Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o

City Lights welcomes Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, reading from and discussing his new book Birth of a Dream Weaver: A Writer’s Awakening from The New Press.

Birth of a Dream Weaver charts the very beginnings of a writer’s creative output. In this wonderful memoir, Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o recounts the four years he spent at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda—threshold years during which he found his voice as a journalist, short story writer, playwright, and novelist just as colonial empires were crumbling and new nations were being born—under the shadow of the rivalries, intrigues, and assassinations of the Cold War.Birth of a Dream Weaver

Haunted by the memories of the carnage and mass incarceration carried out by the British colonial-settler state in his native Kenya but inspired by the titanic struggle against it, Ngũgĩ, then known as James Ngugi, begins to weave stories from the fibers of memory, history, and a shockingly vibrant and turbulent present.

What unfolds in this moving and thought-provoking memoir is simulhttp://www.citylights.com/html/WYSIWYGfiles/images/thiongo_ngugi_wa_daniel_anderson.jpgtaneously the birth of one of the most important living writers—lauded for his “epic imagination” (Los Angeles Times)—the death of one of the most violent episodes in global history, and the emergence of new histories and nations with uncertain futures.

One of the leading African writers and scholars at work today, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o was born in Limuru, Kenya, in 1938. He is the author of A Grain of Wheat; Weep Not, Child; Petals of Blood; and Birth of a Dream Weaver (The New Press). He is currently distinguished professor in the School of Humanities and the director of the International Center for Writing and Translation at the University of California, Irvine. He has been nominated for the Man Booker International Prize.

Douglas Rushkoff

Douglas Rushkoff appeared again at City Lights to speak about his new book Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus and to answer questions on all things pertaining to the effect of technology on culture.

87286100320950LWhen protesters shattered the windows of a bus carrying Google employees to work, their anger may have been justifiable, but it was misdirected. The true conflict of our age isn’t between the unem­ployed and the digital elite, or even the 99 percent and the 1 percent. Rather, a tornado of technological improvements has spun our economic program out of control, and humanity as a whole—the pro-testers and the Google employees as well as the shareholders and the executives—are all trapped by the consequences. It’s time to optimize our economy for the human beings it’s supposed to be serving.

In this groundbreaking book, acclaimed media scholar and author Douglas Rushkoff tells us how to combine the best of human nature with the best of modern technology. Tying together disparate threads—big data, the rise of robots and AI, the increasing participation of algorithms in stock market trading, the gig economy, the collapse of the eurozone—Rushkoff provides a critical vocabulary for our economic moment and a nuanced portrait of humans and commerce at a critical crossroads.

Kristina Rizga

San Francisco author Kristina Rizga joins City Lights in discussion of her new book, Mission High: One School, How Experts Tried to Fail It, and the Students and Teachers Who Made It Triumph.

The United States has been on a century long road toward increased standardization in our public schools, which resulted in a system that reduces the quality of education to primarily one metric: standardized test scores. According to this number, Mission High is a “low-performing” school even though its college enrollment, graduation, attendance rates and student surveys are some of the best in the country.

The qualities that matterKristina Rigza the most in learning—skills like critical thinking, intellectual engagement, resilience, empathy, self-management, and cultural flexibility—can’t be measured by multiple-choice questions designed by distant testing companies, Rizga argues, but they can be detected by skilled teachers in effective, personalized and humane classrooms that work for all students, not just the most motivated ones.

Based on four years of reporting with unprecedented access, the unforgettable, intimate stories in these pages throw open the doors to America’s most talked about—and arguably least understood—public school classrooms where the largely invisible voices of our smart, resilient students and their committed educators can offer a clear and hopeful blueprint for what it takes to help all students succeed.

Kristina Rizga has been writing about youth and student issues for over a decade, most recently as an education reporter for Mother Jones. Her writing has been published in The Nation, The American Prospect, and Global Post, among other publications. Prior to Mother Jones, Rizga was the executive editor of WireTap, an award-winning political magazine for young adults. She is also co-founder and reporter at the Baltic Center for Investigative Journalism, based in her homeland, Latvia. She lives with her husband Mike Stern in San Francisco.

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

Rebecca Solnit and Peter Turchi

On Language and Place: Rebecca Solnit, in conversation with Peter Turchi, celebrated the release of her novel Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness, and A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic by Peter Turchi, both from Trinity University Press, at City Lights Bookstore.
SolnitRebecca Solnit is beloved as an activist and a passionate writer who speaks truth to power, and as the title of her latest book suggests, the territory of her concerns is vast. In her signature alchemical style, Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness combines commentary on history, justice, war and peace, and explorations of place, art, and community. The 29 essays gathered here encompass celebrated iconic pieces as well as little-known works to create a powerful survey of the world we live in. This rich collection tours places as diverse as Haiti and Iceland; movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring; an original take on the question of who did Henry David Thoreau’s laundry; and a searching look at what the hatred of country music really means.

In A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, turchi-peter-2014-small-1and Magic, Peter Turchi draws out the similarities between writing and puzzle making and its flip side, puzzle solving. As he teases out how mystery lies at the heart of all storytelling, he uncovers the magic—the creation of credible illusion—that writers share with the likes of Houdini and master magicians. Applying this rich backdrop to the requirements of writing, Turchi reveals as much about the human psyche as he does about the literary imagination and the creative process. This much anticipated follow-up to Turchi’s bestselling Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer helps the reader navigate the fine line between the real and the perceived, between the everyday and the wondrous.

Bill Berkson

Bill Berkson read from his new poetry collection, Expect Delays, from Coffee House Press, at City Lights Bookstore, December 2, 2014.

Born in New York inBerkson author photo 1939, Bill Berkson is a poet, critic and professor emeritus at the San Francisco Art Institute, whose previous collection Portrait and Dream: New & Selected Poems won the Balcones Prize for Best Poetry Book of 2010. His poems have appeared in Poetry, The Brooklyn Rail, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology, The New York Poets II, Bay Area Poetics, The i.e. Reader, The Zoland Poetry Annual 2011, Amerarcana, Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology and Nuova Poesia Americana. He now divides his time between San Francisco and Manhattan.

“Like his good friend Frank O’Hara, Bill Berkson writes about friends and family (wife, son, mother on her 100th birthday) and isn’t afraid to drop a few glam names from life in the cities where he lives, in his case San Francisco and New York. In this he resembles Stéphane Mallarmé, who wrote verses on fans (the kind you wave) and notes on fashion, as well as difficult dreamlike poetry. Berkson includes two celesta-toned Mallarmé translations, one of them ‘Brise Marine’: (‘The flesh is sad, alas! And I’ve read all the books’) alongside journalistic patter: ‘Lovers for a time, Lee Wiley and Berigan began appearing/ together on Wiley’s fifteen-minute CBS radio spot,/ Saturday Night Swing Club, in 1936.’ Expect Delays is an all-too-familiar warning to urban Americans. In this case, the delays are as rewarding as the invigorating voyage.—John Ashbery

James Laughlin Double Feature

On December 4th, 2014, City Lights Bookstore and Publishers celebrated the release of two new books: The Collected Poems of James Laughlin, (FSG) and from New Directions, “Literchoor Is My Beat”: A Life of James Laughlin. Special guests Peggy Fox and Ian MacNiven spoke in discussion with Scott Esposito.

LaughlinAbout The Collected Poems Of James Laughlin:

Published in Laughlin’s centenary year The Collected Poems Of James Laughlin encompasses in one majestic volume all of the poetry (with the exception of his verse memoirs Byways) written by the publisher-poet. Witty, technically brilliant, slyly satiric, and heartbreakingly poignant, Laughlin charted his own poetic course for over six decades, prompting astonishment and joy in fellow poets. The Collected Poems includes over 1250 poems – from the early lyrics written in Laughlin’s signature “typewriter metric” to the “long-line poems of his later years, to the playful antics of his doppelganger Hiram Handspring, to the trenchant commentary of the five-line pentastichs that occupied his last days.

About Literchoor Is My Beat:

A biography — thoughtful and playful — of the man who founded New Directions and transformed American publishing. James Laughlin — a poet, publisher, world-class skier — was the man behind some of the most daring, revolutionary works in verse and prose of the twentieth century. As the founder of New Directions, he published Ezra Pound’s The Cantos and William Carlos Williams’s Paterson; he brought Herman Hesse and Jorge Luis Borges to an American audience. Throughout his life, this tall, charismatic intellectual, athlete, and entrepreneur preferred to stay hidden. But no longer — in “Literchoor is My Beat”: A Life of James Laughlin, Publisher of New Directions, Ian S. MacNiven has given us a sensitive and revealing portrait of this visionary and the understory of the last century of American letters.

Peggy Fox retired as President and Publisher of New Directions in 2011 after 36 years of working primarily with ND “bedrock authors” such as William Carlos Williams and Tennessee Williams. She is James Laughlin’s literary co-executor and a Trustee of the several trusts set up under Laughlin’s will to support New Directions and literary endeavors. She is also a Trustee of the Thomas Merton Legacy Trust and the E. E. Cummings Trust. She considers working with Lawrence Ferlinghetti one of the highlights of her editorial career. Several years after James Laughlin’s death in 1997, following Laughlin’s wishes, Fox contacted long-time friend and colleague Peter Glassgold and asked him to edit a complete edition of Laughlin’s poems, The Collected Poems of James Laughlin. She has continued to be the in-house editor of the book since her retirement.

James Lenfestey

On October 20, 2014, author James Lenfestey reads from Seeking the Cave: A Pilgrimage To Cold Mountain from Milkweed Editions, live at City Lights Bookstore.

jim-lenfesteyIn this transformative new book, award-winning poet and essayist James Lenfestey makes an epic journey across the world to find the Cold Mountain Cave, a location long believed to exist only in myths, and the ancient home of his idol Han Shan, author of the Cold Mountain poems and a legend in the history of both Chinese and international poetic tradition. Lenfestey’s voyage takes him from the Midwestern U.S. to Tokyo to a road trip across the expanse of China with frequent excursions into the country’s rich historical and cultural landmarks. As he makes his way to the cave, Lenfestey learns more than history or geography, he discovers his identity as a writer and a poet.

Carmen Boullosa

Carmen Boullosa in conversation with Scott Esposito, discussing her new book, Texas: the Great Theft, at City Lights Bookstore on February 12, 2015. Boullosa

Loosely based on the little-known 1859 Mexican invasion of the United States, Carmen Boullosa’s newest novel Texas: The Great Theft is a richly imagined evocation of the volatile Tex-Mex borderland, wrested from Mexico in 1848. Described by Roberto Bolaño as “Mexico’s greatest woman writer,” Boullosa views the border history through distinctly Mexican eyes, and her sympathetic portrayal each of her wildly diverse characters—Mexican ranchers and Texas Rangers, Comanches and cowboys, German socialists and runaway slaves, Southern belles and dance hall girls—makes her storytelling tremendously powerful and absorbing. With today’s Mexican-American frontier such a front-burner concern, this novel that brilliantly illuminates its historical landscape is especially welcome. Texas is Boullosa’s fourth novel to appear in English, her previous novels were published by Grove Press.

Carmen Boullosa is one of Mexico’s leading novelists, poets and playwrights. The prolific author, who has had literally scores of books, essays and dissertations written about her work, has been lauded by critics on several continents. “As playful as a mischievous Puck,” says Elena Poniatowska; she has “a heart-stopping command of language,” says Alma Guillermoprieto; “one of the most dazzling of Latin America’s new generation,” according to Publishers Weekly; “Mexico’s best woman writer,” wrote Roberto Bolaño.

Women In Public Book Party

City Lights celebrated the release of Women In Public, No. 13 in the City Lights Spotlight Poetry Series, on March 10, 2015 where Elaine Kahn was joined by Ali Warren, author of Here Comes the Warm Jets (City Lights Spotlight No. 10) to read several of their poems.87286100973590L

In Women in Public, the debut full-length collection by poet/musician Elaine Kahn, personal philosophies and collective admissions are put through the corporeal grinder, harnessing the sensual as a medium for the cerebral in order to negotiate the “feminine condition” of being simultaneously othered and consumed.

By turns seductive and self-deprecating, Women in Public navigates a world where the erotics of the body and mind do battle against the constructs that would demean and define them, using lyric, fragment, humor, and repetition to create a space flexible enough to hold the many contradictions of reality. Where expectations and desires can be piled too easily upon the body, Kahn digs in her heels, writing in attempt to liberate physical form from society’s confines.

Sandip Roy and Davia Nelson of the Kitchen Sisters

Sandip Roy celebrates the release of his new book, Don’t Let Him Know, with Davia Nelson of the Kitchen Sisters and City Lights Book Store.

Moving from adolescent rooftop games to adult encounters in gay bars, from hair salons in Calcutta to McDonald’s drive-thrus in California, Don’t Let Him Know follows the trajectory of a family, the struggle between having what we want and doing what we feel we must – and the sacrifices we make for those we love. Tender, powerful, and beautifully told, Don’t Let Him Know marks the arrival of a brave new voice.Sandip

Sandip Roy is Senior Editor at the popular news portal Firstpost.com and blogs for the Huffington Post. He has been a longtime commentator on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio programme in the US, and has a weekly radio postcard for public radio in the San Francisco Bay Area. For years he was a radio host on KALW in San Francisco. He is also an editor with New America Media. Sandip has won several awards for journalism and contributed to various anthologies including Storywallah!, Contours of the Heart, Because I Have a Voice: Queer Politics in India, Out! Stories from the New Queer India, New California Writing 2011 and The Phobic and the Erotic: The Politics of Sexualities in Contemporary India. Sandip lives in Kolkata.

Richard Kenvin

Richard Kenvin celebrates the release of his new book, Surf Craft: Design and the Culture of Board Riding at City Lights Bookstore by reading the first two chapters and answering questions.

richard-kenvin-surfing-carl-ekstrom-surfboardIn his text, Richard Kenvin looks at the craft and design of surfboards from a historical and cultural perspective. He views board design as an exemplary model of mingei, or art of the people, and the craft philosophy of Soetsu Yanagi. Yanagi believed that a design’s true beauty and purpose are revealed when it is put to its intended use. In its purest form, the craft of board building, along with the act of surfing itself, exemplifies mingei. Surf Craft pays particular attention to Bob Simmons’s boards, which are striking examples of this kind of functional design, mirroring the work of postwar modern California designers.

Surf Craft is published in conjunction with an exhibition at San Diego’s Mingei International Museum.

George Herms

George Herms celebrates the release of his new book, The River Book, at City Lights Bookstore with a guest appearance by Diane di Prima.

The River Book is thgeorge-herms-the-river-book-2(1)e first-ever comprehensive publication on acclaimed and pivotal California assemblage artist George Herms (born 1935). The handsome, two-volume slipcased book covers his earliest works from the 1960s, through his influential assemblages from the 1970s to today, as well as his work on such films as Easy Rider, his set designs for poet and playwright Michael McClure and dancer/choreographer Fred Herko, and his fascinating collaborations with, among others, Diane di Prima and Wallace Berman, for his LOVE Press series of hand-printed books. Interspersed throughout are comments by Herms on various works and on his creative ethos. Also included is a trove of never-before-seen archival photographs of Herms’ friends, such as Wallace and Tosh Berman, Fred Herko, Diane di Prima, Kirby Doyle and Ray Johnson, as well as of Herms himself. A bonus DVD showcases the entirety of Herms’ opera The Artist’s Life. Renowned art critic Dave Hickey provides an insightful look at the artist and his milieu, and the artist himself offers witty and informative text throughout. This is truly an essential book for anyone interested in California art, the Beats, avant-garde theater and film, and fine-art printing.

Celebrating San Francisco Poet Laureate Alejandro Murguia!

Stray Poems, Alejandro Murguia

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

About Stray Poems

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

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

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

Praise for Alejandro Murguía & Stray Poems:

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

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

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

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

Nick Turse and Oscar Villalon Discussing the Vietnam War

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

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

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

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

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

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

What has been said about Kill Anything That Moves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Gary Kamiya Reads From Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco


Cool, Gray City of Love brings together an exuberant combination of personal insight, deeply researched history, in-depth reporting, and lyrical prose to create an unparalleled portrait of San Francisco. Each of its 49 chapters explores a specific site or intersection in the city, from the mighty Golden Gate Bridge to the raunchy Tenderloin to the soaring sea cliffs at Land’s End.

This unique approach captures the exhilarating experience of walking through San Francisco’s sublime terrain, while at the same time tying that experience to a history as rollicking and unpredictable as the city herself. From her absurd beginnings as the most distant and moth-eaten outpost of the world’s most extensive empire, to her instantaneous fame during the Gold Rush, from her apocalyptic destruction by earthquake and fire to her perennial embrace of rebels, dreamers, hedonists and misfits of all stripes, the City by the Bay has always followed a trajectory as wildly independent as the untrammeled natural forces that created her.

This ambitious, eclectic, and beautifully written book draws on everything from on-the-ground reporting to obscure academic papers to the author’s 40-year life in San Francisco to create a rich and insightful portrait of a magical corner of the world. Complete with hand-drawn maps ofthe 49locations, this handsome package will sit comfortably on the short shelf of enduring books about places, alongside E. B. White’s Here is New York, Jose Saramago’s Journey to Portugal, or Alfred Kazin’s A Walker in the City.

Gary Kamiya was a co-founder of the online magazine Salon.com and its longtime executive editor where he wrote about politics, literature, the Middle East, sports, music, art, race, travel, and film, among other subjects. He has written for The New York Times Book Review, Sports Illustrated, Artforum and many other magazines. His first book, Shadow Knights: The Secret War Against Hitler, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2010.

Robert Graysmith on True Crime and Black Fire

Robert Graysmith came into City Lights Bookstore on November 15th, 2012, to discuss his new true crime novel, Black Fire: The True Story of the Original Tom Sawyer–and of the Mysterious Fires That Baptized Gold Rush-Era San Francisco (Crown Books).

The first biography of the little-known real-life Tom Sawyer (a friend of Mark Twain during his brief tenure as a California newspaper reporter), told through a harrowing account of Sawyer’s involvement in the hunt for a serial arsonist who terrorized mid-nineteenth century San Francisco.

When 28-year-old San Francisco Daily Morning Call reporter Mark Twain met Tom Sawyer at a local bathhouse in 1863, he was seeking a subject for his first novel. As Twain steamed, played cards, and drank beer with Sawyer (a volunteer firefighter, customs inspector, and local hero responsible for having saved ninety lives at sea), he had second thoughts about Shirley Tempest, his proposed book about a local girl firefighter, and began to envision a novel of wider scope. Twain learned that a dozen years earlier the then eighteen-year-old New York-born Sawyer had been a “Torch Boy,” one of the youths who raced ahead of the volunteer firemen’s hand-drawn engines at night carrying torches to light the way, always aware that a single spark could reduce the all-wood city of San Francisco to ashes in an instant. At that time a mysterious serial arsonist known by some as “The Lightkeeper” was in the process of burning San Francisco to the ground six times in eighteen months – the most disastrous and costly series of fires ever experienced by any American metropolis.

Black Fire is the most thorough and accurate account of Sawyer’s relationship with Mark Twain and of the six devastating incendiary fires that baptized one of the modern world’s favorite cities. Set amid a scorched landscape of burning roads, melting iron warehouses, exploding buildings, and deadly gangs who extorted and ruled by fear, it includes the never-before-told stories of Sawyer’s heroism during the sinking of the steamship Independence and the crucial role Sawyer and the Torch Boys played in solving the mystery of the Lightkeeper.

Drawing on archival sources such as actual San Francisco newspaper interviews with Sawyer and the handwritten police depositions of the arrest of the Lightkeeper, bestselling author Robert Graysmith vividly portrays the gritty, corrupt, and violent world of Gold Rush-era San Francisco, overrun with gunfighters, hooligans, hordes of gold prospectors, crooked politicians, and vigilantes. By chronicling how Sawyer took it upon himself to investigate, expose, and stop the arsonist, Black Fire details – for the first time – Sawyer’s remarkable life and illustrates why Twain would later feel compelled to name his iconic character after his San Francisco buddy when he wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.

Robert Graysmith is the New York Times bestselling author of Zodiac and eight other books. The major motion pictures Zodiac and Auto Focus are based on his books. A San Francisco Chronicle political cartoonist and artist for fifteen years, he lives in San Francisco.

This event is co-sponsored by Litquake

Litquake, San Francisco’s annual literary festival, was founded by Bay Area writers in order to put on a week-long literary spectacle for book lovers, complete with cutting-edge panels, unique cross-media events, and hundreds of readings. Since its founding in 1999, the festival has presented more than 3,650 author appearances for an audience of over 83,500 in its lively and inclusive celebration of San Francisco’s thriving contemporary literary scene. Litquake seeks to foster interest in literature, perpetuate a sense of literary community, and provide a vibrant forum for Bay Area writing as a complement to the city’s music, film, and cultural festivals.

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