Thursday, Nov. 3
As on-the-nose and garishly red as that prosthesis Bozo used to wear, Hillary Jordan's When She Woke is a galvanizing fit of a novel, a paranoid fever of Hawthorne, Atwood, and your favorite fundamentalist. Again and again, Jordan goes there. Within the first 15 pages, we learn that hero Hannah Payne (HP!) has been sentenced by the state of Texas (!) to 16 years as a "Chrome," which entails a treatment that turns flesh red (!). Like Hester Prynne's, Hannah's crime is an A, but here it's abortion (!), and that skin treatment is broadcast on TV (!). In short, it's a stab at the great dystopian novel, liberal division, pulled off with brio and power, as you can see when she reads at 7 p.m. at the Marina branch of Books Inc., 2251 Chestnut (at Avila). Free; 931-3633, www.booksinc.net.
Thursday, Nov. 10
Since sometime just after Cannonball Run II, the good ol' boy has been exiled from heroic roles in our popular culture and left instead to play the heavies, the comic relief, or whatever it is Larry the Cable Guy is doing in Cars 2. The Hollywood shorthand equating a drawl with a desire to hoist the Stars and Bars is, like most Hollywood shorthand, as cheap and dumb as a Blue Collar Comedy punchline. In their exemplary new book Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power: Community Organizing in Radical Times, Amy Sonny and James Tracie demonstrate that many good ol' boys bucked the stereotype — and behaved like heroes — when it mattered most: deep in the civil rights movement, when more members of the white working class than you might expect marched, organized, and risked their lives for a cause. Solidarity now, and three cheers for the Bandit and the Snow Man. Sonny and Tracie will discuss their remarkable findings at 7 p.m. at City Lights, 261 Columbus (at Broadway), S.F. Free; 362-8193 or www.citylights.com.
Saturday, Nov. 12
We always found something pushy and unctuous about those posters we used to see that promised that libraries were a magical place where anything could happen. Paddington Bear, mouses on motorcycles, that kid from Then Again Maybe I Won't with all those erections — no matter how hard we imagined, these never materialized at our local branches. Kids today, though, are flatly spoiled, as tonight's extraordinary discussion makes clear. Lemony Snicket himself (well, Daniel Handler) chats with Polar Express author Chris Van Allsburg, and presumably, argues over whose film adaptation botched his book most. Actually, their subject is Van Allsburg's strange and gorgeous classic The Mysteries of Harris Burdick and its new multi-writer mash-up sequel, The Chronicles of Harris Burdick: 14 Amazing Authors Tell the Tales! One serious question, though: Will today's children grow up healthy if the world actually is as great as grown-ups pretend it is?
Find out at the Koret Auditorium at 2 p.m. in the Main Branch of the San Francisco Public Library, 100 Larkin (at Grove). Free; 557-4400 or www.sfpl.org.
Wednesday, Nov. 16
In Pulphead, his wide-ranging and openhearted new collection of essays, reportage, and bursts of his Kentucky-by-way-of-Indiana family history, John Jeremiah Sullivan declares Michael Jackson's body "the greatest piece of postmodern American sculpture." Elsewhere, Sullivan attends Glenn Beck's march on Washington, hangs with eat-what-you-kill backwoodsmen at a Christian rock festival, recounts the addle-brained pronouncements his brother made while recovering from an electrocution (of a nurse: "If she's got our piñata, I'm going to be pissed"), and considers the "weird, implicit enmity that American males, in particular, seem to carry around with them ... something darker than machismo. Something a little wounded, and a little sneering." Sullivan doesn't just get to the hearts of his subjects: He illuminates their hearts, and he will regularly break yours. Sullivan appears at 7:30 p.m. at the Booksmith, 1644 Haight (at Belvedere), S.F. 863-8688 or www.booksmith.com.