Edward Lewine's book Death in the Sun: A Matador's Season in the Heart of Spain primarily concerns the comeback year of Francisco Rivera Ordóñez, a matador descended from bullfighting royalty (his grandfather was Hemingway's muse). But it's also a crash course in the tradition-bound subculture of killing bulls, a practice that various people deem a sport, an art form, or outright slaughter, depending on how they swing. For Spain and Lewine, bullfighting is sacred, the beauty lying in the grace of the matador, the sweep of his muleta, his courage, and his ability to bend the will of the bull to his own. Spanish crowds judge the work soberly, despite the spectacle of six dead bulls per event. Silence, or outright hostility, is far more common than the cherished "Olé!"
Lewine calls this a book of journalism, and the treatment of bulls is stated without emotion -- they die, always -- save for one chapter concerning good and bad deaths. A bull taking multiple sword thrusts, unwilling to go gently, is very bad, uncomfortable for the audience and a mark against the matador (and a barrier to his receiving trophy ears). But a well-placed "death sword"? That's art. Edward Lewine reads at 2 p.m. at Book Passage in the Ferry Building, Embarcadero & Market, S.F. Admission is free; call 835-1020 or visit www.bookpassage.com.
-- Michael Leaverton
Tips from a local
Once I planned a trip to Baja's fabled Seven Sisters coastline, a previous generation's surfing mecca. I got as far as San Miguel; after a harrowing midnight drive on the highway (dead cows, federales) and a brief dip in water that made my hands sting, I motored back to antiseptic SoCal, all bribed out.
I could have used a guide like Trudi Angell. In her lecture "Exploring Baja California: Hiking, Kayaking, Mountain Biking, & More," this Baja resident presents a slide show of trips such as kayaking the Sea of Cortez, riding mules along missionary trails, and snorkeling off island beaches. The talk starts at 7 p.m. at REI San Francisco, 840 Brannan (at Seventh Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 934-1938 or visit www.rei.com.
-- Michael Leaverton