Elif Batuman

City Lights presents Elif Batuman who discusses her new novel, The Idiot, published by Penguin Press. http://www.citylights.com/Resources/titles/87286100643900/Images/87286100643900L.jpg

A portrait of the artist as a young woman. A novel about not just discovering but inventing oneself.

The year is 1995, and email is new. Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, arrives for her freshman year at Harvard. She signs up for classes in subjects she has never heard of, befriends her charismatic and worldly Serbian classmate, Svetlana, and, almost by accident, begins corresponding with Ivan, an older mathematics student from Hungary. Selin may have barely spoken to Ivan, but with each email they exchange, the act of writing seems to take on new and increasingly mysterious meanings.

At the end of the school year, Ivan goes to Budapest for the summer, and Selin heads to the Hungarian countryside, to teach English in a program run by one of Ivan’s friends. On the way, she spends two weeks visiting Paris with Svetlana. Selin’s summer in Europe does not resonate with anything she has previously heard about the typical experiences of American college students, or indeed of any other kinds of people. For Selin, this is a journey further inside herself: a coming to grips with the ineffable and exhilarating confusion of first love, and with the growing consciousness that she is doomed to become a writer.

With superlative emotional and intellectual sensitivity, mordant wit, and pitch-perfect style, Batuman dramatizes the uncertainty of life on the cusp of adulthood. Her prose is a rare and inimitable combination of tenderness and wisdom; its logic as natural and inscrutable as that of memory itself. The Idiot is a heroic yet self-effacing reckoning with the terror and joy of becoming a person in a world that is as intoxicating as it is disquieting. Batuman’s fiction is unguarded against both life’s affronts and its beauty–and has at its command the complete range of thinking and feeling which they entail.http://www.citylights.com/html/WYSIWYGfiles/images/elif.jpg

Elif Batuman has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 2010. She is the author of The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them. The recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, and a Paris Review Terry Southern Prize for Humor, she also holds a PhD in comparative literature from Stanford University.

Deepak Unnikrishnan

City Lighttp://www.citylights.com/Resources/titles/87286100583950/Images/87286100583950L.jpghts welcomes Deepak Unnikrishnan in conversation with Shanthi Sekaran in celebrating his new award winning novel, Temporary People from Restless Books.

In the United Arab Emirates, foreign nationals constitute over 80% of the population. Brought in to construct the towering monuments to wealth that bristle the skylines of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, this labor force works without the rights of citizenship, endures miserable living conditions, and is eventually required to leave the country. Until now, the humanitarian crisis of the so-called “guest workers” of the Gulf has barely been addressed in fiction. With his stunning, mind-altering book Temporary People, debut author Deepak Unnikrishnan delves into their histories, myths, struggles, and triumphs, and illuminates the ways in which temporary status affects psyches, families, memories, stories, and languages.

Combining the irrepressible linguistic invention of Salman Rushdie and the darkly funny satirical vision of George Saunders, Deepak Unnikrishnan presents twenty-eight linked stories that careen from construction workers who shapeshift into luggage and escape a labor camp, to a woman who stitches back together the bodies of those who’ve fallen from buildings in progress, to a man who grows ideal workers designhttp://www.citylights.com/html/WYSIWYGfiles/images/deepak.jpeged to live twelve years and then perish—until they don’t, and found a rebel community in the desert. In this polyphony of voices, Unnikrishnan brilliantly maps a new, unruly global English, and in giving substance and identity to the anonymous workers of the Gulf, he highlights the disturbing ways in which “progress” on a global scale is bound up with dehumanization.

Deepak Unnikrishnan is a writer and taleteller from Abu Dhabi (and now, Chicago). He has lived on the East Coast and in the Midwest, reciting and mining his myths in Teaneck, New Jersey, Brooklyn, New York, and Chicago’s North and South sides. He has studied and taught at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and presently teaches at New York University Abu Dhabi. Temporary People, his first book, was the inaugural winner of the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing.

Shanthi Sekaran teaches creative writing at California College of the Arts, and is a member of the Portuguese Artists Colony and the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. Her work has appeared in Best New American Voices and Canteen, and online at Zyzzyva and Mutha Magazine. Her first novel, The Prayer Room, was published by MacAdam Cage. She recently released a new novel: Lucky Boy from G.P. Putnam & Sons.

Logic Magazine First Issue Release Party

http://www.citylights.com/html/WYSIWYGfiles/images/logic.jpgCity Lights welcomes Logic‘s founding editors, Ben Tarnoff, Moira Weigel, Jim Fingal, Christa Hartsock and Logic contributors Tim Hwang, Miriam Posner, and Conrad Amenta, in telling the story of technology. City Lights celebrates their very first issue!

Logic is a new magazine devoted to technology and society. Please join us for a celebration of their debut issue, “Intelligence,” which explores how technology works—and whom it works for. Hear thier editors read from our founding manifesto, and listen to contributors tackle topics as varied as: coding’s gender crisis, the failure of collective intelligence in the Age of Trump, and the industrialization of medicine through software.

Learn more about the magazine, and read their manifesto, at logicmag.io.

Ben Tarnoff writes about technology and politics for The Guardian and Jacobin. His most recent book is The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature.

Moira Weigel writes about gender and technology for The New York Times, The Guardian, and The New Republic. She is the author of Labor Love: The Invention of Dating.

Jim Fingal is a software developer and the Head of Product Engineering at Amino. He is the co-author, with John D’Agata, of The Lifespan of a Fact.

Christa Hartsock is a software developer and a 2017 Code for America Fellow.

Tim Hwang is a Fellow at Data & Society and has worked with the Berkman Center, Creative Commons, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Institute for the Future.

Miriam Posner teaches in the Digital Humanities program at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Conrad Amenta writes about video games and culture for Kill Screen and works as a healthcare researcher in San Francisco.

Shakespeare and Company Celebration

Editor Krista Halverson and guest speakers celebrate the release of Shakespeare and Company, Paris: A History of the Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart, published by Shakespeare and Company Paris and edited with introduction by Krista Halverson. Foreword by Jeanette Winterson. Epilogue by Sylvia Whitman.

A copiously illustrated account of City Lights’ sister store, the famed Paris bookstore on its 65th anniversary.

This first-ever history of the legendary bohemian bookstore in Paris interweaves essays and poetry from dozens of writers associated with the shop–Allen Ginsberg, Anaïs Nin, Ethan Hawke, Robert Stone and Jeanette Winterson, among others–with hundreds of never-before-seen archival pieces, including photographs of James Baldwin, William Burroughs and Langston Hughes, plus a foreword by the celebrated British novelist Jeanette Winterson and an epilogue by Sylvia Whitman, the daughter of the store’s founder, George Whitman. The book has been edited by Krista Halverson, director of the newly founded Shakespeare and Company publishing house.

George Whitman opened his bookstore in a tumbledown 16th-century building just across the Seine from Notre-Dame in 1951, a decade after the original Shakespeare and Company had closed. Run by Sylvia Beach, it had been the meeting place for the Lost Generation and the first publisher of James Joyce’s Ulysses. (This book includes an illustrated adaptation of Beach’s memoir.) Since Whitman picked up the mantle, Shakespeare and Company has served as a home-away-from-home for many celebrated writers, from Jorge Luis Borges to Ray Bradbury, A.M. Homes t

o Dave Eggers, as well as for young authors and poets. Visitors are invited not only to read the books in the library and to share a pot of tea, but sometimes also to live in the bookstore itself–all for free.

More than 30,000 people have stayed at Shakespeare and Company, fulfilling Whitman’s vision of a “socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore.” Through the prism of the shop’s history, the book traces the lives of literary expats in Paris from 1951 to the present, touching on the Beat Generation, civil rights, May ’68 and the feminist movement–all while pondering that perennial literary question, “What is it about writers and Paris?”

Krista Halverson is the director of Shakespeare and Company bookstore’s publishing venture. Previously, she was the managing editor of Zoetrope: All-Story, the art and literary quarterly published by Francis Ford Coppola, which has won several National Magazine Awards for Fiction and numerous design prizes. She was responsible for the magazine’s art direction, working with guest designers including Lou Reed, Kara Walker, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Zaha Hadid, Wim Wenders and Tom Waits, among others.

Jeanette Winterson‘s first novel, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, was published in 1985. In 1992 she was one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists. She has won numerous awards and is published around the world. Her memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, was an international bestseller. Her latest novel, The Gap of Time, is a “cover version” of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.

Sylvia Whitman is the owner of Shakespeare and Company bookstore, which her father opened in 1951. She took on management of the shop in 2004, when she was 23, and now co-manages the bookstore with her partner, David Delannet. Together they have opened an adjoining cafe, as well as launched a literary festival, a contest for unpublished novellas and a publishing arm.

Hot Books Inaugural Party

City Lights celebrates an exciting new publishing venture!

Hosted by David Talbot with Rebecca Gordon, Nicholas Schou, and Alexander Zaitchik.http://www.citylights.com/html/WYSIWYGfiles/images/HotBooks.jpg

Our body politic has grown sluggish and dull-witted, stuffed with a steady diet of junk media and corporate propaganda. It’s time to light a fire under this slumbering giant, American democracy. It’s time to think dangerous thoughts. Enter Hot Books. The Hot Books series will seek to live up to its name – offering tightly-written books (no longer than 40,000 words) that passionately address the most burning issues of our day. Some Hot Books will take the form of argument and storytelling. Others will be works of investigative journalism, trying to fill the void left by too many newspapers and magazines in the digital age, when in-depth reporting and editorial budgets have been severely cut back. Whether they are searing collections of essays or works of crusading journalism, Hot Books will draw inspiration from that great prophetic tradition of speaking truth to power and enlightening the public. Hot Books authors will dare to speak the unspeakable.

Three new books are celebrated:

American Nuremberg: The US Officials Who Should Be Prosecuted for Post 9/11 War Crimes – by Rebecca Gordon

Spooked: How the CIA Manipulates the Media and Hoodwinks Hollywood – by Nicholas Schou

The Gilded Rage: A Wild Ride Through Donald Trump’s America – by Alexander Zaitchik

David Talbot dreamed up Hot Books in partnership with Tony Lyons, publisher of the independent book company Skyhorse. Talbot is the founder and former editor-in-chief of Salon. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller, Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years, the national bestseller, Season of the Witch, and, most recently, The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA and the Rise of America’s Secret Government. Talbot was a senior editor at Mother Jones magazine, and his writing has appeared in Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, Time, The Guardian and other publications. He lives in San Francisco.

Rikki Ducornet

City Lights welcomes Rikki Ducornet, reading from her new novel Brightfellow published by Coffee House Press.

A feral boy comes of age on a campus decadent with starched sheets, sweating cocktails, ahttp://www.citylights.com/Resources/titles/87286100362450/Images/87286100362450L.jpgnd homemade jams. Stub is the cause of that missing sweater, the pie that disappeared off the cooling rack. Then Stub meets Billy, who takes him in, and Asthma, who enchants him, and all is found, then lost. A fragrant, voluptuous novel of imposture, misplaced affection, and emotional deformity.http://www.citylights.com/html/WYSIWYGfiles/images/rikki.jpeg

An artist and writer, Rikki Ducornet has illustrated books by Robert Coover, Jorge Luis Borges, Forrest Gander, and Joanna Howard. Her paintings have been exhibited widely, including, most recently, at the Pierre Menard Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Salvador Allende Museum in Santiago, Chile.

Justin Chin Tribute

City Lighhttp://www.citylights.com/Resources/titles/87286100047050/Images/87286100047050L.jpgts Booksellers celebrates the release of Justin Chin: Selected Works hosted by Jennifer Joseph with readings and remembrances by Kevin Killian, Rabih Alameddine, Henry Machtay, Larry-Bob Roberts, Thea Hillman, Maw Shein Win, Alvin Orloff , and Daphne Gottlieb.

Justin Chin’s fearless and fierce voice was resolute in relating his worldview, whether directly or through metaphorical language. As a queer Asian American, born and raised in Southeast Asia within a devoutly Christian, ethnically Chinese family of medical professionals, Chin’s early life experience informed his writing and framed his point of view. In his literary works, the seemingly conflicted duality of existence is paramount: sacred and profane, saints and sinners, health and illness, hope and despair, life and death. His works also explore his experience of living with HIV, which progressed into AIDS in his final years.

This unique collection of Chin’s literary legacy will serve as both a primer for those new to his works, as well as a loving tribute by those writers who knew him and his work best. Notable literary figures pay tribute to the poet/writer with personal commentaries on works selected from his seven books.

Among many others, contributing writers include R. Zamora Linmark (Rolling the R’s), Michelle Tea (How To Grow Up), Timothy Liu (Don’t Go Back To Sleep), and Lois-Ann Yamanaka (Night at the Pahala Theatre).http://www.citylights.com/html/WYSIWYGfiles/images/JustinChin.jpg

Justin Chin (1969-2015) was the award-winning author of four poetry books, two essay collections, one book each of short fiction, and text-based performance art works. His writing appeared in literary magazines, including Beloit Poetry Journal, and anthologies, including American Poetry: The Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon). He taught at UC Santa Cruz and at San Francisco State University. He was a recipient of fellowships and grants from the California Arts Council, Djerassi Foundation, Franklin Furnace Fund, PEN American Center, and PEN Center USA West, among others.

 

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.

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).

Jonathon Keats on Buckminster Fuller

Jonathon Keats celebrates the release of You Belong to the Universe: Buckminster Fuller and the Future (Oxford University Press) at City Lights.

A self-professed “comprehensive anticipatory design scientist,” the inventor Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) was undoubtedly a visionary. Fuller’s creations often bordered on the realm of science fiction, ranging from the freestanding geodesic dome to the three-wheel Dymaxion car to a bathroom requiring neither plumbing nor sewage. Yet in spite of his brilliant mind and life-long devotion to serving mankind, Fuller’s expansive ideas were often dismissed, and have faded from public memory since his death.

You Belong to the Universe documents Fuller’s six-decade quest to “make the world work for one hundred percent of humanity.” Critic and experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats sets out to revive Fuller’s unconventional practice of comprehensive anticipatory design, placing Fuller’s philosophy in a modern context and dispelling much of the mythology surrounding Fuller’s life. Keats argues that Fuller’s life and ideas, namely doing “the most with the least,” are now more relevant than ever as humanity struggles to meet the demands of an exploding world population with finite resources. Delving deeply into Buckminster Fuller’s colorful world, Keats applies Fuller’s most important concepts to present-day issues, arguing that his ideas are now not only feasible, but necessary.

From transportation to climate change, urban design to education, You Belong to the Universe demonstrates that Fuller’s holistic problem-solving techniques may be the only means of addressing some of the world’s most pressing issues. Keats’s timely book challenges each of us to become comprehensive anticipatory design scientists, providing the necessary tools for continuing Fuller’s legacy of improving the world.

Jonathon Keats is a writer, artist and experimental philosopher. He is recently the author of the story collection The Book of the Unknown (Random House), winner of the American Library Association’s 2010 Sophie Brody Medal, as well as Virtual Words: Language on the Edge of Science and Technology (2010) and Forged: Why Fakes are the Great Art of Our Age (2013), both published by OUP.

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.

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.

Elizabeth Percer

City Lights welcomed Elizabeth Percer to celebrate the release of her novel, All Stories Are Love Stories, published by HarperCollins.

percer2All Stories Are Love Stories follows a group of survivors thrown together in the aftermath of two major earthquakes that strike San Francisco within an hour of each other. Among the survivors are a motley crew of about a dozen individuals who have found shelter in the auditorium of the Nob Hill Masonic and Performing Arts Center.

There is Max, who is still haunted by an abandonment long ago; Vashti, who has lost several people in her life…but she can’t stop thinking about one in particular: Max, the one who got away; and Gene, a geologist from Stanford who knows too much about the earthquakes happening around them. As the night goes on, and fires begin around the city, Max and Vashti, trapped in the Masonic Temple, have to finally confront each other while Gene embarks on a frantic search around the city to find his partner, Franklin, who isn’t answering the phone. By morning nothing will look the same. A beautiful, lyrical novel about the power of nature, the resilience of survival, and most importantly, love.

Percer

Elizabeth Percer is the author of An Uncommon Education. Her poetry has been published widely, and she has been twice honored by the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Foundation and nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize. She received a B.A. in English from Wellesley, a Ph.D. in arts education from Stanford University, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship for the National Writing Project at Berkeley. Percer’s academic publications on art, the education of the imagination, and writing have been published and presented internationally. She lives in California.

Jonathan Lee

Jonathan Lee comes to City Lights to celebrate the release of his novel, High Dive. He is joined by author Colin Winnette in this event co-sponsored by Electric Literature.

In September 1984, a bomb was planted in the Grand Hotel in Brighton, England, set to explode on the day Margaret Thatcher and her entire cabinet would be staying there. High Dive takes us inside this audacious assassination attempt, and also into the hearts and minds of a group of unforgettable characters. Nimbly weaving together fact and fiction, comedy and tragedy, the story switches among the perspectives of Dan, a young IRA bomb maker; Moose, a former star athlete gone to seed, now the career-minded deputy hotel manager; and Freya, his teenage daughter, trying to decide what comes after high school. A novel of laughter and heartbreak, this is an indelible portrait of clashing loyalties, doubt, guilt, and regret, and of how individuals become the grist of history.

 

Jonathan Lee is a British writer whose recent short stories have appeared in Tin House, Granta, and Narrative, among other magazines. High Dive is his first novel to be published in the U.S. He lives in Brooklyn, where he is an editor at the literary journal A Public Space, a contributing editor for Guernica, and a regular contributor to The Paris Review Daily.

 

Colin Winnette is the author of several books, most recently, Haints Stay (Two Dollar Radio) and the SPD best seller COYOTE. He is the associate editor at PANK magazine. His writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, the Believer, Lucky Peach, and numerous other publications. He lives in San Francisco.

Electric Literature is an independent publisher whose mission is to guide writers and readers through a rapidly evolving publishing landscape. By embracing new technologies and mixed media, collaborating with other publishers, and engaging the literary community online and in-person, Electric Literature aims to support writers while broadening the audience of literary fiction, and ensure that literature remains a vibrant presence in popular culture.”

Of Poetry and Protest

City Lights celebrates the release of Of Poetry and Protest: From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin, a stunning new anthology that illuminates today’s black experience through the voices of our most transformative and powerful African American poets. Michael Warr, one of the editors of the anthology, hosts the event, which features readings by Devorah Major, D. Scott Miller, and others.

Included in this extraordinary volume are the poems of 43 of America’s most talented African American wordsmiths, including Pulitzer Prize–winning poets Rita Dove, Natasha Tretheway, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Tracy K. Smith, as well as the work of other luminaries such as Elizabeth Alexander, Ishmael Reed, and Sonia Sanchez. Included are poems such as “No Wound of Exit” by Patricia Smith, “We Are Not Responsible” by Harryette Mullen, and “Poem for My Father” by Quincy Troupe. Each is accompanied by a photograph of the poet along with a first-person biography. The anthology also contains personal essays on race such as “The Talk” by Jeannine Amber and works by Harry Belafonte, Amiri Baraka, and The Reverend Dr. William Barber II, architect of the Moral Mondays movement, as well as images and iconic political posters of the Black Lives Matter movement, Malcolm X, and the Black Panther Party. Taken together, Of Poetry and Protest gives voice to the current conversation about race in America while also providing historical and cultural context. It serves as an excellent introduction to African American poetry and is a must-have for every reader committed to social justice and racial harmony.

Michael Warr received a Creative Work Fund award for “Tracing Poetic Memory.” He is deputy director of the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco.

 

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.

Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax

City Lights hosted an evening of discussion and readings with author Michael McGregor, John Beer, and S.T. Georgiou to celebrate the release of Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax, published by Fordham University Press.

RobertLaxA companion piece to Thomas Merton’s bestselling autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain, Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax tells the story of Merton’s best friend and early spiritual inspiration. Written by a close friend of Lax, Pure Act gives an intimate view of a friendship and a life that affected Merton in profound ways. It was Lax, a daringly original poet himself, who encouraged Merton to begin writing poetry and Lax who told him he should desire to be a saint rather than just a Catholic. To the end of Merton’s life, Lax was his spiritual touchstone and closest friend.

Pure Act tells the story of poet Robert Lax, whose quest to live a true life as both an artist and a spiritual seeker inspired Thomas Merton, Jack Kerouac, William Maxwell and a host of other writers, artists and ordinary people. Known in the U.S. primarily as Merton’s best friend and in Europe as a daringly original avant-garde poet, Lax left behind a promising New York writing career to travel with a circus, live among immigrants in post-war Marseilles and settle on a series of remote Greek islands where he learned and recorded the simple wisdom of the local people. Born a Jew, he became a Catholic and found the authentic community he sought in Greek Orthodox fishermen and sponge divers.

Written by Michael McGregor, who met Lax in Greece when he was a young seeker himself and visited him regularly over fifteen years, Pure Act is an intimate look at an extraordinary but little-known life. Much more than just a biography, it’s a tale of adventure, an exploration of friendship, an anthology of wisdom, and a testament to the liberating power of living an uncommon life.

Rob Roberge

Author Rob Roberge appeared for a City Lights event to celebrate the release of Liar, a darkly funny, intense memoir about mental illness, memory and storytelling, published by Crown Books. Joshua Mohr, who was scheduled to appear as well, was unable to attend and instead Gina Frangello joined Rob in conversation about his writing process, revisiting trauma, and grappling with mental illness in the modern world.Rob Roberge AP - Credit Dirk Vandenberg

When Rob Roberge learns that he’s likely to have developed a progressive memory-eroding disease from years of hard living and frequent concussions, he is terrified by the prospect of becoming a walking shadow. In a desperate attempt to preserve his identity, he sets out to (somewhat faithfully) record the most formative moments of his life—ranging from the brutal murder of his childhood girlfriend, to a diagnosis of rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, to opening for famed indie band Yo La Tengo at The Fillmore in San Francisco. But the process of trying to remember his past only exposes just how fragile the stories that lay at the heart of our self-conception really are.

As Liar twists and turns through Roberge’s life, it turns the familiar story of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll on its head. Blackly comic and brutally frank, it offers a remarkable portrait of a down and out existence cobbled together across the country, from musicians’ crashpads around Boston, to seedy bars popular with sideshow freaks in Florida, to a painful moment of reckoning in the scorched Wonder Valley desert of California. As Roberge struggles to keep addiction and mental illness from destroying the good life he has built in his better moments, he is forced to acknowledge the increasingly blurred line between the lies we tell others and the lies we tell ourselves.

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.

Finn Brunton

FinnFinn Brunton joined City Lights to celebrate the release of Obfuscation: A User’s Guide for Privacy and Protest, published by MIT Press. At the event, Brunton discussed the meaning of obfuscation, explained why it’s necessary to fight against data collection and theft, and took questions about the future of surveillance and what we can do right now to combat it.

With Obfuscation, Finn Brunton and Helen Nissenbaum mean to start a revolution. They are calling us not to the barricades but to our computers, offering us ways to fight today’s pervasive digital surveillance—the collection of our data by governments, corporations, advertisers, and hackers. To the toolkit of privacy protecting techniques and projects, they propose adding obfuscation: the deliberate use of ambiguous, confusing, or misleading information to interfere with surveillance and data collection projects. Brunton and Nissenbaum provide tools and a rationale for evasion, noncompliance, refusal, even sabotage—especially for average users, those of us not in a position to opt out or exert control over data about ourselves. Obfuscation will teach users to push back, software developers to keep their user data safe, and policy makers to gather data without misusing it.

Brunton and Nissenbaum present a guide to the forms and formats that obfuscation has taken and explain how to craft its implementation to suit the goal and the adversary. They describe a series of historical and contemporary examples, including radar chaff deployed by World War II pilots, Twitter bots that hobbled the social media strategy of popular protest movements, and software that can camouflage users’ search queries and stymie online advertising. They go on to consider obfuscation in more general terms, discussing why obfuscation is necessary, whether it is justified, how it works, and how it can be integrated with other privacy practices and technologies.

Finn Brunton is Assistant Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University and the author of Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet (MIT Press).

Helen Nissenbaum is Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication and Computer Science at New York University and the author of Privacy in Context. She is one of the developers of the TrackMeNot software.