to the ongoing dialog for prison reform.
J. Tony Serra has been a practsing criminal defense attorney for over 45 years. He has represented: Heuy Newton and the Black Panthers, The White Panthers, The Hell’s Angels, Chol Soo Lee, Hooty Croy, Brownie Mary, Bear Lincoln, and many others. He is the reciepient of numerous award that include: ACLU Benjamin Dreyfus Civil Liberties Award, Gideon Equal Justice Award from the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, Lawyer of the Year from the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association, as well as numerous others.
What has been said about Walking the Circle: Prison Chronicles:
“A life filled with passion, trouble, and general shit-kicking may be the best life to have, but probably only if you are Tony Serra, wily defense lawyer, generous supporter of perilous causes, devoted custodian of just about everyone except himself. Recently, he continued his mission of disruptive merry-making while ioncarcerated fora little matter of federal taxes he decided not to offer a federal government he considers hostile to the poor, immigrants, Native Americans, and folks who enjoy a bit of inner transportaion by means of forbidden substances. In the matter of Tony Serra vs. the System, the conflict has gone on for more than forty years.” -Herb Gold
“Tony Serra’s Walking the Circle: Prison Chronicles, is a wonder, as is the author. Not since Clarence Darrow has a trial lawyer attracted such envious attention in court, Nt since Byron has there been a more poetic, passionate defender of liberty. Tony’s book almost akes you want to spend time in jail.” -John Keker, Esq.
Tamim Ansary discusses his new book Games Without Rules: The Often Interrupted History of Afghanistan
Tamim Ansary came into City Lights Bookstore to discuss his book Games Without Rules: The Often Interrupted History of Afghanistan (Public Affairs Books), December 12, 2012.
Today, most Westerners still see the war in Afghanistan as a contest between democracy and Islamist fanaticism. That war is real; but it sits atop an older struggle, between Kabul and the countryside, between order and chaos, between a modernist impulse to join the world and the pull of an older Afghanistan: a tribal universe of village republics permeated by Islam.
Now, Tamim Ansary draws on his Afghan background, Muslim roots, and Western and Afghan sources to explain history from the inside out, and to illuminate the long, internal struggle that the outside world has never fully understood. It is the story of a nation struggling to take form, a nation undermined by its own demons while, every 40 to 60 years, a great power crashes in and disrupts whatever progress has been made. Told in conversational, storytelling style, and focusing on key events and personalities, Games without Rules provides revelatory insight into a country at the center of political debate.
Tamim Ansary is the author of Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World through Islamic Eyes and West of Kabul, East of New York, among other books. For ten years he wrote a monthly column for Encarta.com, and has published essays and commentary in the San Francisco Chronicle, Salon, Alternet, TomPaine.com, Edutopia, Parade, Los Angeles Times, and elsewhere. Born in Afghanistan in 1948, he moved to the U.S. in 1964. He lives in San Francisco, where he is director of the San Francisco Writers Workshop.
National Book Critics Circle in conjunction with City Lights and Litquake presents a panel discussion at City Lights Bookstore revolving around the world of West Coast reviewers, on October 9th, 2012.
Moderated by John McMurtrie of the San Francisco Chronicle, with Julie Cline of the Los Angeles Review of Books, Isaac Fitzgerald of The Rumpus, Dean Rader, columnist for San Francisco Magazine and Huffington Post, and Daniel Levin Becker of The Believer
Three decades ago, most book reviewing was done by local reviewers writing for local papers who picked books of national interest, but also books that spoke to the places they lived. As newspapers have shrunk or collapsed and online reviews have grown, how has book reviewing changed? Four west coast reviewers from both print and online venues discuss their experiences supporting literary culture today. Julie Cline of the Los Angeles Review of Books, Isaac Fitzgerald of The Rumpus, Dean Rader, columnist for San Francisco Magazine and Huffington Post, and Daniel Levin Becker of The Believer will join in a panel moderated by the San Francisco Chronicle’s book editor, John McMurtrie
JOHN MCMURTRIE is book editor of the San Francisco Chronicle. His
writing has appeared in the Washington Post, the Globe and Mail, and the
JULIE CLINE is Senior Nonfiction Editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books. A California native, she lives in LA’s Echo Park.
ISAAC FITZGERALD has written for The Bold Italic, McSweeney’s, Mother Jones, and The San Francisco Chronicle. He is the managing editor of The Rumpus.
DEAN RADER’S Works & Days won the 2010 T. S. Eliot Poetry Prize, and he appears in the 2012 Best American Poetry. He writes and reviews regularly for The San Francisco Chronicle and The Huffington Post.
DANIEL LEVIN BECKER is reviews editor of The Believer. His first book, Many Subtle Channels: In Praise of Potential Literature, was published by Harvard University Press in April 2012.
The National Book Critics Circle honors outstanding writing and fosters a national conversation about reading, criticism and literature. The NBCC was founded in April 1974 at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City, with founding members John Leonard, Nona Balakian, and Ivan Sandrof intending to extend the Algonquin round table to a national conversation. The NBCC gained 501(c)(3) status in October 2006, and in 2010 received an NEA grant to support the website and its literary blog, Critical Mass. The National Book Critic Circle Awards are issued each March and honor the best literature published in the United States in six categories—autobiography, biography, criticism, fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. These are the only national literary awards chosen by critics themselves. Visit: bookcritics.org
City Lights would like to thank Tess Taylor and Oscar Vilallon for their hard work in making this evening a reality.
City Lights and The Feminist Press present An evening in solidarity with PUSSY RIOT! celebrating the release of the new book: Pussy Riot! A Punk Prayer for Freedom (The Feminist Press).
Readings, declamations, and manifestos by: Frightwig (Deanna Mitchell, Mia Simmans, Cecelia Kuhn, Eric Drew Feldman), Daphne Gottlieb, Penelope Houston (of The Avengers), Sophia Kumin, Meri St. Mary (of The House Coat Project), Michelle Tea, and V. Vale (of Search and Destroy & Re/Search Publications).
On February 21, 2012, five members of a Russian feminist punk collective Pussy Riot staged a performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. Dressed in brightly colored tights and balaclavas, they performed their “Punk Prayer” asking the Virgin Mary to drive out Russian president Vladimir Putin from the church. After just forty seconds, they were chased out by security. Once a retooled video of the events circulated on YouTube (edited to seem much longer than the actual performance), the state was riled into action. Three members of the collective, Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, known as Masha, Nadya, and Katya, were arrested and charged with felony hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, an offense carrying a sentence of up to seven years. As their trial unfolded, these young women became global feminist icons, garnering the attention and support of activists and artists around the world, including Madonna, Paul McCartney, and Patti Smith, as well as contributors to this book: Yoko Ono, Johanna Fateman, Karen Finley, Justin Vivian Bond, Eileen Myles, and JD Samson. The Internet exploded with petitions, music videos, and calls to action, and as the guilty verdict was anticipated, Pussy Riot responded with articulate, unwavering courtroom statements, calling for freedom of expression, an end to economic and gender oppression, and a separation of church and state. They were sentenced to two years in prison, and inspired a global movement. Collected here are the words that roused the world.
Profits from the sale of the book go to the PUSSYRIOT defense fund.
On January 31, 2013 Ayana Mathis came into City Lights Bookstore to read from her new novel The Twelve Tribes of Hattie (Knopf).
In a sweeping tale that moves forward and backward in time across sixty years in Georgia and Philadelphia, Ayana Mathis’s extraordinary first novel tells the story of an unforgettable family—and an indomitable woman—caught in singular moment in American history.
In 1923, fifteen-year-old Hattie Shepherd, hoping for a chance at a better life, flees Georgia and settles in Philadelphia with her twin babies. Instead, she watches helplessly as they succumb to an illness that a few pennies might have prevented. Hattie gives birth to nine more children whom she raises with grit and mettle and not an ounce of the tenderness they crave, fearing a show of tenderness would inadequately prepare them for the calamitous difficulty they are sure to face in their lives.
True to Hattie’s expectations, the Shepherd children confront desolation, poverty, and the coldness and cruelty of their time. Floyd and Franklin battle inner demons in music halls and in the jungles of Vietnam; Bell, ruinously ill, awaits death but discovers salvation from an unexpected source; Alice and Billups wrestle with a secret history that threatens to undo them both; and Ella and Ruthie—one of whom escapes to a brighter life, at a devastating cost—are caught in the vortex of their mother’s deepest passions.
Hattie’s children, her tribes, are the children of the Great Migration. Their lives, captured here in twelve distinct and soaring narrative threads, tell the story of amother’s monumental courage and the journey of a nation.
Ayana Mathis is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is a recipient of the Michener-Copernicus Fellowship. The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is her first novel.