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Fall Arts 2014: Books: What You Need to Read and Which Literary Events You Need to Attend This Season 

Tuesday, Sep 2 2014
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In Case of Emergency (Sept. 9, McSweeney's)

"When conducting the triage of a multi-casualty incident, start by taking charge." Thus begins Courtney Moreno's debut novel, which follows noob Piper Gallagher as she learns the ropes of the busiest Los Angeles emergency response unit. The narration, which reads like an instruction manual Gallagher has put together to prepare us to join the team, relays the traumas of the job, punctuating the seemingly counterintuitive hands-on lessons she learns ("do not treat; only label") with all-organic nuggets of wisdom: "There's nothing as painful as desire; wanting something only reminds you of your shortcomings."

The Retrievals (Sept. 9, Wave Books)

Garrett Caples' collection of essays, written between 2004 and 2014, begins with a quote by Richard O. Moore: "What is the past but a failed retrieval / of what at the time seemed relevant and true." The book maneuvers through modernism by taking close looks at some of its artists, theorists, and critics, spanning such topics as the invention of art history and personally collaborating with Humpty Hump. Written in Caples' signature blend of erudition and elan, the essays also include photos of some of the art in question.

Pilot Light (August, Plain Wrap)

The debut collection of poems by Lucy Tiven is a sort of conversation with the life and work of Mark Rothko. Observations that start out sharp might give way to humorous self-commentary, often ending in revelation ("I am the / kind of rude that takes / forever / trying to explain an / abstract painting, // and eventually forces // other people to be rude / just to make it stop.").

To Keep Time (Oct. 7, Omnidawn)

Joseph Massey's collection of fierce minimalistic observations contain a cascading effect, where the velocity of the word-sounds build anticipation yet stall with a density of ideas. "A wordless- / ness written / into the dirt writes // itself around you" as you read these poems, your mind "lapped // and lost in this slow / flowering / of form flowering // out of form." There's no need to talk about escape; here it is offered, and the poem's sparsity reminds the reader that to transcend time, one only needs to step aside.

The Louder the Room the Darker the Screen (October-November, Timeless Infinite Light)

Timeless Infinite Light makes beautiful books, and this new full-length by Paul Ebenkamp is a perfect project: dense, trip-inducing language play poems beside pages of full-color text art that seems at turns to be bursting or spilling out of the space it's assigned to, eventually bleeding into the poems, which take on their own colors and flirt with a kind of copacetic annihilation. The contrast is both playful and urgent.

Thousand Times Broken (Nov. 1, City Lights)

The three books that make up Thousand Times Broken, all previously untranslated, were written by the French visionary poet Henri Michaux during his experiments with mescaline between 1956 and 1959. They include more than two dozen visual works by the poet, who is well known for switching aesthetic forms while trying to articulate his visions. Says translator Gillian Conoley in the introduction: "The self? An impediment. World? Apparition. Language, marks, drawings, paintings? Failures, and with agendas of their own. Only the unknown, and within the unknown, only the uncontrollable, might be trusted."


Nayomi Munaweera: "By turns tender, beautiful, and devastating" is how Stegner Fellow and recent PEN Award winner NoViolet Bulawayo described Munaweera's anticipated debut novel Island of a Thousand Mirrors, which won the 2013 Commonwealth Book Prize and was longlisted for the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize. Sept. 22, City Lights,

David Mitchell: The author of Cloud Atlas, Black Swan Green, and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet discusses his new novel The Bone Clocks, which sweeps through time, space, and a tapestry of characters, with Adam Johnson. Sept. 24, Sundance Kabuki Cinema,

Roxane Gay: One of this generation's fiercest and most tireless writers, Roxane Gay is in town from Chicago to celebrate her collection of essays, The Bad Feminist. Gay's novel An Untamed State was also released recently. Sept. 25, City Lights,

Wave Books: Seattle-based poetry powerhouse Wave Books celebrates new titles with readings by Garrett Caples, Anthony McCann, Hoa Nguyen, Cedar Cigo, and Rachel Zucker. Hosted and introduced by Wave Books Editor at Large Matthew Zapruder. Sept. 30, City Lights,

Chimamanda Adichie: Author of four books and three novels, including her most recent, Americanah, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was named one of The New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year, Adichie will be in conversation with Dave Eggers as part of City Arts & Lectures. Sept. 30, Nourse Theater,

Writers With Drinks: This month's cocktail of high concept and low inhibitions includes two recent Stegner Fellows, NoViolet Bulawayo (We Need New Names, winner of the 2014 PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction) and Molly Antopol (The UnAmericans, 5 Under 35 award from the National Book Foundation). Oct. 11, The Make-Out Room,

Litquake: Celebrating 15 years of literary festivals with a nine-day parade of talent local and international, Litquake hosts approximately 850 authors over an average of about a dozen events per day, and most of the events are free. Oct. 10-18, varies,

Alette in Oakland: The Bay Area Public School put out a call several months ago for creative and critical responses to the life and work of radical Paris-based poet Alice Notley, and this resulting three-day symposium will be an inspiring, intellectual feast for fans and newcomers alike. Oct. 24-26, The Omni,

William Gibson: He coined the term "cyberspace" more than 30 years ago and has made an incredible amount of accurate predictions about the future through speculative fiction, which spans many books and includes Neuromancer. Gibson returns with his first novel in four years, The Peripheral, a high-tech thriller set in a post-apocalyptic future. Oct. 31, Book Passage Corte Madera,

Clark Coolidge: A legend among language-wielders everywhere, Coolidge read two 40-minute sets at Canessa last year; it was like listening to the wind whisper secrets into a tree hollow. Any chance to see the Petaluma-based poet should not be missed, and the Holloway Series may be the best showcase in town. Nov. 4, UC Berkeley,

Walter Benjamin: City Lights, The Contemporary Jewish Museum, Goethe Institut San Francisco, Harvard University Press, Mechanics' Institute Library, San Francisco Art Institute, and Department of History/University of California at Berkeley have teamed up to produce a weeklong celebration of the great philosopher and critic. Nov. 5-9, various,

Rebecca Solnit and Peter Turchi: Both writers have new books out from Trinity University Press. Solnit wrote The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness, a collection of 29 essays, while Turchi wrote A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic, a meditation on the parallels between writing and puzzle-making and -solving. Dec. 7, City Lights,


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Evan Karp

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