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Books to Go
Books have lives of their own, as do literary reputations. The Mark Twain Company, screening Saturday at Artists' Television Access, is a look at what's happened to Twain's posthumous career -- the jumping frog competitions, the sad fate of his daughter, the author's history as a trademark. The exhaustive labors of UC Berkeley's Mark Twain Project in compiling definitive editions of Twain's papers is glimpsed, as is a dunning letter from Twain's estate to Nikita Khrushchev. Filmmaker Adam Goldman flirts with fashionable notions of deconstructed authorship, but it's clearly a cantankerous human being named Samuel Clemens whom all the fuss is about. It's the words and Twain image that are commodities, not the man himself -- buried these many years.

This is doubly demonstrated by Jason Rosette's film Book Wars (screening Thursday at the Victoria The-ater), an amusing, hourlong look at New York City's street vendors of books, among whose ranks is the filmmaker himself. Whether haunting estate sales (where German propaganda books from 1939 are snapped up by a buyer who can't read German but who recognizes something salable) or buying bags of books from passing cars, this subculture puts everything down on street level and for sale. While some love the books they offer, cleaning and repairing damaged copies, to others the works on display might as well be potatoes. "I have a very hard time reading books," admits one. Bibliophiles should catch both programs, each with a substantial second feature.

-- Gregg Rickman

The Mark Twain Company screens Saturday, March 27, at 8 p.m. at Artists' Television Access, 992 Valencia (at 21st Street), S.F. Admission is $5; call 824-3890. Book Wars screens Thursday, March 25, at 7:30 p.m. at the Victoria Theater, 2961 16th St. (at Mission), S.F. Admission is $9-15; call 731-3786.

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