Is there really a town called Camus, Idaho? In Ali Liebegott's new novel in verse, The Beautifully Worthless, not only does such a town exist, but so do a New York waitress and her trusty Dalmatian, Rorschach, as well as love and quotidian inertia and a lot of good writing. In this road story, a queer girl and her dog take on the task of observing America, an effort that reviewers say comes off with surprising tenderness for a country so tough. We're inclined, in this instance, to believe the press materials, which promise a gritty, Tom Waitsian scene: "an American landscape filled with ex-girlfriends, cute boys, a mysterious cave, mental institutions, sports radio, warm six-packs, roulette wheels, murder sites, Dairy Queens, and pineapple-upside-down cakes with family in Vegas."
Liebegott's spare, eloquent lines ("Who doesn't get found/ is left unplucked from their stagnant life/ like a penny in the dirt of a dustpan?") have impressed plenty of stars in the indie publishing pantheon -- notably poet Eileen Myles and novelist Michelle Tea, who also appears tonight, but author Joan Larkin as well, who says on the publisher's Web site, "Her witty, compassionate voice haunts me like no other." Hear the former Sister Spit performance poet read at 7:30 at Modern Times Bookstore, 888 Valencia (at 20th Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 282-9246 or visit www.mtbs.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Field of Dreams
Paying tribute to an American icon
The story of Cesar Chavez is a classic American tale: The grandson of immigrants grows up to become a national hero. A man of many achievements, Chavez is best known for unionizing farmworkers and other undocumented laborers. Several events celebrate his legacy this week, but none is bigger than the fifth annual Bay Area Cesar E. Chavez Holiday Parade & Festival. Congresswoman Barbara Lee leads a march up Market Street to Civic Center Plaza, where a fiesta goes on all afternoon. While the lure of handmade crafts and lemonade slushies is undeniable, we're mostly looking forward to catching local Latino bands playing the main stage. Nearly every facet of rock en español is represented, from hip hop/funkers the Bayonics to folksters Caminante. The march starts at noon on Second Street between Market and Mission, and the festival continues from 1 to 5 p.m. at Civic Center Plaza, Polk & McAllister, S.F. Both events are free; call 552-2911 or visit www.onlysf.sfvisitor.org.
-- Jane Tunks
Artists consider a troubled man
"Trouble Man" is the name of a new exhibit in honor of Marvin Gaye, and though the title refers to a blaxploitation film Gaye scored, it seems apt to describe him. In Soul Salon 10's show, 14 visual artists consider the legacy of the much-loved singer, who met an early death in 1984 at the hands of his own father. Gaye's life was complicated, and so are the pieces we've seen; it seems these artists have responded with complexity of their own. "Trouble Man" opens at 1 p.m. on Saturday (and continues through May 28) at the African American Museum and Library, 659 14th St. (at Landers), Oakland. Admission is free; call (510) 637-0200 or visit www.oaklandlibrary.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Some might think the best place to get a stand-up act noticed is a comedy club. Not so in San Francisco, where up-and-coming comedians high-tail it to a weekly open mike at a laundromat. Even Robin Williams has stopped by to check out the talent. Tonight, Brain Wash holds its annual April Fools Comedy Competition. Get your yuks at 7 at 1122 Folsom (at Seventh Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 861-3663 or go to www.brainwash.com.
-- Jane Tunks