Tony Serra 2

City Lights hosts Tony Serra as he celebrates the release of his debut novel, The Scaffold: A Treason Death Penalty Trial, published by Grizzly Peak Press.

Beginning with an outline as a young lawyer around 1960 and finally completed in prison as a tax resister, 50 or so years later, J. Tony Serra presents his first novel, The Scaffold: A Treason Death Penalty Trial. The story takes  place during the Second World War in the South Pacific with U.S. P.T. Boats and Japanese zero attack planes juxtaposed against an island paradise. At the center is a court martial trial filled with Serra’s legal career experiences but also an example of life as absurdity. All aspects of living are viewed as metaphors of absurdity. Intellectual discourse is explored as an expression of the Theater of the Absurd. The message is: war is absurd; treason is absurd; the death penalty is absurd and platonic love is humanity’s only redemption.

A native son of San Francisco, Tony Serra has dedicated his life to defending society’s outcasts.  After hearing a Philosophy degree from Stanford University, Serra went on to graduate from UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law in the 1960s, an era he calls “the golden age of law.”  In his more than 45 years of practice, Serra has helmed a number of noteworthy cases, including Huey Newton, Bear Lincoln, Chol Soo Lee, the Hell’s Angels, Hooty Croy, the Symbionese Liberation Army, the White Panthers, Bari & Cherney v. FBI and more. Serra has been honored with awards from, among others, NORML, ACLU, American Lawyer Magazine, San Francisco Board of Supervisors and Trial Lawyers for Public Justice. Although he has been admitted to practice in 45 separate federal and state jurisdictions in 28 different states, Serra still calls San Francisco home. His first two books are Walking The Circle and Tony Serra published by Grizzly Peak Press.

Greg Jackson

Greg Jackson was at City Lights to celebrating the release of Prodigals: Stories, published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, with a reading and a discussion.

Prodigals“People are bullets, fired,” the narrator declares in one of the desperate, eerie stories that make up Greg Jackson’s Prodigals. He’s fleeing New York, with a woman who may be his therapist, as a storm bears down. Self-knowledge here is no safeguard against self-sabotage. A banker sees his artistic ambitions laid bare when he comes under the influence of two strange sisters. A midlife divorcée escapes to her seaside cottage only to find a girl living in it. A journalist is either the guest or the captive of a former tennis star at his country mansion in the Auvergne.

Jackson’s sharp debut drills into the spiritual longing of today’s privileged elite. Adrift in lives of trumpeted possibility and hidden limitation, in thrall to secondhand notions of success, the flawed, sympathetic, struggling characters in these stories seek refuge from meaninglessness in love, art, drugs, and sex. Unflinching, funny, and profound, Prodigals maps the degradations of contemporary life with unusual insight and passion–from the obsession with celebrity, to the psychological debts of privilege, to the impotence of violence, to the loss of grand narratives.

Prodigals is a fiercely honest and heartfelt look at what we have become, at the comedy of our foibles and the pathos of our longing for home.

GregJacksonGreg Jackson grew up in Boston and coastal Maine. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, the Virginia Quarterly Review, and Granta. He is a graduate of the MFA program at the University of Virginia and has been a Fiction Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center and a resident at the MacDowell Colony and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. A winner of the Balch and Henfield prizes, he was a finalist for the 2014 National Magazine Award in Fiction. Prodigals is his first book.

Joyce Carol Oates 2

National Book Award-winning and bestselling author Joyce Carol Oates was at City Lights discussng her latest novel, the critically acclaimed The Man Without a Shadow. In this recording, Joyce Carol Oates also conducts an interview with herself as both questioner and respondent.

This book examines the intimate, illicit relationship between neuroscientist Margot Sharpe and Elihu 87286100622230LHoopes—the “man without a shadow”—whose devastated memory, unable to store new experiences or to retrieve the old, will make him the most famous and most studied amnesiac in history. Their thirty-year relationship, both as scientist and subject and as objects of love, is an exploration of the labyrinthine mysteries of the human brain. Where does “memory” reside? Where is “love”? Is it possible to love an individual who cannot love you, who cannot “remember” you from one meeting to the next?

Robert Jensen

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.

Daniel Sada Tribute

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

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.

Tanwi Nandini Islam

Author Tanwi Nandini Islam joins Achy Obejas in conversation at City Lights to celebrate the release of her critically-acclaimed debut novel, Bright Lines, published by Penguin Books.

For as long as she can reTanwimember, Ella has longed to feel at home. Orphaned as a child after her parents’ murder in the aftermath of the Bangladesh Liberation War, Ella came to Brooklyn to live with the Saleem family: her uncle Anwar, aunt Hashi, and their daughter, Charu, from whom she couldn’t be more different. Ella has never felt entirely comfortable in her own body, and spends hours tending the garden behind the Saleems’ brownstone.

When Ella returns home from college one summer, she is surprised to discover Charu’s friend Maya—a local Islamic cleric’s runaway daughter—asleep in her 87286100954240Mbedroom. The two grow close, and suddenly Ella is forced to come to terms with her sexuality and the increasingly blurry line between friendship and love.

As the girls harbor their secrets, Anwar—owner of a popular neighborhood apothecary—has his own, one that threatens his thirty-year marriage. When tragedy strikes and the Saleems are blamed, it nearly tears apart the family. Ella, Charu, Anwar, and Hashi travel to Bangladesh to reckon with the past, their extended family, and each other.

Tanwi Nandini Islam is a writer, multimedia artist, and founder of Hi Wildflower Botanica, a handcrafted natural perfume and skincare line.  Her writing has appeared in Elle, Fashionista.com and Billboard. A graduate of Vassar College and Brooklyn College’s MFA program, she lives in Brooklyn.

Achy Obejas is the author of the critically acclaimed novels Ruins, Days of Awe and three other books of fiction. Her poetry chapbook, This is What Happened in Our Other Life, was both a critical favorite and a best-seller. She edited and translated, into English, Havana Noir, a collection of crime stories by Cuban writers on and off the island. Her translation, into Spanish, of Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao / La Breve y Maravillosa Vida de Óscar Wao was a finalist for Spain’s Esther Benítez Translation Prize from the national translator’s association. She is currently the Distinguished Visiting Writer at Mills College in Oakland, CA, where she lives with her wife, Megan Bayles, and their son Ilan.

Matt Bell: Scrapper

Matt Bell returns to City Lights for a second time to celebrate the release of and read excerpts from his new novel, Scrapper

The second novel from the acclaimed author of In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, Scrapper is a devastating re-imagining of one of America’s greatest cities, its beautiful architecture, its lost houses, shuttered factories, boxing g87286100989380Myms, and storefront churches. With precise, powerful prose, it asks: What do we owe for our crimes, even those we’ve committed to protect the people we love?

Matt Bell is the author most recently of the novel Scrapper, which was published in September 2015 by Soho Press. His last novel, In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods was a finalist for the Young Lions Fiction Award, a Michigan Notable Book, and an Indies Choice Adult Debut Book of the Year Honor Recipient, as well as the winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award. He is also the author of two previous books of fiction, How They Were Found and Cataclysm Baby, and a non-fiction book about the classic video game Baldur’s Gate II, published in 2015 by Boss Fight Books.

His writing has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories, Tin House, The New York Times, Conjunctions, Gulf Coast, The American Reader, and many other publications. Born in Michigan, he now teaches creative writing at Arizona State University.

David Stephen Calonne on Charles Bukowski

Editor David Stephen Calonne joins City Lights to celebrate the release of The Bell Tolls for No One, a book of previously uncollectTheBelled pulp fiction by everyone’s favorite dirty old man, Charles Bukowski. Beginning with the illustrated, unpublished 1947 story, A Kind, Understanding Face, continuing through his famous underground newspaper column, Notes of a Dirty Old Man, and concluding with his hardboiled contributions to 1980s glossy adult magazines, The Bells Tolls for No One encompasses the entire range of Bukowski’s talent as a short story writer, from straight-up genre stories to postmodern blurring of fact and fiction. Designed not only for Bukowski fans, but also for readers new to his work, the book contains an informative introduction by editor David Stephen Calonne that provides historical context for these seemingly scandalous and chaotic tales, revealing the hidden hand of the master at the top of his form. Also included are several of Bukowski’s own illustrations.

Born in Andernach, Germany, and raised in Los Angeles, Charles Bukowski published his first story when he was twenty-four and began writing poetry at the age of thirty-five. His first book of poetry was published in 1959; he would eventually publish more than forty-five books of poetry and prose. He died of leukemia in San Pedro, California on March 9, 1994.

David Stephen Calonne has edited three previous books of uncollected prose by Charles Bukowski for City Lights. He is the author of several books, including the critical study Charles Bukowski, and the editor of Charles Bukowski: Sunlight Here I Am/Interviews and Encounters 1963-1993.

Interview with David Stephen Calonne

City Lights sits down for a one-on-one interview with David Stephen Calonne, editor of the recently released The Bell Tolls for No One, a book of previously uncollected pulp fiction from Charles Bukowski, published by City Lights.

From the self-illustrated, unpublished work written in 1947 to hardboiled contributions to 1980s adult magazines, The Bells Tolls for No One presents the entire range of Bukowski’s talent as a short story writer, from straight-up genre stories to postmodern blurring of fact and fiction. An informative introduction by editor David Stephen Calonne provides historical context for these seemingly scandalous and chaotic tales, revealing the hidden hand of the master at the top of his form.

Born in Andernach, Germany, and raised in Los Angeles, Charles Bukowski published his first story when he was twenty-four and began writing poetry at the age of thirty-five. His first book of poetry was published in 1959; he would eventually publish more than forty-five books of poetry and prose. He died of leukemia in San Pedro, California on March 9, 1994.

David Stephen Calonne is the author of several books and has edited three previous collections of the uncollected work of Charles Bukowski for City Lights: Absence of the Hero, Portions from a Wine-Stained Notebook, and More Notes of a Dirty Old Man.

John Freeman

John Freeman joins Oscar Villalon in conversation to celebrate Freeman’s new literary venture, Freeman’s: The Best New Writing on Arrival, from Grove Press.freeman's

A new anthology from renowned literary critic, former Granta editor, and NBCC president John Freeman, Freeman’s: Arrival features never before published stories by Haruki Murakami, Louise Erdrich, Dave Eggers, Etgar Keret, Lydia Davis, David Mitchell, and others.

We live today in constant motion, traveling distances rapidly, small ones daily, arriving in new states. In this inaugural edition of Freeman’s, a new biannual of unpublished writing, former Granta editor and NBCC president John Freeman brings together the best new fiction, nonfiction, and poetry about that electrifying moment when we arrive.

Strange encounters abound. David Mitchell meets a ghost in Hiroshima Prefecture; Lydia Davis recounts her travels in the exotic territory of the Norwegian language; and in a Dave Eggers story, an elderly gentleman cannot remember why he brought a fork to a wedding.

End points often turn out to be new beginnings. Louise Erdrich visits a Native American cemetery that celebrates the next journey, and in a Haruki Murakami story, an aging actor arrives back in his true self after performing a role, discovering he has changed, becoming a new person.

Featuring startling new fiction by Laura van den Berg, Helen Simpson, and Tahmima Anam, as well as stirring essays by Aleksandar Hemon, Barry Lopez, and Garnette Cadogan, who relearned how to walk while being black upon arriving in NYC, Freeman’s announces the arrival of an essential map to the best new writing in the world.

Oscar Villalon is the Managing Editor of ZYZZYVA. He is is the former book editor at the San Francisco Chronicle and a board member of the National Book Critics Circle. His reviews have appeared on NPR.org and KQED’s “The California Report.”

Ayize Jama-Everett

Author Ayize Jama-Everett was at City Lights in our Poetry Room for a celebration of the release of Ayize’s two newest books: Entropy of Bones and The Liminal War, published by Small Beer Press.

Ayize Jama-Everett was born in 1974 and raised in Harlem, New York. Since then he   ayize-jama-everett-author-photo-200x200has traveled extensively in Northern Africa, New Hampshire, and Northern California. He holds a Master’s in Clinical Psychology and a Master’s in Divinity. He teaches religion and psychology at Starr King School for the Ministry when he’s not working as a school therapist at the College Preparatory School. He is the author of three novels, The Liminal People, The Liminal War, and The Entropy of Bones, as well as an upcoming graphic novel with illustrator John Jennings entitled Box of Bones. When not educating, studying, or beating himself up for not writing enough, he’s usually enjoying aged rums and practicing his aim.

Entropy

Entropy of Bones is a Liminal People novel. A young martial artist finds there is more to the world than she can kick, more than she can see. Chabi doesn’t realize her martial arts master may not be on the side of the gods. She does know he’s changed her from being an almost invisible kid to one that anyone — or at least anyone smart — should pay attention to. But attention from the wrong people can mean more trouble than even she can handle. Chabi might be emotionally stunted. She might have no physical voice. She doesn’t communicate well with words, but her body is poetry.

 

The Liminal War is a propulsive novel that starts with a kidnapping iLiminaln London and takes off running. Taggert is a man with a questionable past and the ability to hurt or heal with his thoughts alone. When his adopted daughter goes missing, he immediately suspects the hand of an old enemy. In order to find her, Taggert assembles a team of friends, family, and new allies who don’t quite trust he has left his violent times behind. But their search leads them to an unexpected place: the past.

Getting there is hard, being there is harder, and their journey has a price that is higher than any of us can afford.

Joseph Matthews

In this episode of LIVE! from City Lights, author Joseph Matthews reads from his new novel Everyone Has Their Reasons, published by PM Press.

At a time when the issues of identity, immigration, and class remain both universally  everyone_has_their_reasonsimportant and enormously controversial, Everyone Has Their Reasons is an accessible and captivating tale of one boy’s historically famous experience in the extraordinary setting of roiling pre-WWII Paris. On November 7, 1938, a small, slight 17-year-old Polish-German Jew named Herschel Grynszpan entered the German embassy in Paris and shot dead a consular official. Three days later, in supposed response, Jews across Germany were beaten, imprisoned, and killed, their homes, shops, and synagogues smashed and burned—Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. Based on the historical record and told through his “letters” from German prisons, this novel begins in 1936, when 15-year-old Herschel flees Germany, and continues through his show trial, in which the Nazis sought to demonstrate through his actions that Jews had provoked the war. But Herschel throws a last-minute wrench in the plans, bringing the Nazi propaganda machine to a grinding halt and provoking Hitler to postpone the trial and personally give an order regarding Herschel’s fate.

Born in Boston and raised there and in California, Joseph Matthews was for a number of years a criminal defense lawyer in San Francisco, engaging in the criminal/political cases of anti–Vietnam War activists and Mission District barrio residents, defending prisoners during the California prison rebellions of the 1970s, serving as a public defender, and teaching at the law school of the University of California, Berkeley. He spent considerable time in Greece in the 1970s and 1980s, where his novel Shades of Resistance (1996) is set during the period of the military junta there. His other previous books are the short story collection The Lawyer Who Blew Up His Desk (1998) and the political analysis Afflicted Powers: Capital and Spectacle in a New Age of War (2005, with Iain Boal, T.J. Clark, and Michael Watts).

Leonard Gardner’s Fat City

City Lights teams up with the Film Noir Foundation and NYRB Books to present author Leonard Gardner in conversation with Eddie Muller, celebrating the re-release of the literary classic Fat City.

Fat City is a vivid novel of allegiance and defeat, of the potent promise of the goleonardgardnerod life and the desperation and drink that waylay those whom it eludes. Stockton, California, is the setting: the Lido Gym, the Hotel Coma, Main Street lunchrooms and dingy bars, days like long twilights in houses obscured by untrimmed shrubs and black walnut trees. When two men meet in the ring—the retired boxer Billy Tully and the newcomer Ernie Munger—their brief bout sets into motion their hidden fates, initiating young Munger into the company of men and luring Tully back into training. In a dispassionate and composed voice, Leonard Gardner narrates their swings of fortune, and the stubborn optimism of their manager, Ruben Luna, as he watches the most promising boys one by one succumb to some undefined weakness; still, “There was always someone who wanted to fight.”

Leonard Gardner was born in Stockton, California. His writing has appeared in The Paris Review, Esquire, Southwest Review, and other magazines. His screen adaptation of Fat City was made into a film by John Huston. A Guggenheim Fellow, he lives in Northern California.

Eddie Muller is the Bay Area’s very own “Czar of Noir”. Impresario, author, publisher, and film preservationist, as Executive Director of the Noir City Foundation, he has done much to preserve historic noir genre films at risk. Each year he produces the Noir City film festival at the Castro Theater in San Francisco. He has been featured as a host on Turner Classic Movies and has presented numerous commentaries on noir video collections. He is the author of the noir classics The Distance and The Shadow Boxer.

Best Kept Secrets: The Fiction of Lucia Berlin

Join City Lights and the Book Club of California in an event that is described by editor Stephen Emerson as a “homecoming” for the late short-story writer Lucia Berlin, an evening celebrating Lucia’s life, work, and newly published collection A Manual for Cleaning Women. The event features readings by Gloria Frym, Barry Gifford, Alastair Johnston, August Kleinzahler, Jim Nisbet, and Michael Wolfe.

luciaA Manual for Cleaning Women compiles the best work of the legendary short-story writer Lucia Berlin. With her trademark blend of humor and melancholy, Berlin crafts miracles from the everyday–uncovering moments of grace in the cafeterias and Laundromats of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Northern California upper classes, and from the perspective of a cleaning woman alone in a hotel dining room in Mexico City.
The women of Berlin’s stories are lost, but they are also strong, clever, and extraordinarily real. They are hitchhikers, hard workers, bad Christians. With the wit of Lorrie Moore and the grit of Raymond Carver, they navigate a world of jockeys, doctors, and switchboard operators. They laugh, they mourn, they drink. Berlin, a highly influential writer despite having published little in her lifetime, conjures these women from California, Mexico, and beyond. Lovers of the short story will not want to miss this remarkable collection from a master of the form.

Lucia Berlin (1936-2004) was first published when she was twenty-four in The Atlantic Monthly and in Saul Bellow and Keith Botsford’s journal The Noble Savage. Berlin worked brilliantly but sporadically throughout the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s. Her stories are culled from her early childhood in various Western mining towns; her glamorous teenage years in Santiago, Chile; three failed marriages; a lifelong problem with alcoholism; her years spent in Berkeley, New Mexico, and Mexico City; and the various jobs she later held to support her writing and her four sons, including as a high-school teacher, a switchboard operator, a physician’s assistant, and a cleaning woman.

Stephen Emerson is the editor of A Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories of Lucia Berlin. He was her close friend and constant correspondent from soon after their first meeting in 1978. His own books include Neighbors (stories, Tombouctou) and The Wife (short novel, Longriver Books). His work has appeared in New Directions in Poetry and Prose, Hambone, and The Review of Contemporary Fiction. Emerson worked as an editor for many years and, later, toiled in what Elmore Leonard called “the advertising game.” He is now writing new stories steadily, but slowly.

Gloria Frym is the author of two short story collections—Distance No Object (City Lights) and How I Learned (Coffee House Press)—as well as many volumes of poetry, including Mind Over Matter and Any Time Now. Her book Homeless at Home received an American Book Award. She currently chairs and teaches in the MFA in Writing program at California College of the Arts. The True Patriot, a collection of her prose, is due out in Fall 2015.

Novelist, screenwriter, and poet Barry Gifford’s most recent books include The Up-Down, Sailor & Lula: The Complete Novels, Imagining Paradise: New & Selected Poems and The Roy Stories. His film credits include Wild at Heart, Perdita Durango, Lost Highway, and City of Ghosts. His novel Night People was awarded Italy’s Premio Brancati, and he has received awards from PEN, the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Library Association, the Writers Guild of America, and the Christopher Isherwood Foundation. Gifford’s work appears in such magazines as The New Yorker, Punch, Esquire, La Nouvelle Revue Française, Film Comment, and Rolling Stone.

Alastair Johnston co-founded Poltroon Press in Berkeley with the artist Frances Butler in 1975 to publish original works of poetry and fiction. He has written much of the literature on California printing history, as well as books on the history of typography. In 1983 Poltroon published Lucia Berlin’s Legacy, a story about a dipsomaniacal dentist and grandfather, later re-titled “Dr. H.A. Moynihan.” In 1988 they published Safe & Sound, her third collection of stories, illustrated by Butler. Berlin herself helped set the book on the Linotype machine and later delighted in referring to herself as a “tramp printer.”

August Kleinzahler’s most recent collections of poetry are Sleeping It Off in Rapid City (Selected Poems), which won the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award, and Hotel Oneira, both from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. He is the author of two books of prose, Cutty, One Rock: Low Characters and Strange Places, Gently Explained and Music: I-LXXIV. Kleinzahler also edited the Selected Poems of Thom Gunn (2009). He is a regular contributor to the London Review of Books (where he’s written extensively about Lucia Berlin). In 2008, Kleinzahler won the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry. He walks in beauty like the night .

Jim Nisbet, a long-time friend of Lucia Berlin and an avid fan of her stories, has published twenty books including Lethal Injection, widely regarded as a classic roman noir, and Laminating The Conic Frustum, his sole non-fiction title. Current projects include a fourteenth novel, You Don’t Pencil, and a complete translation of Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal.

Michael Wolfe writes poetry and prose and produces documentary films. Twice a recipient of the Amy Lowell Traveling Poetry Scholarship, he was for many years the publisher of Tombouctou Books, a press based in Bolinas, California that published, among many other titles, Lucia Berlin’s second collection, Phantom Pain. His most recent book is a set of ancient Greek epitaphs in translation from Johns Hopkins University Press, Cut These Words into Stone. He lives with his wife in San Juan Bautista.

Praise for A Manual for Cleaning Women:

[Lucia Berlin] may just be the best writer you’ve never heard of . . . Imagine a less urban Grace Paley, with a similar talent for turning the net of resentments and affections among family members into stories that carry more weight than their casual, conversational tone might initially suggest . . . Berlin’s offbeat humor, get-on-with-it realism, and ability to layer details that echo across stories and decades give her book a tremendous staying power . . . [A Manual for Cleaning Women] goes a long way toward putting Berlin, who died in 2004, back in the public eye. – Publishers Weekly
Berlin’s literary model is Chekhov, but there are extra-literary models too, including the extended jazz solo, with its surges, convolutions, and asides. This is writing of a very high order. – August Kleinzahler on Where I Live Now, London Review of Books

This remarkable collection occasionally put me in mind of Annie Proulx’s Accordion Crimes, with its sweep of American origins and places. Berlin is our Scheherazade, continually surprising her readers with a startling variety of voices, vividly drawn characters, and settings alive with sight and sound. – Barbara Barnard on Where I Live Now, American Book Review
[The stories] are told in a conversational voice and they move with a swift and often lyrical economy. They capture and communicate moments of grace and cast a lovely, lazy light that lasts. Berlin is one of our finest writers and here she is at the height of her powers. – Molly Giles, San Francisco Chronicle on So Long

 

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