Writers Who Love Too Much

City Lights welcomes Dodie Bellamy and Kevin Killian, joined by special guests Margaret Jenkins, David O. Steinberg, Judy Grahn, Camille Roy, Roberto Bedoya, Gabrielle Daniels, Scott Watson, and Matias Viegener in celebrating the release of Writers Who Love Too Much: New Narrative 1977-1997, edited by Dodie Bellamy and Kevin Killian and published by Nightboat Books.

In the twenty years that followed America’s bicentennial, narrative writing was re-formed, reflecting new political and sexual realities. With the publication of this anthology, the New Narrative era bounds back to life, ripe with dramatic propulsion and infused with the twin strains of poetry and Continental theory. Arranged chronologically, the reader will discover classic texts of New Narrative from Bob Glück to Kathy Acker, and rare materials including period interviews, reviews, essays, and talks combined to form a new map of late twentieth-century creative rebellion.

Dodie Bellamy is the author of numerous works of prose. Her latest book is When the Sick Rule the World. She teaches creative writing at San Francisco State University and California College of the Arts.

Kevin Killian is a San Francisco-based poet, novelist, playwright, and art writer. He is the author of fifteen books and co-wrote Poet Be Like God, a biography of the American poet Jack Spicer (1925-1965). City Lights published his novel Impossible Princess, winner of the 2010 Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Erotica .

Interview with Julien Poirier

Poet Julien Poirier sits down with City Lights poetry editor Garrett Caples to discuss his beginnings as a poet, as well as read several selections from his latest poetry collection, Out of Print (published in City Lights Books’ Spotlight Poetry Series).

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From the self-illustrated, unpublished work written in 1947 to hardboiled contributions to 1980s adult magazines, The Bells Tolls for No One presents the entire range of Bukowski’s talent as a short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.

Robert Scheer

Nate Cardozo, Electric Frontier Foundation, interviews Robert Scheer to discuss Scheer’s new book, They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collecting Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy from Public Affairs Books.

They Know Everything About You is a groundbreaking exposé of how government agencies and tech corporations monitor virtually every aspect of our lives, and a fierce defense of privacy and democracy.

The revelation that the government has access to a vast trove of personal online data demonstrates that we already live in a surveillance society. But the erosion of privacy rights extends far beyond big government. Intelligence agencies such as the NSA and CIA are using Silicon Valley corporate partners as their data spies. Seemingly progressive tech companies are joining forces with snooping government agencies to create a brave new world of wired tyranny.

Life in the digital age poses an unprecedented challenge to our constitutional liberties, which guarantee a wall of privacy between the individual and the government. The basic assumption of democracy requires the ability of the individual to experiment with ideas and associations within a protected zone, as secured by the Constitution. The unobserved moment embodies the most basic of human rights, yet it is being squandered in the name of national security and consumer convenience.

Robert Scheer argues that the information revolution, while a source of public enlightenment, contains the seeds of freedom’s destruction in the form of a surveillance state that exceeds the wildest dream of the most ingenious dictator. The technology of surveillance, unless vigorously resisted, represents an existential threat to the liberation of the human spirit.

Robert Scheer is the editor-in-chief of the Webby Award–winning online magazine Truthdig, professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and co-host of Left, Right & Center, a weekly syndicated radio show broadcast from NPR’s west coast affiliate, KCRW. In the 1960s, he was editor of the groundbreaking Ramparts magazine and later was national correspondent and columnist for the Los Angeles Times. Scheer is the author of nine books, including The Great American Stickup. He lives in Los Angeles.

Visit: www.truthdig.com

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF champions user privacy, free expression, and innovation through impact litigation, policy analysis, grassroots activism, and technology development. EFF works to ensure that rights and freedoms are enhanced and protected as our use of technology grows.

Nate Cardozo is a Staff Attorney on the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s digital civil liberties team. In addition to his focus on free speech and privacy litigation, Nate works on EFF’s Who Has Your Back? report and Coders’ Rights Project. Nate has projects involving cryptography and the law, automotive privacy, government transparency, hardware hacking rights, anonymous speech, electronic privacy law reform, Freedom of Information Act litigation, and resisting the expansion of the surveillance state. A 2009-2010 EFF Open Government Legal Fellow, Nate spent two years in private practice before returning to his senses and to EFF in 2012.  Nate has a B.A. in Anthropology and Politics from U.C. Santa Cruz and a J.D. from U.C. Hastings where he has taught first-year legal writing and moot court.

Critical Praise for They Know Everything About You:

“…Scheer powerfully connects the dots of our chilling Orwellian present, one in which privacy is considered a luxury, rather than a right.” —Publishers Weekly

“A vital piece of work that demands attention.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Robert Scheer reminds us that privacy is everything—the protector of our liberty, the guarantor of our personal autonomy, the fountainhead of our democracy—and yet it’s disappearing faster than an electronic blip moving at warp speed from your computer to the NSA. With clarity and precision, Scheer dissects the military-intelligence complex, showing it to be neither very secure nor very intelligent, but, rather, dangerous to us all.” —Robert B. Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, University of California at Berkeley

“They Know Everything About You is a brilliant book. Robert Scheer, who covered my 1971 trial after I released the Pentagon Papers, has been following privacy and surveillance issues for decades. He is a key voice and his book— cogent, timely, and fascinating—is an indispensable text for our time.” —Daniel Ellsberg, author of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

“Robert Scheer has undertaken a penetrating examination of Americans’ disappearing privacy and issued a clarion call in these pages, lest we unwittingly click-away our freedom.” —John W. Dean, bestselling author and former Nixon White House counsel

“Scheer is one of the most important journalists in America. He is not only brilliant, possessed by a fierce and uncompromising integrity, but is a lyrical and often moving writer. All of these talents are on full display in his latest book about the rise of the security and surveillance state and the terrifying dystopia that will be visited upon us all unless our right to privacy is returned to us.” —Chris Hedges, fellow at The Nation Institute and coauthor of Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt

“This is what journalism looks like, provided by one of the greatest reporters of our times. Scheer has written a powerful indictment of the present-day corporate-government surveillance regime that has effectively eliminated the right to privacy. Like a master surgeon, he dissects the self-serving rationales for the wholesale illegal spying on Americans and shows them to be nonsense.” —Robert W. McChesney, author of Blowing the Roof Off the Twenty-First Century

Interview with Lenelle Moïse

Lenelle Moïse stopped by the City Lights office shortly before her reading at the bookstore. She sat down and talked about her new book Haiti Glass as well as how she wrote the book, how she came to know the Sister Spit group, and more.


Praise for Haiti Glass:

Haiti Glass is a magnificent collection of poetry and prose. Part mantra, part lamentation, part prayer, this incredible book puts us wholly in the presence of an extraordinary and brave talent, whose voice will linger in your heart and mind long after you read the last word of this book.”—Edwidge Danticat

Nick Turse and Oscar Villalon Discussing the Vietnam War

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

John Freeman in discussion with Robin Sloan

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.

Interview with Alli Warren

Editor of the City Lights/Spotlight Poetry series Garrett Caples interviewed poet Alli Warren before she embarked on her October East Coast tour. Back in the Bay Area, Alli Warren reads Thursday, Dec. 5th at the Poetry Center in San Francisco.

They discussed Here Come the Warm Jets, Warren’s first full-length book, what it’s like to have a debut book out with City Lights, and why Warren chose the Brian Eno reference for her title.

“Warren’s first book of poems is highly self-reflective, interestingly interrogative, and a lot of fun.”—Booklist

“Without a doubt, she is one of the best young writers in the Bay Area.”—SF Weekly


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.

Yokohama Threeway: An Interview with Beth Lisick

Writer, performer and independent film actress, Beth Lisick has made a career of opening her life to her readers in all of its messy, smart hilarity, but the stories in Yokohama Threeway and Other Small Shames don’t usually find their way into a memoir. With her trademark humor and sly intelligence, writing in short flashes the way these episodes tend to pop up in memory, Lisick recounts her most embarrassing moments with gusto. The results is a candid and wickedly funny collection of everyday mortification.

Here she is chatting with City Lights staffer Jolene Torr about the bad judgments and free-floating regrets that keep her up at night, and why she’s okay with writing about what most people would rather forget than relive.

And catch Beth on her Walk of Shame through Portland, San Francisco, and New York. Tour dates +times here!




No shame in their game — these folks love Yokohama Threeway!

“. . . a strangely touching and engaging portrait of the artist as a young screwup.”—Booklist

“. . . the ultimate joyride for those of us who enjoy cringe-worthy embarrassment, genuine pathos, and an overdosing amount of schadenfreude.”—Michael Ian Black

“This book is fucking great.”—Kathleen Hanna

“. . . a laugh-out-loud series of short, revelatory confessions propelled by curiosity and an acute desire to experience the world. . . . Lisick does it with aplomb and even exuberance.”—SF Weekly

“I laughed and cringed and cared more and more. Thank you, Beth Lisick, it was and continues to be worth all the struggles.”—Matthew Zapruder

“Speaking as someone who hates everything, I love this book.”—James Greer

“. . . hilarious, heartbreaking, compassionate, pitch perfect, utterly original.”—Joyce Maynard

“Lisick’s writing reminds us how simultaneously wonderful and terrible it is to be alive.”—Kim Wong Keltner

Stacey Lewis interviews Aron Aji

Stacey Lewis and Pen Translation Finalist Aron Aji discussed A Long Day’s Evening (City Lights Books) by Bilge Karasu on December 11, 2012. 

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 essay.


An Interview with Ali Liebegott, Author of “Cha-Ching!” and “The Beautifully Worthless”

Last week, author Ali Liebegott came into City Lights to chat with City Lights Publicity Associate, Jolene Torr, about her newest books Cha-Ching! and The Beautifully Worthless (both published by City Lights/Sister Spit).

Cha-Ching! is the story of Theo, our scruffy, big-hearted and quick-witted heroine, who is not so much down on her luck as delivered luckless into a culture where the winners and losers have already been decided. Her adventures in getting over take her from SF to NYC, from dyke bars to telemarketing outfits, casinos to free clinics. With the signature poet’s voice that has won her awards and acclaim, Liebegott investigates the conjoined hearts of hope and addiction in an unforgettable story of what it means to be young and broke in America.

Andrew Codrescu, author of So Recently Rent a World: New and Selected Poems, compared Liebegott’s writing to Dostoyevsky and her main character to On the Road’s Dean Moriarty when he said, “In the game of American-life-on-the-go hopscotch, Ali Liebegott’s heroine Theo just jumped a square ahead of Dean Moriarty. . . . The author’s fine writing about gambling is as good as I ever read, including Dostoevski’s and the Barthelme Bros. In the end, love, in whatever twisted, pallid form, a love that has little to do with sexuality, is the only answer. . . .Wonderful book.”

In Ali Liebegott’s award-winning road story, The Beautifully Worthless, a runaway waitress leaves her lover, grabs her dog and hits the highway. Liebegott maps her travels in a series of hilarious and heartbreaking letters to the girl she left behind, and some of the most exquisite poetry written about love, heartache and madness.

The winner of the 2005 Lambda Literary Award for Debut Lesbian Fiction, The Beautifully Worthless is back in print and now available from City Lights/Sister Spit!

Join us next week as we celebrate with Ali Liebegott, the publication of Cha-Ching! and the return of The Beautifully Worthless. Wednesday, March 27th, 7pm at City Lights Bookstore.


Cynthia Carr in conversation with Amy Scholder on The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz

City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in conjunction with the San Francisco Art Institute and Bloomsbury Books present an evening with Cynthia Carr and Amy Scholder celebrating the release of Cythnia Carr’s new book Fire in the Belly : The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz (Bloomsbury Books), October 3, 2012.

In December 2010, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington made headlines when it responded to protests from the Catholic League by voluntarily censoring an excerpt of David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly from its show on American portraiture. Why a work of art could stir such emotions is at the heart of Cynthia Carr’s Fire in the Belly The Life and Times of David Wojnarowicz, the first biography of a beleaguered art-world figure who became one of the most important voices of his generation. Wojnarowicz emerged from a Dickensian childhood that included orphanages, abusive and absent parents, and a life of hustling on the street. He first found acclaim in New York’s East Village, a neighborhood noted in the 1970s and ’80s for its abandoned buildings, junkies, and burgeoning art scene. Along with Keith Haring, Nan Goldin, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Wojnarowicz helped redefine art for the times. As uptown art collectors looked downtown for the next big thing, this community of cultural outsiders was suddenly thrust into the national spotlight. The ensuing culture war, the neighborhood’s gentrification, and the AIDS crisis then devastated the East Village scene. Wojnarowicz died of AIDS in 1992 at the age of thirty-seven. Carr’s brilliant biography traces the untold story of a controversial and seminal figure at a pivotal moment in American culture.

Cynthia Carr is a writer and cultural critic living in New York City. She has served as staff writer for The Village Voice and has also written about performance art and culture for ArtForum, LA Weekly, Interview, and Mirabella. She is the author of Our Town: A Heartland Lynching, a Haunted Town, and the Hidden History of White America and On Edge: Performance at the End of the Twentieth Century.

Amy Scholder is the editorial director of the Feminist Press. Over the past twenty-five years, she has worked with David Wojnarowicz, Sapphire, Kathy Acker, Karen Finley, Barbara Hammer, June Jordan, Joni Mitchell, Kate MIllett, Judith Butler, Mary Woronov, Kate Bornstein, Jill Johnston, Justin Vivian Bond, Laurie Weeks, and many more writers and artists. She divides her time between New York City and Los Angeles

West Coast Publishing: A Panel and Discussion with West Coast Presses

Presented by National Book Critics Circle and hosted at City Lights Bookstore, representatives from a variety of West Coast Presses came together as a panel to discuss West Coast presses on September 20th, 2012 (in conjunction with the NBCC West Coast Reviewing Panel, Tue. Oct. 9, 2012).

Moderated by Kate Gale (Red Hen Press, LA), with Stacey Lewis (City Lights, S.F.), Ethan Nosowsky (McSweeney’s, S.F.), Heidi Broadhead (Wave Books, Seattle) and Malcolm Margolin (Heyday Books, Berkeley)

What does it mean to have local book culture in the age of the Internet? What are the responsibilities, rewards and challenges of publishing small scale, locally, and outside the  hub of New York? The National Book Critics Circle gathers several key west coast publishers at City Lights Books to talk about the lively cultures of their presses.

Kate Gale is Managing Editor of Red Hen Press, Editor of the Los Angeles Review and President of the American Composers Forum in Los Angeles. She teaches in the Low Residency MFA program at the University of Nebraska in Poetry, Fiction and Creative Non-Fiction. She serves on the boards of A Room of Her Own Foundation and Poetry Society of America.

Stacey Lewis is Director of Publicity and Marketing at City Lights  Publishers where she has worked for over 17 years, collaborating with writers such as Howard Zinn, Ellen Ullman, Sesshu Foster, Bill Morgan, Hal Niedzviecki, Paul Madonna, Tim Wise, and Rebecca Brown. She lives in Berkeley, CA, with her husband and two sons.

Ethan Nosowsky is Editorial Director at McSweeney’s. He began his career at Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and was most recently Editor-at-Large at Graywolf Press. He has taught in the Creative Writing program at Columbia University and has written for Bookforum, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Threepenny Review.

Heidi Broadhead is Managing Editor of Wave Books, an independent Seattle-based publisher of poetry and work by poets. She has also contributed to Edible Seattle, Omnivoracious, Publicola, the Chicago Reader, and worked for 826 Seattle, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Seattle International Film Festival, and Children’s Museum, Seattle. She lives in Seattle with her husband and son.

Malcolm Margolin is executive director of Heyday, an independent nonprofit publisher and unique cultural institution, which he founded in 1974. Margolin is author of several books, including The Ohlone Way: Indian Life in the San Francisco – Monterey Bay Area, named by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of the hundred most important books of the twentieth-century by a western writer. He serves on the boards of two organizations he helped found, Bay Nature Institute and Alliance for California Traditional Artists.


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.


An Interview with Catherine Wagner

Catherine Wagner performing at City Lights.

Editor of the City Lights/Spotlight Poetry series Garrett Caples interviewed poet Catherine Wagner before her reading at City Lights at the end of October. She finishes her tour in New York on Dec. 12th at the Poetry Project.

They discussed performance and poetry, connecting with an audience, and the theory of William Blake’s “the bounding line,” which Wagner cites as the inspiration for her newest poetry collection Nervous Device.

“Wagner’s fourth collection contains poems of memory and dark artifice. She writes with an obscure, magnetic lens… the linguistic tightness of these poems are highlights of Wagner’s collection.”—Publisher’s Weekly

Nervous Device is such a smart book. You never know where the poems are going to take you, or when some startling, often cringe-making image or thought will intrude. Unable to settle into a comfortable rhetorical space, these poems reject simple claims to knowing something or doing right or changing the world. Rather, they move like an erratic insect stuck in a language bell jar. Brilliant, and disturbing.”—Jennifer Moxley

“Nervous device, the human machine, palpitating inside its own little bounding lines. These poems do everything the human device does, vibrating like an electrified tornado inside a glass jar, and make this reader profoundly alive to huge swathes of being. There is no machine for mastering the self (yet), but there are Cathy Wagner’s poems.”—Eleni Sikelianos

“The poems in Nervous Device resonate with a knowing nod to time and the difficulty and struggle of being sentient and intimate—of loving while being human. This is poetry connectivity: sexy, poignant, knowing. And the poems here make me feel possible.”—Hoa Nguyen

In Nervous Device, Catherine Wagner takes inspiration from William Blake’s “bounding line” to explore the poem as a body at the intersection between poet and audience. Using this figure as a model for various sexual, political, and economic interactions, Wagner’s poems shift between seductive lyricism and brash fragmentation as they negotiate the failure of human connection in the twilight of American empire. Intellectually informed, yet stubbornly insistent on their own objecthood, and taking a bewildering variety of forms, the poems of Nervous Device express a self-conscious skepticism about the potential for human connection even as they maintain an optimistically charged eroticism.

An Interview with Michael Long, Editor of I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters

On Wednesday, April 11, 2012, Michael Long spoke with City Lights Director of Marketing, Stacey Lewis, about his new book I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters (City Lights) at City Lights Bookstore.

I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters

Published on the centennial of his birth, and in anticipation of the 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington, here is Bayard Rustin’s life story told in his own words.

Bayard Rustin has been called the “lost prophet” of the civil rights movement. A master strategist and tireless activist, he is best remembered as the organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, one of the largest nonviolent protests ever held in the U.S. He brought Gandhi’s protest techniques to the American civil rights movement and played a deeply influential role in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., helping to mold him into an international symbol of nonviolence.

Despite these achievements, Rustin often remained in the background. He was silenced, threatened, arrested, beaten, imprisoned and fired from important leadership positions, largely because he was an openly gay man in a fiercely homophobic era.

Here we have Rustin in his own words in a collection of over 150 of his letters; his correspondents include the major progressives of his day — for example, Eleanor Holmes Norton, A. Philip Randolph, Roy Wilkins, Ella Baker, and of course, Martin Luther King, Jr.

Bayard Rustin’s eloquent, impassioned voice, his ability to chart the path “from protest to politics,” is both timely and deeply informative. As the Occupy movement ushers America into a pivotal election year, and as politicians and citizens re-assess their goals and strategies, these letters provide direct access to the strategic thinking and tactical planning that led to the successes of one of America’s most transformative and historic social movements.

[A note from editor Michael Long: I thank Nancy D. Kates and Bennett Singer, co-producers/directors of Brother Outsider, for my use of material in their excellent documentary about Rustin. I am especially grateful to Question Why Films, co-owned by Kates and Singer, for my use of an interview that Kates conducted with Dr. Robert Ascher. — ML]

With a foreword by Julian Bond.

Praise for I Must Resist:

“Rustin was a life-long agitator for justice. He changed America – and the world – for the better. This collection of his letters makes his life and his passions come vividly alive, and helps restore him to history, a century after his birth. I Must Resist makes for inspiring reading.” — John D’Emilio, author of Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin

“Bayard Rustin’s courageously candid letters, most of which have never before been available to researchers, provide fascinating glimpses into the private life of one of history’s most reticent public figures.” — Clayborne Carson, Founding Director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University

“These letters – poetic, incisive, passionate, and above all political in the broadest meaning of the word – span almost four decades not only of Bayard Rustin’s life but of the emotional and spiritual life of America. There is hardly a social justice movement during this time in which Rustin was not involved from pacifism to ending poverty to battles for sexual freedom. Michael Long’s brilliant editing has created a compelling historical narrative and reading these letters is to be witness to the ever-evolving conscience that guides our country’s endangered, but surviving, commitment to freedom.” — Michael Bronksi, author of A Queer History of the United States

“Bayard Rustin was a committed but very complicated person. This marvelously annotated collection of letters explain the spirit, and evolution of the thoughts and actions of an often overlooked key figure in the 20th century civil and human rights movement.” — Mary Frances Berry, Geraldine Segal Professor of American Social Thought, University of Pennsylvania, and former Chair United States Commission on Civil Rights

I Must Resist: Bayard Rustin’s Life in Letters provides fascinating insights into Bayard Rustin’s activist life. It includes hundreds of letters in Rustin’s own words that reveal his tireless and brave efforts to promote American civil rights, as well as his personal tragedies. All aspects of Rustin’s experiences are captured in these letters, including his struggles with opponents dedicated to silencing him as an international symbol of nonviolent protests against racial injustice. This remarkable and deeply moving publication is a must-read.” — William Julius Wilson, Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor, Harvard University.

An Interview with Rory O’Connor

On Tuesday, May 1, 2012, Rory O’Connor stopped by the City Lights publishing offices to speak with Stacey Lewis about his new book, Friends, Followers and the Future (City Lights).


There’s a revolution going on, as ever-accelerating developments in digital information technologies change nearly every aspect of how we live, work, play, do business, and engage in politics. Share and share alike—the numbers say it all as billions of people worldwide flock to online media and use social networks to discover and spread news and information.


In the process, ever-growing networks of “ordinary people” are using these powerful new tools to trim the influence long held by Big Business, Big Government, and Big Media. No longer just passive recipients, participants in social networks now regularly make and break news while organizing civic and political actions that bypass censors, outpace traditional media, attract massive audiences, and influence the rise and fall of brands, industries, politicians, and even governments.


In this insider’s look at how social media are transforming our world, Rory O’Connor explains the trends and explores what tech visionaries, media makers, political advisers, and businesspeople are saying about the meteoric rise of the various social networks of friends and followers, and what they bode for our future.


Rory O’Connor

Praise for Rory O’Connor

“Rory O’Connor is one of the smartest media guys around. He knows who’s spinning, who’s pandering, and who’s putting money in his own pocket at the expense of logic, reason, and the public good.”—Michael Wolff, Vanity Fair media critic




Rory O’Connor’s Friends, Followers and the Future

Praise for Rory O’Connor’s Friends, Followers and the Future:


“This is a timely book about a vital subject: How do we get information and is it reliable? With a ‘cold eye,’ author Rory O’Connor shows how traditional journalism cheapened its value by sabotaging its trust, and how the digital revolution wonderfully democratizes information yet often removes the journalistic curator, creating more noise, more ME and less WE news. If you want to understand the future of news, its opportunities and its pitfalls, read this book.”  Ken Auletta, author and New Yorker media writer


“Anyone who cares about the impact of the digital information revolution on democracy and culture can’t afford to miss FRIENDS, FOLLOWERS AND THE FUTURE — a story that moves as swiftly as the dizzying pace of change itself. Rory O’Connor combines journalistic integrity with a passionate belief in the power of ordinary people to change the world. Depending on your stake in the outcome, you will find this book inspiring, scary, or perhaps a bit of both.” — Andrew Heyward, Former President of CBS News


“This book is a comprehensive, up-to-date, and fair-minded survey of how social media are conveying — and perhaps transforming — what we want to know.” — Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education and author, most recently, of Truth, Beauty and Goodness Reframed


“With laser-like accuracy Rory O’Connor spotlights the key challenges and opportunities in the world of news and information, where technology has upended the old rules of how media is created and consumed. O’Connor’s wise, savvy Friends, Followers and the Future is an essential examination of how social media is transforming the lives of individuals and society at large. Read it and share it. — J. Max Robins, Vice President/Executive Director, The Paley Center for Media


Before Rory O’Connor writes, he researches, ask questions, and asks them again before calling the the insiders who are the targets of his inquiry. He is persistent, even relentless, as a hard-charging reporter, which is why his blogs, columns and this new book Friends, Followers and the Future: How Social Media are Changing Politics, Threatening Big Brands, And Killing Traditional Media (City Lights, 2012) leaves you questioning your own assumptions and often superficial take on the issue at hand. Personally, he is a refugee from old media and as a multi-media man (films, books, blogs, websites, etc) , an early adopter to the new. But he didn’t stop there: he is a practitioner who wants to know where all this is headed and how the digital innovators and entrepreneurs think about what they do. This is a book in the know with ideas that we will all need to know as we navigate our personal and collective futures. — Danny Schechter, News Dissector.com

An Interview with Aaron Shurin, author of the new poetry collection Citizen

Widely acclaimed for his lyrical language and innovative verse, Aaron Shurin brings the prose poem into new richness and complexity in Citizen.

Through shape-shifting sentences and sensuous imagery he explores the nuances of civic and domestic life, the twists and turns of desire, and the mysterious shimmer of objects. Traveling across the borders of cities and the boundaries of form, he crafts a dazzling vision of daily life as a citizen of the imagination.

We sat down with Aaron Shurin in the City Lights publishing office to talk about life, poetry and his new book.

Aaron Shurin is the author of eleven books, including the poetry collections Involuntary Lyrics (Omnidawn, 2005) and The Paradise of Forms (Talisman House, 1999), a Publishers Weekly Best Book; the prose collection Unbound: A Book of AIDS (Sun & Moon, 1997); and most recently, King of Shadows, a collection of personal essays, published by City Lights Books in 2008. His work has appeared in over thirty national and international anthologies, and been translated into seven languages

Shurin’s honors include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, the San Francisco Arts Commission, and the Gerbode Foundation. He is a Professor in the MFA in Writing Program at the University of San Francisco.