An Appreciation of Ralph J. Gleason

City Lights welcomed Toby Gleason to celebrate the release of two books: Music in the Air: The Selected Writings of Ralph J. Gleason and Conversations in Jazz: The Ralph J. Gleason Interviews, both edited by Gleason and both published by Yale University Press. He was joined by Al Young.

Music in the Air: The Selected Writings of Ralph J. Gleason collects in one volume the best cultural criticism and music writings from Gleason. With a foreword by Jann Wenner and introduction by Paul Scanlon, the book collects the best of his essays, interviews, liner notes, correspondence, and books in sections covering Jazz and Blues; Folk, Rock, and Pop; Comedy; and Politics and Culture.

The co-founder of Rolling Stone magazine, Ralph J. Gleason was among the most respected journalists, interviewers, and critics writing about popular music in the latter half of the twentieth century. As a longtime contributor to the San Francisco Chronicle, Down Beat, and Ramparts, his expertise and insights about music, musicians, and cultural trends were unparalleled, whether his subject was jazz, folk, pop, or rock and roll. He was the only music journalist included on President Richard Nixon’s infamous “Enemies List,” which Gleason himself considered “the highest honor a man’s country can bestow upon him.”

This sterling anthology, edited by Gleason’s son Toby, himself a forty-year veteran of the music business, spans Ralph J. Gleason’s four decades as popular music’s preeminent commentator. Drawing from a rich variety of sources, including Gleason’s books, essays, interviews, and LP record album liner notes, it is essential reading for writers, historians, scholars, and music lovers of every stripe.

Two-time Grammy Award winner Ralph J. Gleason (1917–1975) was the author of numerous articles and three highly regarded books on music as well as an acclaimed TV and documentary film producer. Toby Gleason is a veteran jazz radio producer, programmer, and host, and a former assistant editor at Rolling Stone.

Conversations in Jazz: The Ralph J. Gleason Interviews brings together for the first time rare and never-before-seen interviews between Ralph Gleason and fourteen of the greatest jazz musicians. These informal sessions, conducted mostly in Gleason’s Berkeley home, have never been transcribed and published in full until now. With a foreword and introductory noted by Ted Gioia, this collection gathers in one place remarkably candid conversations with many of the jazz greats of the twentieth century, from Coltrane to Parker to Mingus and Gillespie.

During his nearly forty years as a music journalist, Ralph J. Gleason recorded many in-depth interviews with some of the greatest jazz musicians of all time. These informal sessions, conducted mostly in Gleason’s Berkeley, California, home, have never been transcribed and published in full until now.

This remarkable volume, a must-read for any jazz fan, serious musician, or musicologist, reveals fascinating, little-known details about these gifted artists, their lives, their personas, and, of course, their music. Bill Evans discusses his battle with severe depression, while John Coltrane talks about McCoy Tyner’s integral role in shaping the sound of the Coltrane quartet, praising the pianist enthusiastically. Included also are interviews with Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, Quincy Jones, Jon Hendricks, and the immortal Duke Ellington, plus seven more of the most notable names in twentieth-century jazz.

Toby Gleason is the son of Ralph J. Gleason.

Al Young is a poet, novelist, essayist, screenwriter, educator, and former Poet Laureate of California. Muriel Johnson, Director of the California Arts Council declared: “Like jazz, Al Young is an original American voice.” Mr. Young’s has produced numerous novels, collections of poetry, essays, and memoirs. His work has appeared in literary journals and magazines including Paris Review, Ploughshares, Essence, The New York Times, Chicago Review, Seattle Review, Brilliant Corners: A Journal of Jazz & Literature, Chelsea, Rolling Stone, Gathering of the Tribes, and in anthologies including the Norton Anthology of African American Literature, and the Oxford Anthology of African American Literature.

 

Brynn Saito, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Percival Everett

Percival Everett, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Brynn Saito celebrating the release of Saito’s new collection of poetry, Power Made Us Swoon (published by Red Hen Press), at City Lights.

A lyrical journey through family legacies, silenced histories, and the possibilities of transformation, guided by the ruthless, witty, and vulnerable voice of a mythic woman warrior.

Guided by the character of the Woman Warrior–witty, swift, and ruthless in her wonder–readers of Brynn Saito’s second collection of poetry travel the terrain of personal and historical memory: narrative poems about family, farming towns, and the bravery of girlhood are interspersed with lyric poetry written from the voice of a stone found in a Japanese American internment camp during the wartime incarceration. What histories can be summoned with poetry? What are the forces shaping an American life in the 21st century? Car accidents, patriarchy, and television fall under this poet?s gaze, along with the intergenerational reverberations of historical trauma. As with The Palace of Contemplating Departure, Saito’s first award-winning collection, Power Made Us Swoon strives for wonder and speaks–in edgy and vulnerable tones–of the fraught journey toward a more just world. “Learn to lie to survive,” sings the woman warrior, “Learn to outlast the flame / learn the art of surprise.”

Brynn Saito is the author of the poetry collection The Palace of Contemplating Desire, winner of the Benjamin Saltman Award and forthcoming from Red Hen Press in March, 2013. Her poetry has been anthologized by Helen Vendler and Ishmael Reed; it has also appeared in Ninth Letter, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Pleiades, and Drunken Boat. Brynn was born in the Central Valley of California to a Korean-American mother and a Japanese-American father. She received an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in religious studies from NYU. Currently, Brynn lives in the Bay Area and teaches in San Francisco.

Percival Everett is the author of fourteen novels and three collections of short fiction including re:f(gesture), published by Red Hen Press. He is the recipient of the Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, the PEN/Oakland-Josephine Miles Award for Excellence in Literature (for his 1996 story collection Big Picture) and a New American Writing Award (for his 1990 novel Zulus). He has served as a judge for, among others, the 1997 National Book Award for fiction and the PEN/ Faulkner Award for Fiction in 1991. He currently teaches fiction writing, American studies, and critical theory  at the University of Southern California. He has worked as a musician, a ranch hand, and a high school teacher.

Maxine Hong Kingston is the aclaimed author of three novels and several works of non-fiction about the experiences of Chinese immigrants living in the United States. She is the winner of the National Medal of the Arts and was awarded the Northern California Book Award Special Award in Publishing for her anthology Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace.

Julien Poirier

Julien Poirier came to City Lights to celebrate the release of his latest poetry collection, Out of Print, No. 14 in City Lights Books’ Spotlight Poetry Series. He was joined by Elaine Kahn, author of Women in Public (No. 13 in the same series).

The third full-length collection by Julien Poirier, Out of Print is a truly bicoastal volume, reflecting the poet’s years in New York as well as his return to his Bay Area roots. Consider it a meetinghouse between late New York School and contemporary California surrealism, a series of quips intercepted from America’s underground poetry telegraph, or an absurdist mirror held up to consumerist culture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Julien Poirier is the author of several poetry collections, including El Golpe Chileño (Ugly Duckling, 2010), Stained Glass Windows of California (Ugly Duckling, 2012), and Way Too West (Bootstrap, 2015) and Out of Print (City Lights). In 2005, he published an experimental newspaper novel, Living! Go and Dream (Ugly Duckling). He is also the editor of an anthology of writing by Jack Micheline, One of a Kind (Ugly Duckling, 2008), and a book of travel journals by Bill Berkson, Invisible Oligarchs (Ugly Duckling, 2015). A founding member of Ugly Duckling Presse Collective, Poirier edited the newspaper New York Nights from 2001 to 2006. He has taught poetry in New York City public schools and at San Quentin State Prison. He lives in Berkeley with his wife and two daughters.

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).

Viet Thanh Nguyen & Maxine Hong Kingston

City Lights welcomed Viet Thanh Nguyen and Maxine Hong Kingston to discuss Nguyen’s new book, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War, published by Harvard University Press.

All wars are fought twice, the first time on the battlefield, the second time in memory. From the author of the bestselling novel The Sympathizer comes a searching exploration of the conflict Americans call the Vietnam War and Vietnamese call the American War—a conflict that lives on in the collective memory of both nations.

From a kaleidoscope of cultural forms—novels, memoirs, cemeteries, monuments, films, photography, museum exhibits, video games, souvenirs, and more—Nothing Ever Dies brings a comprehensive vision of the war into sharp focus. At stake are ethical questions about how the war should be remembered by participants that include not only Americans and Vietnamese but also Laotians, Cambodians, South Koreans, and Southeast Asian Americans. Too often, memorials valorize the experience of one’s own people above all else, honoring their sacrifices while demonizing the “enemy”—or, most often, ignoring combatants and civilians on the other side altogether. Visiting sites across the United States, Southeast Asia, and Korea, Viet Thanh Nguyen provides penetrating interpretations of the way memories of the war help to enable future wars or struggle to prevent them.

Drawing from this war, Nguyen offers a lesson for all wars by calling on us to recognize not only our shared humanity but our ever-present inhumanity. This is the only path to reconciliation with our foes, and with ourselves. Without reconciliation, war’s truth will be impossible to remember, and war’s trauma impossible to forget.

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

Maxine Hong Kingston is a Chinese American author and Professor Emerita at the University of California, Berkeley, where she graduated with a BA in English in 1962. Kingston has written three novels and several works of non-fiction about the experiences of Chinese immigrants living in the United States.

 

 

Ali Eteraz

Ali Eteraz reads from his novel, Native Believer (published by Akashic Books), at City Lights. He is joined by Vanessa Hua.

Ali Eteraz’s much-anticipated debut  is the story of M., a supportive husband, adventureless dandy, lapsed believer, and second-generation immigrant who wants nothing more than to host parties and bring children into the world as full-fledged Americans. As M.’s world gradually fragments around him—a wife with a chronic illness; a best-friend stricken with grief; a boss jeopardizing a respectable career—M. spins out into the pulsating underbelly of Philadelphia, where he encounters others grappling with fallout from the War on Terror. Among the pornographers and converts to Islam, punks, and wrestlers, M. confronts his existential degradation and the life of a second-class citizen. 

Darkly comic, provocative, and insightful, Native Believer is a startling vision of the contemporary American experience and the human capacity to shape identity and belonging at all costs.

Ali Eteraz is based at the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto. He is the author of the coming-of-age memoir Children of Dust (HarperCollins) and the surrealist short story collection Falsipedies & Fibsiennes (Guernica Ed.). Eteraz’s short fiction has appeared in the Chicago Quarterly Review, storySouth, and Crossborder, and his nonfiction has been highlighted by NPR, The New York Times, and the Guardian. Recently, Eteraz received the 3 Quarks Daily Arts & Literature Prize judged by Mohsin Hamid, and served as a consultant to the artist Jenny Holzer on a permanent art installation in Qatar. Eteraz has lived in the Dominican Republic, Pakistan, the Persian Gulf, and Alabama. Native Believer is his debut novel.

Vanessa Hua is an award-winning writer and journalist. For nearly two decades, she has been writing about Asia and the diaspora. She received a 2015 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award for Fiction, and is a past Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing at San Jose State University. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, The Atlantic, FRONTLINE/World, Washington Post, Guernica, ZYZZYVA, and elsewhere. A former staff writer at the San Francisco Chronicle, she has filed stories from China, South Korea, Panama, Burma and Ecuador. Deceit and Other Possibilities, her debut story collection, will be published this fall (Willow Books).

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.

Omar Musa

Omar Musa comes to City Lights to perform rhymes and then read from his novel, Here Come the Dogs, published by the New Press. Mighty Joe opens the show.

In small-town suburban Australia, three young men from three different ethnic backgrounds—one Samoan, one Macedonian, one not sure—are ready to make their mark. Solomon is all charisma, authority, and charm, a failed basketball player down for the moment but surely not out. His half-brother, Jimmy, bounces along in his wake, underestimated, waiting for his chance to announce himself. Aleks, their childhood friend, loves his mates, his family, and his homeland and would do anything for them. The question is, does he know where to draw the line?

Solomon, Jimmy, and Aleks are way out on the fringe of Australia, looking for a way in. Hip-hop, basketball, and graffiti give them a voice. Booze, women, and violence pass the time while they wait for their chance. Under the oppressive summer sun, their town has turned tinder-dry. All it’ll take is a spark.

As the surrounding hills roar with flames, the change storms in. But it’s not what they were waiting for. It never is.

Omar Musa is a Malaysian Australian rapper and poet from Queanbeyan, Australia. The author of Here Come the Dogs (The New Press), he has opened for Gil Scott Heron and performed at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York City. He attended University of California, Santa Cruz. He has released three hip-hop albums and two poetry books, and he received a standing ovation at TEDxSydney at the Sydney Opera House.

Ralph Nader

City Lights Bookstore welcomes Ralph Nader for the release of his new book, Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think  published by City Lights Books. Elaine Katzenberger, publisher and executive director of City Lights, opens the event. Matt Gonzalez introduces Ralph who talks about the main thrust of his new book, namely what normal citizens can do, right now, to break through corporate power and make change happen.http://www.citylights.com/Resources/titles/87286100290780/Images/87286100290780L.jpg

In Breaking Through Power, Nader draws from a lifetime waging—and often winning—David vs. Goliath battles against big corporations and the United States government. In this succinct, Tom Paine-style wake-up call, the iconic consumer advocate highlights the success stories of fellow Americans who organize change and work together to derail the many ways in which wealth manipulates politics, labor, media, the environment and the quality of national life today. Nader makes an inspired case about how the nation can—and must—be democratically managed by communities guided by the U.S. Constitution, not by the dictates of big businesses and the wealthy few. This is classic Ralph Nader, a crystallization of the core political beliefs and commitmImage result for ralph naderents that have driven his lifetime of advocacy for greater democracy.

Ralph Nader is a two-time Nieman Fellow who has been awarded for his political activism that focuses in the areas of consumer protection, environmentalism, and government reform causes. His work has been affected the passing of several pieces of legislation, such as  the Freedom of Information Act, the Consumer Product Safety Act, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and the Whistleblower Protection Act. Nader was the subject of the documentary film, An Unreasonable Man, which showed at the Sundance Film Festival in 2006.

 

Wes “Scoop” Nisker

Wes “Scoop” Nisker came to City Lights to celebrate the release of his latest book, You Are Not Your Fault And Other Revelations, published by Soft Skull Press.

 

In You Are Not Your Fault and Other Revelations, Wes draws on his diverse experiences delivering a collection that brims with the insight, humor and wisdom he is famous for.

Compiled for the first time, Wes’ best-known essays as well as a selection of recent and never before published work, Wes takes readers on both a cultural journey (a tour through the sixties, through the modern

environmental movement, the surge of Buddhism to the West) and a more personal one, exploring the motivation behind humanity’s search for spiritual enlightenment.

WES “SCOOP” NISKER is an award-winning broadcast journalist and commentator, a renowned Buddhist meditation teacher, a best selling author and a captivating performer. He is the author of the enduring classic Crazy Wisdom and the widely acclaimed Buddha’s Nature, and the editor of the Buddhist journal Inquiring Mind. An enduring San Francisco celebrity, having been on Bay Area radio for more than twenty-five years, Nisker is a teacher of Buddhist meditation and philosophy, and is located prominently in the group of our country’s most influential voices of spiritual transformation. He lives in Berkeley.

Jack Hirschman & Mahnaz Badihian

City Lights hosts Jack Hirschman and Mahnaz Badihian for a bilingual reading of the love poems of Rumi, in Farsi and in English.

JackHirschmanJack Hirschman is the former poet Laureate of San Francisco, a translator, and editor. His powerfully eloquent voice has set the tone for political poetry in the US for decades. Since leaving a teaching career in the ’60s, Hirschman has taken the free exchange of poetry and politics into the streets where he is, in the words of poet Luke Breit, “America’s most important living poet.” He is the author of numerous books of poetry, plus some 45 translations from a half a dozen languages, as well as the editor of anthologies and journals. Among his many volumes of poetry are All That’s Left, Frontlines, Endless Threshold, The Xibalba Arcane, and Lyripol (City Lights, 1976). Hirschman is a founding member of the Revolutionary Poets Brigade of San Francisco (RPB,2009), World Poetry Movement (WPM, Medellin, Colombia, 2011), and Member of the League of Revolutionaries for a New America (LRNA).

MahnazMahnaz Badihian is an Iranian born poet and translator whose work has been published into several languages worldwide, including Persian, Turkish, Italian, and Malayalam. She attended the Iowa Writer’s workshop with a focus on international poetry while practicing as a dentist in Iowa City. Her publications include two volumes of poetry in Persian and a best-selling translation of Pablo Neruda’s Book of Questions into Persian. Her first English language book is a critically acclaimed book of original English language poetry, From Zayandeh Rud to the Mississippi. She has an awarding winning selection of poetry (XIV Premio Letterario Internazionale Trofeo Penna d’Autore, Tornio) translated into Italian by Cristina Contili and Pirooz Ebrahimi. Currently, she resides in Northern California where she runs an online multilingual literary magazine, MahMag.org, in an effort to bring the poetry of the world together.

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.

Leonard Pitt

Leonard Pitt comes to City Lights to celebrate the release of his latest book, My Brain on Fire: Paris and Other Obsessions, published by Soft Skull Press.

This is Leonard Pitt’s story of growing up the misfit in Detroit in the 1940s and my-brain-on-fire50s. In a later age he would have been put on Ritalin and paraded before psychiatrists because he couldn’t pay attention in school. In 1962, at the end of a misguided foray towards a career in advertising he took the ultimate cure, a trip to Paris. He thought it would only be a visit. He stayed seven years. There in the City of Light, Leonard’s mind exploded. And it hasn’t stopped since.

Studying mime with master Etienne Decroux and living in Paris were the university he never knew. This inspiration unleashed a voracious appetite to understand the “why” of things. He asked a simple question, “Why did the ballet go up?” While building a theatre career performing and teaching, he embarked on a quest to study the origins of the ballet, the history of early American popular music, the pre-Socratic philosophers, early modern science, the European witch hunt, the history of Paris, and more. To his unschooled mind it all fits together. Who would see a historical arc between Louis XIV and Elvis Presley? Leonard does. And he’ll tell you about it.

Pitt-Leonard1

 

Leonard Pitt is an actor and author. He has written two books on Paris, Walks Through Lost Paris and Paris Postcards: The Golden Age, plus A Small Moment of Great Illumination, about the life of 17th century healer, Valentine Greatrakes. He currently co-directs The Flying Actor Studio, a conservatory for the study of physical theater located in San Francisco. He has performed and taught around the world and lives in Berkeley, California.

Reverend Billy

Reverend Billy Talen makes a visit to City Lights once again to speak about his new book titled The Earth Wants You. With the perfect blend of conviction and humor, the radical reverend offers an insightful critique of commercialism and its environmental impacts in the form of short monol 87286100270160Logues and sermons.

Reverend Billy and his choir of singing-activists are on the front lines of creative direct action, and here they offer up a distillation of the passion, the inspiration, and the hopes for love and survival that fuel their work. In a mix of essays, polemics, surrealist scenarios and news flashes from the frontlines, Reverend Billy answers the question, “What are we to do?” with a resounding chorus of “Take Action NOW!

*Simultaneous to the publication of this book is the album, fittingly called The Earth Wants You. The fourth official release from Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir, the eleven tracks on the record play like a joyful mission statement writ large: songs about climate change, revolution, empowerment, and community, reformist hymns sung by a disparate group of people all brought together by one common purpose.

 

 

Sara Majka and Naomi Williams

In conversation with Yiyun Li, authors Sara Majka & Naomi Williams make an appearance at City Lights to discuss their new books Cities I’ve Never Lived In (Sara Majka) and Landfalls (Naomi Williams).

About Cities I’ve Never Lived in: Fearlessly riding the line between imagination and experience, fact and fiction, the linked stories in Sara Majka’s debut collection offer intimate glimpses of a young New England woman whose cities-ive-neverlife must begin afresh after a divorce. Traveling the roads of Maine and the train tracks of Grand Central Station, moving from vast shorelines to the unmade beds of strangers, these fourteen stories circle the dreams of a narrator who finds herself turning to storytelling as a means of working through the world and of understanding herself. A book that upends our ideas of love and belonging, and which asks how much of ourselves we leave behind with each departure we make, Cities I’ve Never Lived In exposes, with great sadness and great humor, the ways in which we are most of all citizens of the places where we cannot stay.

About Landfalls: Landfalls is a gripping story of a dramatic eighteenth-century voyage of discovery. In her wildly inventive debut novel, Naomi J. Williams reimagines the historical Lapérouse expedition, a voyage of exploration that left Brest in 1785 with two frigates, more than two hundred men, and overblown Enlightenment ideals and expectations, in a brave attempt to circumnavigate the globe for science and the glory of France.

Deeply grounded in historical fact but refracted through a powerful imagination, Landfalls follows the exploits and heartbreaks not only of the men on the ships but also of the people affected by the voyage-indigenous people and other Europeans the explorers encountered, loved ones left waiting at home, and those who survived and remembered the expedition later. Each chapter is told from a different point of view and is set in a different part of the world, ranging from London to Tenerife, from Alaska to remote South Pacific islands to Siberia, and eventually back to France. The result is a beautifully written and absorbing tale of the high seas, scientific exploration, human tragedy, and the world on the cusp of the modern era.

Frank Lima Tribute

City Lights celebrates the release of Incidents of Travel in Poetry: New and Selected Poems, a collection of Latino poet and visionary Frank Lima’s most celebrated work, along with previously unpublished material. The evening included readings of Lima’s poems from editors Garrett Caples and Julien Poirier, and other guest readers including Cedar Sigo, Joseph Lease, Jackson Meazle, Rod Roland, Brian Lucas, and Chris Carosi.
This event was recorded in the Poetry Room at City Lights – toward the end of the reading (recorded on Mardi Gras), a band can be heard playing down in Kerouac Alley, which certainly added to the evening!


 

Protégé of Frank O’Hara, Kenneth Koch, and Allen Ginsberg, the streetwise Puerto Rican/Mexican poet Frank Lima was tfrank limahe only Latino member of the New York School during its historical heyday. Born in Spanish Harlem in 1939, he endured a difficult and violent childhood, discovering poetry as an inmate of the juvenile drug treatment center under the tutelage of the painter, Sherman Drexler, who introduced him to his poet friends. Rubbing shoulders with everyone from Edwin Denby and Joe Brainard to Jasper Johns and the de Koonings, Lima appeared in key New York School anthologies and published two collections of his own with prominent publishers. In the late seventies, Lima left the poetry world to pursue a successful career as a chef, and though he rarely published, and his work fell out of circulation, he continued to write a poem a day until his death in 2013.

Incidents of Travel in Poetry is a landmark re-introduction to the work of this major Latino American poet. Beginning with poems from Inventory (1964), his installment in the legendary Tibor de Nagy poetry series, Incidents includes selections from Lima’s previous volumes, tracing his development from his early snapshots of street life to his later surrealist-influenced abstract lyricism. The bulk of the collection comes from his later unpublished manuscripts, and thus Incidents represents the full range of Lima’s work for the first time. Edited by poets Garrett Caples and Julien Poirier, and including a biographical introduction.

Nayomi Munaweera Returns

In celebration of her second novel, What Lies Between Us (from St. Martins Press), author Nayomi Munaweera returns visit to City Lights for an interview with her sister, discussion, and a reading from an excerpt of the novel.

what liesIn the idyllic hill country of Sri Lanka, a young girl grows up with her loving family; but even in the midst of this paradise, terror lurks in the shadows. When tragedy strikes, she and her mother must seek safety by immigrating to America. There the girl reinvents herself as an American teenager to survive, with the help of her cousin; but even as she assimilates and thrives, the secrets and scars of her past follow her into adulthood. In this new country of freedom, everything she has built begins to crumble around her, and her hold on reality becomes more and more tenuous. When the past and the present collide, she sees only one terrible choice.

From Nayomi Munaweera, the award-winning author of Island of a Thousand Mirrors, comes the confession of a woman, driven by the demons of her past to commit a single and possibly unforgivable crime.

Learning to Live, Love, and Die in the Anthropocene

War veteran, journalist, author, and Princeton PhD candidate Roy Scranton, joined by Dale Jamieson, author of Love in the Anthropocene, to celebrate the release of Learning to Die in the Anthropocene, a book that is beyond just a call for action against global climate change, but a journey through a new way of thinking about civilization and humankind.

87286100064510MOur world is changing. Rising seas, spiking temperatures, and extreme weather imperil global infrastructure, crops, and water supplies. Conflict, famine, plagues, and riots menace from every quarter. From war-stricken Baghdad to the melting Arctic, human-caused climate change poses a danger not only to political and economic stability, but to civilization itself . . . and to what it means to be human. Our greatest enemy, it turns out, is ourselves. The warmer, wetter, more chaotic world we now live in—the Anthropocene—demands a radical new vision of human life.

In this bracing response to climate change, Roy Scranton combines memoir, reportage, philosophy, and Zen wisdom to explore what it means to be human in a rapidly evolving world, taking readers on a journey through street protests, the latest findings of earth scientists, a historic UN summit, millennia of geological history, and the persistent vitality of ancient literature. Expanding on his influential New York Times essay (the #1 most-emailed article the day it appeared, and selected for Best American Science and Nature Writing 2014), Scranton responds to the existential problem of global warming by arguing that in order to survive, we must come to terms with our mortality.

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.

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).

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

 

Stars Seen in Person: A Tribute to John Wieners

City Lights celebrates the life and work of renowned 20th-century American poet John Wieners with readings from the newly released Stars Seen in Person: Selected Journals by John Wieners (published by City Lights) and Supplication: Selected Poetry of John Wieners (published by Wave Books). Guest readers Garrett Caples, Michael Seth Stewart, Micah Ballard, Cedar Sigo, Duncan McNaughton, Bill Berkson, and surprise guest reader Diane Di Prima, gather in City Lights’ stuffy basement to share some of Wieners’ most loved pieces and to pay tribute to a master of the form who truly went under-appreciated.

WienersA contributor to Donald Allen’s seminal New American Poetry anthology, John Wieners was on the periphery of many of the twentieth century’s most important avant-garde poetry scenes, from Black Mountain and the Boston Renaissance to the New York School and the SF Renaissance. Having achieved cult status among poets, Wieners has also become known for the compelling nature of his journals, a mixture of early drafts of poems, prose fragments, lists, and other fascinating minutiae of the poet’s imagination. Stars Seen in Person: Selected Journals of John Wieners collects four of his previously unpublished journals from the period between 1955 and 1969. The first journal depicts a young, openly gay, self-described “would-be poet” dashing around bohemian Boston with writer and artist friends, pre-drugs and pre-fame. By the last book, decimated by repeated institutionalizations (the first for drug-related psychosis, the rest the consequence of the first) and personal tragedies, Wieners is broken down and in great pain, but still writing honestly and with detail about the life he’s left with. These journals capture a post-war bohemian world that no longer exists, depicted through the prism of Wieners’ sense of glamour.

John Wieners studied with Charles Olson at Black Mountain College, and later edited the small magazine Measure. He lived for a year and a half in San Francisco, where he wrote his breakthrough book, Hotel Wentley Poems (1958). In the early seventies he settled into an apartment on Boston’s Beacon Hill, where he lived and wrote until his death in 2002.

Michael Seth Stewart lives in New York City. He recently earned his PhD, editing the complete letters of John Wieners. He teaches literature and film studies at Hunter College. He also edited The Sea Under the House: The Correspondence of John Wieners and Charles Olson (Lost & Found).

Advance praise for Stars Seen in Person:

“Like Rimbaud in Season in Hell, or Baudelaire with Intimate Journals, there’s an unguarded spark and trust in John Wieners because impulse and imagination reign supreme. In 1955 he writes, “I shall try the only true thing I want to do. I shall go to my poems.” Predating The Hotel Wentley Poems, moving through Ace of Pentacles, and ushering us into his life before Nerves, Stars Seen in Person further illuminates John as our future/former best unkept secret.”––Micah Ballard

“Thanks to Michael Seth Stewart’s editorial legerdemain, at long last we have the magnificent John Wieners here before us, in his full undressed splendor: poet, stargazer, philosopher, shaman, flâneur, survivor. His journals––an inspiring monument, filled with taut provocations and purple illuminations––are valuable as cultural history, as lyric performance, as uninhibited autobiography, and as a motley, genre-defying epitome of gesamtkunstwerk aesthetic possibilities that seem as fresh and enticing as anything being dreamt up today.”––Wayne Koestenbaum

Nelson George

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

Nelson George is an author, filmmaker, and lifelong resident of Brooklyn. His novels include the first two in his D Hunter mystery series, The Accidental Hunter and The Plot Against Hip Hop. Among his many nonfiction works are The Death of Rhythm & Blues, Hip Hop America, and the recently published The Hippest Trip in America: Soul Train and the Evolution of Culture & Style. As a filmmaker he’s directed the documentaries Brooklyn Boheme for Revolt, The Announcement for ESPN, and Finding the Funk for VH1. The Lost Treasures of R&B, the third book in his D Hunter mystery series, is his latest novel.Adam Mansbach is a poet, novelist, and screenwriter. His fiction and essays have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, Esquire, GQ,  the Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, and on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. He is the author of Angry Black White Boy, The End Of The Jews, Shackling Water, Rage is Back, and the New York Times Bestseller Go The Fuck To Sleep.  He lives in Berkeley, California.

Critical praise for The Hippest Trip in America:

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

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

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

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

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

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

“A loving history.” —Pitchfork.com

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

ZYZZYVA 30th Anniversary Party

Zyzzyva celebrates its 30th Anniversary at City Lights!

hosted by Laura Cogan and Oscar Villalon

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

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

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

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

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