Live! From City Lights

Jeff VanderMeer Reading from His Novel Annihilation at City Lights!

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On February 11, 2014, at City Lights Bookstore, Jeff VanderMeer read several different excerpts from his novel, Annihilation. City Lights was proud to have Jeff, as he made his way down the West Coast on his book tour.

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.
This is the twelfth expedition.

Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.

They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.

Annihilation is the first volume in Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, which will be published throughout 2014: volume two (Authority) in June, and volume three (Acceptance) in September.

Jeff VanderMeer is an award-winning novelist and editor. His fiction has been translated into twenty languages and has appeared in the Library of America’s American Fantastic Tales and in multiple year’s-best anthologies. He writes nonfiction for The Washington Post, The New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Times, and The Guardian, among others.

Visit: www.jeffvandermeer.com

Celebrating San Francisco Poet Laureate Alejandro Murguia!

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Stray Poems, Alejandro Murguia

City Lights Publishers is proud to publish Alejandro Murguia’s new book, Stray Poemsnumber six in our SF Poet Laureate Series! Here, Alejandro reads from this new collection of poetry, as well as from some older, rarer works.

About Stray Poems

The sixth volume of the San Francisco Poet Laureate Series, Stray Poems opens with Alejandro Murguía’s inaugural address, where he stipulates that as the city’s first Latino poet laureate he is accepting his post on behalf of his community. He goes on to provide a brilliant and impassioned poetic account of San Francisco’s Native and Latino literary history, stating, “So Latin America fused to the history of San Francisco, and vice versa—San Francisco fused to the memory of Latin America.”

What follows is a selection of Murguía’s recent work composed over the past twelve years.

These are poems of the 21st century, written in a combination of English and Spanish—the patois of contemporary America. Angry, rebellious, subversive, sentimental, hip, urban, local, global—these poems stray from academia, the status quo, patriotism—and even God—as all poetry must.

Praise for Alejandro Murguía & Stray Poems:

“In the city of poets, Murguía has become the activist voice of refugees and exiles—as so many of us are, even as natives—at the center of the Americas. Disguised by its sensuous intimacy, soothing and ennobling, his is a poetry that arms the resistance.”—Dagoberto Gilb, author of The Magic of Blood

“Poet, teacher, publisher, lover, literary guerrilla—Alejandro Murguía is a San Francisco treasure. And I’m not saying this because he knows where to find the best pozole. Although he does.”—Jack Boulware, Litquake co-founder

“The powerful stream of rich, diverse Spanish spoken in the United States by millions of Latinos from Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean, has rushed into the huge river of the English tongue in such a way that a language and a literature have been born from those troubled waters, exploring multiple alternatives and choosing many paths. These Stray Poems from Alejandro Murguía speak with all those voices, crossing linguistic borders and really going out of the way to deviate from the standard path and let the multiracial and multicultural, all-embracing Latino beat flow into the heart of English.”—Daisy Zamora, The Violent Foam

“Murguía with a tango unleashed, a city on fire, a rendezvous of homage, manifesto, revenge and transcendence—he is alone, without a face, yet recognizable in every body that swims through the under-streets of the City, of Paris, of Havana, of bombed-out-Here’s-and-There’s and the stripped down body of all of us. No stones are left unturned; hypnotic, alarming, ‘melodramático,’ rough-lovin’, unkempt, ‘dangerous,’ and ready to battle at the center of the scorched core. ‘I didn’t cheat,’ one poem admits. He is on trial—fire-spitter and disassembler of cultural falsifications, in ‘strange’ and romantic moods, the poems scatter truth and aim and blow and burn and rise unto the flagless sky—’. . . a country of oceans and mountains.’ Murguía gets there. Alone, because few embark on that voyage. An astonishing, brutal nakedness. Love, that is. No book like it. An unimaginable heart of and for the peoplea ground-breaking prize.”—Juan Felipe Herrera, Poet Laureate of California

Nick Turse and Oscar Villalon Discussing the Vietnam War

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On January 27th, 2014, Nick Turse and Oscar Villalon discussed Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam (Picador Books) at City Lights Bookstore!

Americans have long been taught that events such as the notorious My Lai massacre were isolated incidents in the Vietnam War, carried out by “a few bad apples.” But as award-winning journalist and historian Nick Turse demonstrates in this groundbreaking investigation, violence against Vietnamese noncombatants was not at all exceptional during the conflict. Rather, it was pervasive and systematic, the predictable consequence of orders to “kill anything that moves.”

Drawing on more than a decade of research in secret Pentagon files and extensive interviews with American veterans and Vietnamese survivors, Turse reveals for the first time how official policies resulted in millions of innocent civilians killed and wounded. In shocking detail, he lays out the workings of a military machine that made crimes in almost every major American combat unit all but inevitable. Kill Anything That Moves takes us from archives filled with Washington’s long-suppressed war crime investigations to the rural Vietnamese hamlets that bore the brunt of the war; from boot camps where young American soldiers learned to hate all Vietnamese to bloodthirsty campaigns like Operation Speedy Express, in which a general obsessed with body counts led soldiers to commit what one participant called “a My Lai a month.”

Thousands of Vietnam books later, Kill Anything That Moves, devastating and definitive, finally brings us face-to-face with the truth of a war that haunts Americans to this day.

Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian, essayist, the managing editor of TomDispatch.com, the co-founder of Dispatch Books, and a fellow at the Nation Institute. He is the author of numerous books including The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Spies, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyber Warfare (Dispatch Books/Haymarket Books, 2012) and The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives (Metropolitan Books, 2008). He is also the editor of The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan (Verso, 2010). Turse has written for The Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Nation, Adbusters, GOOD magazine, Le Monde Diplomatique, In These Times, Mother Jones and The Village Voice, among other print and on-line publications.  His articles have also appeared in such newspapers as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Baltimore Sun, The Chicago Tribune, The Contra-Costa Times, The Fort Worth Star Telegram, The Hartford Courant, The Indianapolis Star, The Knoxville News Sentinel, The Salt Lake Tribune, The Seattle Times, The Sydney Morning Herald, and The Tampa Tribune, among others. He was the recipient of a Ridenhour Prize at the National Press Club in April 2009 for his years-long investigation of mass civilian slaughter by U.S. troops in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta during Operation Speedy Express.  In his article for The Nation, “A My Lai a Month,” he also exposed a Pentagon-level cover-up of these crimes that was abetted by a major news magazine.  In 2009, he also received a James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism from Hunter College and a MOLLY National Journalism Prize honorable mention for the same article.

Oscar Villallon is the Managing Editor of Zyzzyva Journal and is the former editor of the San Francisco Chronicle Literary Section.

What has been said about Kill Anything That Moves

“A tour de force of reporting and research: the first time comprehensive portrait, written with dignity and skill, of what American forces actually were doing in Vietnam. The findings, hidden behind a screen of official lies and cover-ups all these years, are shocking almost beyond words.… Some thirty thousand books have been written about the Vietnam War. Many more will now be needed, and they must begin with Kill Anything That Moves.”
—Jonathan Schell, author of The Real War: The Classic Reporting on the Vietnam War

“This deeply disturbing book provides the fullest documentation yet of the brutality and ugliness that marked America’s war in Vietnam. No doubt some will charge Nick Turse with exaggeration or overstatement. Yet the evidence he has assembled is irrefutable. With the publication of Kill Anything That Moves, the claim that My Lai was a one-off event becomes utterly unsustainable.”
—Andrew J. Bacevich, author of Washington Rules: America’s Path To Permanent War

“This book is an overdue and powerfully detailed account of widespread war crimes—homicide and torture and mutilation and rape—committed by American soldiers over the course of our military engagement in Vietnam. Nick Turse’s research and reportage is based in part on the U.S. military’s own records, reports, and transcripts, many of them long hidden from public scrutiny. Kill Anything That Moves is not only a compendium of pervasive and illegal and sickening savagery toward Vietnamese civilians, but it is also a record of repetitive deceit and cover-ups on the part of high ranking officers and officials. In the end, I hope, Turse’s book will become a hard-to-avoid, hard-to-dismiss corrective to the very common belief that war crimes and tolerance for war crimes were mere anomalies during our country’s military involvement in Vietnam.”
—Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried

“American patriots will appreciate Nick Turse’s meticulously documented book, which for the first time reveals the real war in Vietnam and explains why it has taken so long to learn the whole truth.”
—James Bradley, coauthor of Flags of Our Fathers

“Nick Turse reminds us again, in this painful and important book, why war should always be a last resort, and especially wars that have little to do with American national security. We failed, as Turse makes clear, to deal after the Vietnam War with the murders that took place, and today—four decades later—the lessons have yet to be learned. We still prefer kicking down doors to talking.”
—Seymour Hersh, staff writer, The New Yorker

“No book I have read in decades has so shaken me, as an American. Turse lays open the ground-level reality of a war that was far more atrocious than Americans at home have ever been allowed to know. He exposes official policies that encouraged ordinary American soldiers and airmen to inflict almost unimaginable horror and suffering on ordinary Vietnamese, followed by official cover-ups as tenacious as Turse’s own decade of investigative effort against them. Kill Anything That Moves is obligatory reading for Americans, because its implications for the likely scale of atrocities and civilian casualties inflicted and covered up in our latest wars are inescapable and staggering.”
—Daniel Ellsberg, author of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

“Meticulously researched, Kill Anything That Moves is the most comprehensive account to date of the war crimes committed by U.S. forces in Vietnam and the efforts made at the highest levels of the military to cover them up. It’s an important piece of history.”
—Frances FitzGerald, author of Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam

“Nick Turse has done more than anyone to demonstrate—and document—what should finally be incontrovertible: American atrocities in Vietnam were not infrequent and inadvertent, but the commonplace and inevitable result of official U.S. military policy. And he does it with a narrative that is gripping and deeply humane.”
—Christian Appy, author of Patriots: The Vietnam War Remembered From All Sides

“In this deeply researched and provocative book Nick Turse returns us to Vietnam to raise anew the classic dilemmas of warfare and civil society. My Lai was not the full story of atrocities in Vietnam, and honestly facing the moral questions inherent in a ‘way of war’ is absolutely necessary to an effective military strategy. Turse documents a shortfall in accountability during the Vietnam War that should be disturbing to every reader.”
—John Prados, author of Vietnam: The History of an Unwinnable War, 1945–1975

“Nick Turse’s Kill Anything That Moves is essential reading, a powerful and moving account of the dark heart of the Vietnam War: the systematic killing of civilians, not as aberration but as standard operating procedure. Until this history is acknowledged it will be repeated, one way or another, in the wars the U.S. continues to fight.”
—Marilyn Young, author of The Vietnam Wars, 1945–1990

Ben Marcus in conversation with Daniel Levin Becker

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From one of the most innovative and vital writers of his generation, an extraordinary collection of stories that showcases his gifts—and his range—as never before.

In the hilarious, lacerating “I Can Say Many Nice Things,” a washed-up writer toying with infidelity leads a creative writing workshop on board a cruise ship. In the dystopian “Rollingwood,” a divorced father struggles to take care of his ill infant, as his ex-wife and colleagues try to render him irrelevant. In “Watching Mysteries with My Mother,” a son meditates on his mother’s mortality, hoping to stave off her death for as long as he sits by her side. And in the title story, told in a single breathtaking sentence, we watch as the narrator’s marriage and his sanity unravel, drawing him to the brink of suicide.

As the collection progresses, we move from more traditional narratives into the experimental work that has made Ben Marcus a groundbreaking master of the short form. In these otherworldly landscapes, characters resort to extreme survival strategies to navigate the terrors of adulthood, one opting to live in a lightless cave and another methodically setting out to recover total childhood innocence; an automaton discovers love and has to reinvent language to accommodate it; filial loyalty is seen as a dangerous weakness that must be drilled away; and the distance from a cubicle to the office coffee cart is refigured as an existential wasteland, requiring heroic effort.
In these piercing, brilliantly observed investigations into human vulnerability and failure, it is often the most absurd and alien predicaments that capture the deepest truths. Surreal and tender, terrifying and life-affirming, Leaving the Sea is the work of an utterly unique writer at the height of his powers.

Christina Hanhardt discussing her new book, Safe Space: Gay Neighborhood History and the Politics of Violence

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Since the 1970s, a key goal of lesbian and gay activists has been protection against street violence, especially in gay neighborhoods. During the same time, policymakers and private developers declared the containment of urban violence to be a top priority. In this important book, Christina B. Hanhardt examines how LGBT calls for “safe space” have been shaped by broader public safety initiatives that have sought solutions in policing and privatization and have had devastating effects along race and class lines.

Drawing on extensive archival and ethnographic research in New York City and San Francisco, Hanhardt traces the entwined histories of LGBT activism, urban development, and U.S. policy in relation to poverty and crime over the past fifty years. She highlights the formation of a mainstream LGBT movement, as well as the very different trajectories followed by radical LGBT and queer grassroots organizations. Placing LGBT activism in the context of shifting liberal and neoliberal policies, Safe Space is a groundbreaking exploration of the contradictory legacies of the LGBT struggle for safety in the city.

 

Safe Space: Gay Neighborhood History and the Politics of Violence was published by Duke University Press

Christina B. Hanhardt is Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park.

An Evening with Robert Jensen, Arguing for Our Lives

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An Evening with Robert Jensen,

Arguing for Our Lives

We live in a time when public discourse is more skewed than ever by the propaganda that big money can buy, with trust in the leadership of elected officials at an all-time low. The “news” has degenerated into sensationalist sound bites, and the idea of debate has become a polarized shouting-match that precludes any meaningful discussion.

It’s also a time of anxiety, as we’re faced with economic and ecological crises on a global scale, with stakes that seem higher than ever before. In times like these, it’s essential that we be able to think and communicate clearly.

In this lively primer on critical thinking, Robert Jensen attacks the problems head-on and delivers an accessible and engaging book that explains how we can work collectively to enrich our intellectual lives. Drawing on more than two decades of classroom experience and community organizing, Jensen shares strategies on how to challenge “conventional wisdom” in order to courageously confront the crises of our times, and offers a framework for channeling our fears and frustrations into productive analysis that can inform constructive action.

Jensen connects abstract ideas with the everyday political and spiritual struggles of ordinary people. Free of either academic or political jargon, this book is for anyone struggling to understand our world and contribute to making it a better place.

Celebrating Alli Warren’s Here Come the Warm Jets

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Alli Warren’s  Here Come the Warm Jets is the latest release in the City Lights Spotlight Series

with a Special Appearance by Spotlight Poetry Editor Garrett Caples reading from his new chapbook, Invisible Sleep

Charged with swagger and sensuality, tenderness and cold fact, the 10th Spotlight series installment, Here Come the Warm Jets, is the brash debut volume by Bay Area poet Alli Warren. Taking its title from the Brian Eno classic, Jets jumbles gender, class, and space-time perspectives into a chorus of contemporary idioms and lyrical longings. Against the daunting backdrop of contemporary political-economy, Warren launches her missives of desire, in writing that is at once raw and sly. From the Bishop of Worms to Flipper to E-40, nobody’s safe from the easy virtuosity with which she makes language sing.

Barry Gifford reads from The Roy Stories

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reading from

The Roy Stories

from Seven Stories Press

For forty years—a Biblical time span—The Roy Stories has been the one continuous unbroken line in the otherwise kaleidoscopic career of one of America’s greatest living writers. Collected here for the first time, the Roy stories of Barry Gifford chronicle his personal history of a time—roughly, the late 1940s through the early 1960s—and a place—the southern and mid-western United States (Chicago, Illinois, and Key West and Miami, Florida, in particular). Similar in structure and tone to Ernest Hemingway’s Nick Adams stories, Barry Gifford’s slices of life cut to the heart and the bone. “Nearly every Gifford story opens a Pandora’s box of uncontainable emotions,” wrote Richard Dyer in the Boston Globe. “There’s no one like Barry Gifford, which is the best reason to read him.”

Barry Gifford is the author of more than forty published works of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, which have been translated into twenty-eight languages. His most recent prose works are Sailor & Lula: The Complete Novels, Sad Stories of the Death of Kings, and Memories from a Sinking Ship: A Novel. His previous most recent poetry collection is Las cuatro reinas / The Four Queens, released in 2006. Gifford lives in the San Francisco area and maintains a website at www.barrygifford.com

The End of Love, by Marcos Giralt Torrente read by Katherine Silver and Scott Esposito

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Katherine Silver and Scott Esposito

read and discuss the work of Marcos Giralt Torrente

on the occasion of the release of

The End Of Love

by Marcos Giralt Torrente

translated by Katherine Silver

published by McSweeney’s Books

In this quartet of mesmerizing stories, Marcos Giralt Torrente explores the confounding, double-edged promise of love. Each finds a man carefully churning over his past, trying to fathom how the distance between people can become suddenly unbridgeable.

Two tourists visit a remote island off the coast of Africa and are undone by a disconcerting encounter with another couple. A young man, enchanted by his bohemian cousin and her husband, watches them fall into a state of resentful dependence over the course of decades. A chaste but all-consuming love affair between a troubled boy and a wealthy but equally troubled girl leaves a scar that never heals. The son of divorced parents tries in vain to reunite them before realizing why he is wrong to do so. In The End of Love, Giralt Torrente forges discomfiting and gripping dramas from the small but consequential misunderstandings that shape our lives.

Marcos Giralt Torrente was born in Madrid in 1968 and is the author of three novels, a novella, and a book of short stories. He was writer-in-residence at the Spanish Academy in Rome, the Künstlerhaus Schloss Wiepersdorf, and the University of Aberdeen, and was part of the Berlin Artists-in-Residence Programme in 2002-2003. He is the recipient of several distinguished awards, most importantly the Spanish National Book Award in 2011. His works have been translated into French, German, Greek, Italian, Korean and Portuguese. The End of Love is his first book to appear in English.

Katherine Silver’s most recent translations of contemporary literature in Spanish include works by Daniel Sada, César Aira, and Horacio Castellanos Moya. She is also the codirector of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre.

Scott Esposito’s criticism has appeared in Bookforum, the Los Angeles Times, the Review of Contemporary Fiction, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The National, The Point, Tin House, The Paris Review Daily, and numerous others. He has also written introductions to novels for the Dalkey Archive Press and Melville House Publishing. He is the editor of online publications for San Francisco’s Center for the Art of Translation and has been a consultant on translated literature for presses including Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McSweeney’s, Graywolf, and Open Letter. He is also the editor in chief for The Quarterly Conversation, an online periodical of book reviews and essays. He is the co-author with Lauren Elkin of The End Of Oulipo? from Zero Books.

John Freeman in discussion with Robin Sloan

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celebrating the release of

How to Read a Novelist

by John Freeman

from Farrar, Strauss, Giroux

If you love novels, then this book is for you. For the last fifteen years, whenever a novel was published, John Freeman was there to greet it. As a critic for more than two hundred newspapers worldwide, the onetime president of the National Book Critics Circle, and the current editor of Granta, he has reviewed thousands of books and interviewed scores of writers. In How to Read a Novelist, which pulls together his very best profiles (many of them new or completely rewritten for this volume) of the very best novelists of our time, he shares with us what he’s learned. From such international stars as Doris Lessing, Haruki Murakami, Salman Rushdie, and Mo Yan, to established American lions such as Don DeLillo, Norman Mailer, Toni Morrison, Marilynne Robinson, Philip Roth, John Updike, and David Foster Wallace, to the new guard of Edwidge Danticat, Dave Eggers, Jonathan Franzen, and more, Freeman has talked to everyone. What emerges is an instructive and illuminating, definitive yet still idiosyncratic guide to a diverse and lively literary culture: a vision of the novel as a varied yet vital contemporary form, a portrait of the novelist as a unique and profound figure in our fragmenting global culture, and a book that will be essential reading for every aspiring writer and engaged reader—a perfect companion (or gift!) for anyone who’s ever curled up with a novel and wanted to know a bit more about the person who made it possible.

 

John Freeman is an award-winning writer and book critic who has written for numerous publications, including The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, and The Wall Street Journal. Freeman won the 2007 James Patterson Pageturner Award for his work as the president of the National Book Critics Circle. He is the former editor-in-chief of Granta and lives in New York City.

Robin Sloan is a writer and a media inventor who lives in San Francisco. He has worked at Twitter and has acted as a consultant to numerous technology firms. He is the author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore published by FSG.