Friday, December 19, 2008

The Books On My Night Stand And Other Literary Ramblings

Get Up: A 12-Step Guide To Recovery For Misfits, Freaks & Weirdos by Bucky Sinister
Poet, and good friend, Bucky Sinister sets his sites on recovery in this self-help book for outsiders, misfits and artists who need to get their act together and embrace the 12 Steps. Anyone who has read Sinsiter before knows that this isn’t going to be be a new age self-help affair. It retains Sinister’s wit, irreverence, sharp insights, and pop culture references. Need help setting and reaching your goals? Just look to Lee Marvin in Point Blank for help. Need to figure out what kind of recovering addict you are? Just take inventory of the characters on the A Team and you’ll figure it out. All kidding aside, this is a heartfelt book that digs deep emotionally and philosophically. I’d recommend Get Up even if you don’t need help in recovery. There’s a lot to be gleaned here for folks just trying to reassess where they are in their life, for folks who feel they are at a crossroads, and for folks who feel they aren’t living the life they hoped they would. A good read to start the year.

Porchlight Storytelling Series
For those of you not from SF, Porchlight is a storytelling series put on by local author Beth Lisick and literary impresario Arline Klatte. The event has been going on monthly for the last 7 years. I attended the other night and had a little epiphany. Porchlight is the ultimate who’s who of the art scene. Writers, musicians, filmmakers, tv personalities, artists and scenesters step to the mic to share their stories, grouped around a monthly theme. It’s cool. It’s not just literary types stepping to the mic. Sometimes the stories fire on all cylinders, sometimes they ramble and wobble around. Regardless, it’s great to see people step out of their comfort zone and lay it out there.

This month, guest Chuck Prophet brought along a friend from Nashville, Jace Everett. Jace is a good ol’ Southern boy from a red state. Offhandedly he said, “Wow, this is just like walking onto the set of NPR.” Not exactly, but in a way he was right. Certainly not as stuffy and East Coast, but the more utopian, S.F. version of NPR. Porchlight is full of erudite charm, boho swagger, with a hint of self-deprecation. It’s the good kind of institution.

Sherman Alexie Live at Herbst Theater
I’ve been obsessed with Sherman Alexie this year. Read several books and a collection of poetry. Had the good pleasure of seeing him read at SF’s esteemed City Arts and Lecture Series last month. It was a great event. Essentially, Alexie opened with a 20 minute comedy set full of observations about people on airplanes and the like. Not what I expected, but pretty brilliant in its way. From there he did a short set of poetry. Great, narrative-based, easy to follow pieces, filled with grit, humor, and humanism. Given that I had just finished a poetry section with my high school students, I couldn't have been more delighted. The event was co-sponsored by a S.F. poetry program for teens called The WritersCorps. The Corps sent out three teens to follow Alexie’s set. Pretty daunting, but the youth handled it with aplomb. Currently an exhibit of the WritersCorps work is on display at SF Arts Commission Gallery. It’s a great exhibit. How do you showcase written work in a gallery setting? Go to the show and find out. Expertly laid out. The exhibit is on until January 24, 2009. I highly recommend wandering over and checking it out.

Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy
A fever dream of brutality spreading across Mexico and the Southwest. At times the journey unfolds like a beautiful silent film. Vast impressionistic landscapes, with heaps and heaps of description and details of the debased journey. It crawls with filth. A little long in the tooth however. When the action and dialogue kicks in, Blood Meridian is marvelous. But some overly long descriptive passages combined with the phantasmagorical narrative made me a little antsy and distracted.

Little Big Man by Thomas Berger
If you're like me, you don't like to bail on a book, but unfortunately, that's exactly what I did here. 2 weeks and only 90 pages worth of progress I decided to cut my losses. Not sure if I wasn't digging the book or the book had the misfortune of dropping into my life when I was crazed, frantic, and busy. Not sure if any book would have stood a chance. But that said, after a summer of Sherman Alexie, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and an intertribal Pow Wow, I just wasn't feeling this. It seemed like a glimpse into Native culture from an outsider. Granted the early portions of the book are told from the standpoint of a 12 year old boy with a lot of negative pre-conceptions about native culture who is thrown into that world in a severe way. So maybe that's the stylistic of the first chapters and the book would have born fruit had I stuck it out. Maybe I'll revisit.

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