“We used to call this Café High,” author Sean Wilsey says of Café International, our meeting spot, before letting out a hearty chortle. By “we” he means his late-80s classmates at the Urban School, the private prep school 10 blocks or so from the Haight and Fillmore coffee shop. By “high” I assume he’s alluding to marijuana in some form or another, but I’m too intrigued by Wilsey’s instant openness and nostalgia to probe. Despite four other high schools (he never graduated), myriad other cities (he doesn’t come back to San Francisco very often anymore), and 25 or so intervening years (he’s pushing 45), Wilsey still grasps the vibe of his native hood with the exactitude of a lifelong resident.
Midway through the introduction to More Curious (McSweeney's Books, 342 pp., $22), his recently-published collection of essays from the last 15 years, Sean Wilsey (who appears at the Booksmith Thu/21) reveals his quest to combine the styles of Thomas Pynchon and New Yorker legend Joseph Mitchell — paranoia and precision, respectively.
The introduction itself is a joyfully meta attempt at this very task. The 20-odd pages of often non-sequitorial rumination about the aforementioned authors, the triviality of the 1990s, and the first Obama election can be mistaken as “formless while still astonishingly informative” or “so intricately constructed and fact-filled that the form is too complex to be instantly identified.” The happy reality of all of Wilsey’s essays is somewhere between these two perceptions.
LIT Andy Hall was five years old in 1967, a kid living at the base of Denali, North America's tallest peak. His father, a National Park Service veteran, took a job overseeing Mount McKinley National Park (as it was then called) just months before a climbing party known as the Wilcox Expedition encountered a freak storm near the summit. Seven of its 12 members died in one of the mountain's most enduring tragedies.Read more »
Smith Henderson is all smiles. His debut novel, Fourth of July Creek, has been receiving rave reviews since its release two weeks ago, has a 100,000 copy pressing from HarperCollins, and was recently called "the best book I’ve read so far this year" by Washington Post critic Ron Charles.
"I was not expecting the Ron Charles thing ... that was amazing," Henderson says, sipping his beer on the outdoor patio of Farley’s East in Oakland. (He'll be reading from the book Tue/17 at San Francisco's Book Passage.) While the degree of success that the book is receiving tickles Henderson, he doesn’t pretend to be shocked that people are enjoying his work. "When people tell me 'I love your book,' I’m happy, but not chagrined. I wrote the book toward my interests, so of course I like my book." Henderson smokes a cigarette as he chuckles.
The Commonwealth Club announced the nominees in six categories for its definitive Califonia Book Awards today -- and as usual it's full of stuff I'm dying to read. Why are literary awards, in particular, among the sharpest admonishments for wasting one's life on social media?
Well, screw you, Reza Aslan, and your Fox News-incinerating Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth -- I've Pinterested allthe parody Kimye Vogue covers and publicly dissected that "Black Jeopardy" skit from last week's SNL on Facebook.
LIT "Everywhere the gay narrative in this country is about freedom, but the reality doesn't match up. I'm interested in exploring the corners that aren't free — from bullied queer children killing themselves to the elaborate social prisons we concoct for ourselves online," Randall Mann told me. Read more »
"I didn't know I was a Chicano until I met Jose." -- actor and activist Edward James Olmos at the Jose Montoya Memorial Celebration at Sacramento's Crest Theater, Jan. 23, 2014. Photo by Fernando Andrés Torres.
Read Fernando Andrés Torres' story on NorCal's poesia en espanol revival in this week's paper.
After more than 40 years in San Francisco, the progressive independent bookstore Modern Times may have to close its doors in the near future, but not before issuing one final appeal for help from the community.
In the 1990s, Modern Times managed to survive chain retailers' predatory business strategies and cheap prices. More recently, it was able to withstand changes in the industry due to the increasing popularity of e-books and online retailers. More than half of the independent bookstores in the country shut down between 1990 and 2011.Read more »
LIT Every student of salacious San Francisco history knows the tale of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. Over Labor Day weekend in 1921, the silent-film comedian hosted a rager at Union Square's Hotel St. Francis (now known as the Westin St. Francis), the largest hotel on the West Coast at the time. Starlet Virginia Rappe fell ill at the party, and when she died days later as a result of internal injuries, Arbuckle went on trial (three times) for the crime.Read more »
On Saturday evening in the Castro at 7pm, quite possibly one of the gayest things ever will occur, as queer comics artist Brian Andersen debuts his colorful new teen-friendly, straight-friendly, unabashedly queer So Super Dupervolume, which stars "a little gay empathic hero (he can read emotions) named Psyche who doesn't quite know he's gay yet – even though it's painfully obvious to everyone around him."
It is so cute. And gloriously upping the pink quotient at the book launch, nationally televised diva Jason Brock will be hitting some high notes (he basically ruled the Bike Music Festival a few weeks back). Comics, superheroes, man-divas: It's a gaysplosion.
I asked the infectiously smiley Brian to talk a little about the So Super Duper's inspiration, and he had some very interesting things to say about being a proud femme-y gay guy in a world of macho stereotypes.