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Shelf Life: Considering a Minor Sampling of the City's Literary Produce 


City Lights

Howl and Other Poems, by Allen Ginsberg. This Beat-era cornerstone, an anguished ecstatic vernacular lament of social and political conformity, was first published in 1956 and never goes out of style.

The End of San Francisco, by Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore. A kaleidoscopic hybrid of memoir, city mythology, and urgent social history from the famed queer activist.

Yokohama Threeway and Other Small Shames, by Beth Lisick. With compassion, hilarity, irony, and profundity, the beloved local writer and performance artist spins singular yet universal yarns from the fabric of her own life.

All Over Coffee, by Paul Madonna. The essential anthology of Madonna's poetic, peculiar pen-and-ink San Francisco cityscapes.

Lunch Poems, by Frank O'Hara. Another classic from the treasure trove that is City Lights' "Pocket Poets" series, this collection gathers great and popular work from the "New York School" poet par excellence, plus his correspondence with Lawrence Ferlinghetti about its creation.


The Children's Hospital, by Chris Adrian. This novel from local author Adrian, who is also a doctor, tells the tale of an ark-like hospital afloat in the waters of an apocalyptic flood.

Rising Up and Rising Down: Some Thoughts on Violence, Freedom and Urgent Means, by William T. Vollmann. Just some thoughts — totaling seven volumes and more than 3,300 pages. Vollmann's treatise puzzles out a "moral calculus" for human destructiveness, subject to a vast historical and personal analysis.

How Music Works, by David Byrne. The art-rock pioneer offers up his own guidebook of tuneful anthropology.

Mermaid in Chelsea Creek, by Michelle Tea (author) and Jason Polan (illustrator). In this wised-up Young Adult book from local writer Michelle Tea, a 13-year-old girl discovers what magic lurks within her blighted Boston suburb, and within herself.

Zeitoun, by Dave Eggers. This is the plainspoken nonfiction account of a Syrian-American man who helped his New Orleans neighbors after hurricane Katrina, only to find himself locked up and taken for a terrorist.


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