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March Literary Events

Thursday, March 4
As Slate.com observed of local author Zachary Mason's first book a couple of weeks ago, "There are less hubristic ways to start a career as a novelist than by retelling the story of The Odyssey." But Mason, who once sent a handmade Trojan horse (not actual size) to The New York Times Book Review, apparently is not easily daunted. And so we have The Lost Books of the Odyssey (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $24), in which he takes what might seem like an ill-advised English-class extra-credit assignment and turns it into his own surprisingly original, attention-demanding literature. Feel free to work out your own joke here about seeing the blinded Cyclops through a fresh eye. Meet Mason at Opera Plaza Books Inc., 601 Van Ness (at Turk), S.F. 6 p.m., free; 776-1111 or www.booksinc.net.

Thursday, March 11
Odds are, if you care enough about writers to be reading this, you probably are one. Maybe you're even a famous one. But probably not. In either case, you've probably given some thought to what it means to be a famous writer. Steven J. Zipperstein, a historian at Stanford, has given it a lot of thought, as his recent book, Rosenfeld's Lives: Fame, Oblivion, and the Furies of Writing (Yale University Press, $28), suggests. His subject is Isaac Rosenfeld, a writer and rival of Saul Bellow's who seemed destined for his own share of fame but died suddenly at 38, with "his life reduced to a metaphor for literary failure." It makes you think: If the kind of fame people get from being writers seems quaint nowadays, what does that say about the kind of obscurity they get much more often instead? Zipperstein will be joined by essayist Richard Rodriguez, who is more famous than he is, for a discussion of these matters at the Jewish Community Center, 3200 California (at Presidio), S.F. 8 p.m., $10-$18; 292-1200 or www.jccsf.org.

Saturday, March 13
In San Francisco poet and former literary agent Jandy Nelson's debut novel, The Sky Is Everywhere (Dial Books, $18), a bookish, retiring 17-year-old must emerge from her older sister's shadow, on account of the sister dying. Then she must choose, romantically, between her sister's old boyfriend and the alluring new boy in town. As Nelson writes: "Could this day get any worse? Isn't the answer to that question always yes?" You may have guessed that this is literature for "young adults," and so it is. But a) so is the widely adored work of Francesca Lia Block, to whom Nelson has been favorably compared, and b) at least it isn't literature for "old adults." Nelson will read from and discuss the book at Opera Plaza Books Inc., 601 Van Ness (at Turk), S.F. 6:30 p.m., free; 776-1111 or www.booksinc.net.

Monday, March 15
Did you even know there was an International Poetry Library of San Francisco? Yeah, well, that's why it needs a benefit. Shouldn't say was; should say is. The benefit will be a poetry reading — shouldn't say reading; should say performance — and will include Matthew Zapruder, whose poem "The Pajamaist" has been turned into a German graphic novel; San Francisco State creative writing professor Camille Dungy, who wrote a book of poems about the lives of 19th-century American slaves, Suck on the Marrow (Red Hen Press, $19); and Marc Pinate, who once said, "I gotta compete with loud-ass rap blasting out of headphones and car speakers, with parties and bong rips and trying to get laid ... so I gotta put some razzle-dazzle into my poetry; I do that when I perform and let me tell you, people listen." You can too at the Bin 38 wine bar, 3232 Scott (at Chestnut), S.F. 7 p.m., $10 (or $5 with a book for the library); 408-480-1828 or www.iplsf.org.

Wednesday, March 17
If you think everything you ever needed to know about Korea could be learned from watching M*A*S*H and perusing weird Kim Jong-il photos on the interwebs, well, you're close. But you should also consider other sources of information. You should consider looking at some comics. A good way to do that, with appropriate guidance, is by attending UC Berkeley lecturer Sung Lim Kim's talk, "Realities and Ideals in 1950s and 1960s Korean Comics," at 6:30 p.m. in the Koret Auditorium at the Main Branch of the San Francisco Public Library. The you should venture into the related exhibition, "Korean Comics: A Society Through Small Frames," which spans 40 years and features work from both North and South Korea, at the library's Jewett Gallery. Just be sure not to let Great General Mighty Wing, that crazy socialist bumblebee, indoctrinate you. 100 Larkin (at Grove), S.F. Free; 557-4400 or www.sfpl.org.

 
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