Story has it that when young San Francisco author Jason Flores-Williams heard that the U.K. publisher that discovered Irvine Welsh and a slew of similarly gritty "outsider" writers was interested in his novel, The Last Stand of Mr. America, Flores-Williams moved to Scotland to stoke the imprint's interest personally. The brash tactic worked; Canongate/Rebel Inc. will rerelease his once self-published novel in November. In the meantime, the "Caligula of American letters" is returning to the scene of the crime to share his nihilistic views of sex, gender politics, American apathy, and the abyss in the very city that nourished his sadistic little work of (de)moralizing erotica.
While Flores-Williams' grim, graphic, and heavy-handed style may appeal most to those purposefully bankrupt readers who thought Welsh's Filth was a frolicking good time, there is no denying Flores-Williams' gift for prodding shadows with a cold, unwavering Maglite. In his San Francisco, sex club sadists are reduced to overgrown Dungeons & Dragons fanatics; kind, unpretentious transvestites slip in the cracks between natural-born femaleness and tranny affectation; women chase their fear by chasing casual sex; men chase their fear with lists, fists, liquor, Nietzsche, and the perfect balance of muscle tone and beer gut; and none but the dead are redeemed. In the eyes of Mr. America, everyone is corrupt or corruptible. Even for the innocents heard whimpering behind the walls, it's only a matter of time before they too are besmirched. Jason Flores-Williams reads on Saturday, Aug. 18, at the Edinburgh Castle with former SF Weekly writer Jack Boulware and Alan Black opening at 10 p.m. Admission is free and includes complimentary milk and candy; call 885-4074.
With more than a tender nod to the Louvin Brothers, Split Lip Rayfield's third record, Never Make It Home, is harmony-rich and gentle on the ears -- even while the bluegrass plucking of mandolin player Wayne Gottstine and banjo wiz Eric Madris reaches breakneck speeds. The band's penchant for minor keys, which conjure the natural melancholy of dust bowls and famine, adds to the wistful nature of Never Make It Home, even while its lyrics wander through the car wrecks and record stores of a modern age. Still, there is no denying the Wichita, Kan., group's punk rearing: Unlike the Louvins, the four vocalists in Split Lip Rayfield are clearly untrained (although guitarist Kirk Rundstrom reaches stirring depths). Likewise, Jeff Eaton storms across his gas-tank bass and kazoo like a flame-haired hooligan. But, unlike so many records of a similar nature and even unlike the act's previous offerings, Never Make It Home is nearly devoid of the ironic winks that make bluegrass "cool" -- a change that's very nice indeed. Split Lip Rayfield performs as part of Nadine's Wild Weekend on Sunday, Aug. 19, at Bottom of the Hill with Joaquina, Virgil Shaw, and M. Ward opening at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $7 and include an all-you-can-eat barbecue; call 621-4455.