I'm back. Litquake was stupendous. I'm a little sad to see it go.
Now work begins in earnest on the book. Much to do. Talk soon.
In case you missed it, The Majestic (2001) is a wonderful film about doing the having the courage to do the right thing in the face of sorrow. You probably think of it as Jim Carrey-blatant-play-for-an-Oscar. Remembering that it came out a few short months after September 11th, I prefer to think of it as exactly the movie we needed. And maybe still do.
Since I'm sort of a high-Middle Ages blogger (Pre-Moveable Type, Post-BlogSpot), I was tickled when my friend Meg posted a video from the early days of Blogger. Back when they were all crammed into a little office by Pac Bell Park here in San Francisco and Paul Bausch had a head of floppy side-parted hair.
It's a historical document now. Who's keeping the weblog archives?
It's all about Litquake for the next 10 days which is why were late to the party with this edition of The Smoke Signal. Read on...
SAVE THE DATE: Litquake, San Francisco's largest literary festival rumbles into town next week, Thurs. Sept 18-Sun Sept 21. Over 80 authors including Dorothy Allison, Po Bronson, former Poet Laureate Robert Hass, JT LeRoy and Irvine Welsh will be reading at the main festival on Saturday and Sunday.
The festival begins with an opening panel on Thursday night entitled "Creative Demons: Writers Behaving Badly" that I'll be moderating. I'll also be reading as part of the Saturday Night event along with Irvine Welsh and JT Leroy. It's an honor.
A complete schedule of Litquake events and all relevent details is here:
A complete list of authors reading is here...
Litquake is the Bay Area's most exciting literary happening of the year. The main festival is entirely free and the remainder of the events are all under $10. It's a must attend for fans of books, authors, and literature in the region. You won't be sorry.
Also, should you live in the Bay Area and always wanted to right a novel, the fall semester of classes begins this week at A Clean Well Lighted Place for Books.
Fiction Writing with Donna Levin
10 Wednesdays, Sept. 17 - Nov. 19 � 6:30 - 9PM
$300 ($150 due at registration, balance on first class)
This class is designed for the serious writer - both novice and
experienced. Using student work as a springboard, Donna will
cover the essentials of craft: plot, character, voice, dialogue.
Students should be prepared to share their work. Includes one
Donna Levin has taught writing for more than 10 years.
She�s the author of
Get That Novel Written.
ACWLP is on Van Ness at Turk in San Francisco
I've been a fan of Sherman Alexie for since I heard a radio program about "The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven", his first collection of short stories that was the basis of the film "Smoke Signals." I've since followed his career religiously, reading his newest book whenever I got my hands on it, which is something I rarely do with any author.
"Ten Little Indians" (Grove Press, $24 in Hardcover, 243 pp) is actually nine stories mostly about Indians living off the reservation and in major cities. It's an artistic leap forward for Alexie whose tone here is loose and wearied. I'm about 2/3 of the way through and loving it. It's the kind of book where you say "I'll just read a few pages before bed" and then you look up and it's dawn.
You many remember one of the stories "What you Pawn, I Will Redeem" debuted in the New Yorker a few months ago.
Get your own:
"Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books" by Paul Collins (Bloomsbury, $23.95 in Hardcover, 224 pp.) was passed along to me by an officemate with the suggestion that Paul Collins would be great for my anthology. I read it on two long airplane flights, to and from my brother's wedding and loved every bit.
Collins, a writer with a thing for old books and obscure literature, his wife and young son were living in an overpriced apartment in San Francisco when they decided it was time to look for something more affordable. Hye-on-Rye is a tiny town in England with more booksellers per capita than any municipality in the world. To Collins, it seemed like a perfect match.
What followed is the family's search for a house, tentative mating dances with their potential neighbors and piles and piles of books. Collins's writing style is loose, smart and allows itself plenty of time for segues, some pointless but all of them fun. It's the kind of book which is over way too fast and sends you searching for a hidden chapter, somewhere past the back cover.
A must read for any bibliophile. If you weren't, would you be reading this?
"Portraits of Guilt" by Jeanne Boylan is the autobiography of perhaps the world's most famous crime sketch artist. I put it on my Amazon wish list after seeing a segment about her on "Unsolved Mysteries." My friend Matt get it for me for my birthday.
Boylan is best known for the sketches that cracked the Polly Klass kipnapping, the Oaklahoma City bombing and the now iconic Unibomber drawing. She ain't much of a writer but her life story essentially spans every major crime of the last decade. And I'm into that sort of thing. Check my Tivo. Nothing but "Unsolved Mysteries" and "City Confidential" episodes.
-END RECOMMENDED BOOKS-
Remember friends. Litquake all weekend (www.litquake.org) mostly free, all cool. Don't miss it.
Written while listening to "Freak Out" by Chic.
Two years ago today?
Me: At home in bed. I had been up late the night before and rescheduled my morning gym appointment for the afternoon. The phone rang, waking me up. It was my friend Britton, telling me.
I spent the morning on the phone, calling family in New York, friends from college, anyone I knew. Around noon, my friend Laura called and asked if she could come over. We watched news between phone calls. Around 4, we rented The Best Years of our Lives and watched it. I have no idea why.
The SF Fringe Festival is a load of fun. Sarah and I and 2 friends from her office took in "I Can't Believe They're Not Oriental", from the Asian-American sketch comedy troupe OPM. They're based in L.A. but remind me of the Latino Comedy Project whom I used to see perform when I lived in Austin. There's probably a social trend here. Is there a 4 Funny Jews or We Laughing Lakotas somewhere out there?
Anyway, the Fringe is cheap quality, modern theater and runs through this weekend. I highly recommend checking it out.
I'm a little late but I just found out that Warren Zevon, who has spent the last year recording his final album while suffering from inoperable lung cancer, died peacefully in his sleep on Sunday afternoon.
I've always been a closet fan, sporatically poping in his Greatest Hits album and enjoying the boppy hunor of "Lawyers, Guns and Money" and the shimmering beauty of "When Johnny Strikes up the Band". But I've been paying closer attention the last year as Zevon knew his days were short and simply continued on. His purpose here on earth was to make music and, with remarkable courage, he embraced this in the face of his own death, without drama, without fanfare, without even asking for our sympathy. To him, it just was.
Creative people cannot stop themselves, not even when their time is up. We artists all have something to learn from the last year of Warren Zevon's life. Or as my friend Dave said, better than I could, "I'll miss him. I'll miss his example."
The Kid Stays in The Picture is a fascinating documentary about the movie producer Robert Evans, who has perhaps the longest winning streak in Hollywood in the early 1970's, producing (in a row) Rosemary's Baby, Love Story, The Godfather and Chinatown. Evans was also known for dating beautiful woman, a project which he attacked with nearly as much gusto as he did producing films.
Evans is wearied, articulate and full of himself. If you can look past that (after five minutes, it isn't hard), this is a fascinating stylish documentary which skews the reverence most film geeks (Suzan and I included) have for this cinematic period. See if you've taken a film class since about 1985, you're tought that 1967-1975 or roughly The Graduate to Jaws was the Last Golden age of American Cinema before commercial leviathans like Star Wars made movemaking about selling Happy Meals rather than changing the world.
By Evans account, the era of Hollywood barrons like Jack Warner and Daryl F. Zanuck and their big silly movies might have been over but he wanted to take their place. Bratty kids like Francis Ford Coppola and Roman Polanski might have been geniuses but they needed the guiding hand of an older brother like (who else?) Robert Evans.
Nonsense and bluster? Of course. But Evans admits that up front. Honesty's hardly the point. Evans is a salesman, one of the best. This movie is 90 minutes of watching him go.
Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven't Touched Since High School
by Kevin Smokler
Bookmark Now: Writing in Unreaderly Times
edited by Kevin Smokler
The Customer Is Always Wrong: The Retail Chronicles
edited and compiled by Jeff Martin. Essay by me on page 45.