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Tales of the City 

Shaking up the local book scene at Litquake and Green Apple Books' 35th birthday party

Wednesday, Oct 9 2002
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San Francisco has always called itself a book town, citing a rich literary history that inevitably references Jack London, the Beats, and Armistead Maupin's Tales. But part of being a city of readers is carving a new tradition, and the current local scene features impressive modern authors, including one excerpted in The New Yorker (Dave Eggers) and another having won the Pulitzer Prize (Michael Chabon). This weekend, two events up the ante even further.

Litquake, a two-day salute to the written word, makes its debut on Friday. Organized by some of the same intrepid volunteers -- satirist (and former SF Weekly staff writer) Jack Boulware and Chronicle columnist Jane Ganahl among them -- who put together Litstock, a grass-roots fest that ran in 1998 and '99, Litquake provides a cutting-edge alternative for the city's bookworms. It brings together an impressive roster of more than 60 novelists, journalists, and publishing veterans, running the gamut from greenhorns (five young scribes from Youth Speaks) to local celebs (Peter Plate, who wrote while squatting in the Mission, and Alan Black, the man behind the rowdy Edinburgh Castle Pub reading series). Big-name draws like Eggers, J.T. LeRoy, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Robert Hass are also on board.

The festival kicks off with the panel discussion "Dystopia/Utopia: Can the Bay Area Uphold a New Generation of Writers?" Plate, Justin Chin, Beth Lisick, Herb Gold, devorah major (our city's poet laureate), and Youth Speaks founder James Kass address the dilemma of living and working in an area that attracts writers with its free spirit but discourages them with exorbitant rents and puny arts support. Saturday's filled with free, 10-minute readings, then winds down with "After Shock," an evening of political readings followed by DJ music. Special guest Irvine Welsh, the author of Trainspotting (who's been credited with igniting the Edinburgh's series in 1995), reads from his new book, Porno.

Meanwhile, Green Apple Books, one of the city's largest independent bookstores, celebrates its 35th birthday with signings and readings by Eggers, Dennis McNally, and erotic photographer Eric Kroll, among others. The festivities take place on Oct. 12, declared by the Board of Supervisors to be "Green Apple Books Day," and Oct. 13. Walter the Giant Storyteller and Miss Kitty keep the youngsters busy, while bagpiper Ryan McCabe and surf-jazz ensemble the Shi-Tones provide musical distraction.

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Lisa Hom

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