This month's literary events

Thursday, Dec. 2
"A brilliant idea," Dave Eggers says. "A great idea," R. Crumb says. "A brilliant, beautifully executed idea," Kurt Andersen says. Famous blurbists agree that Simon & Schuster's Pulp History series is on to something — namely, an ongoing chronicle of forgotten, extraordinary, violent gallantry, in graphic-novel form. The series' first two books are by Salon.com founders David Talbot (who thought up the brilliant, great, beautifully executed idea, with his sister Margaret) and Gary Kamiya with illustrations by Spain Rodriguez and Jeffrey Smith. Talbot and Rodriguez's Devil Dog ($20) tells and shows of one of America's most decorated and most unsung Marine Corps war heroes, who foiled a plot to take out FDR. Kamiya and Smith's Shadow Knights ($20) introduces Winston Churchill's special-ops squad of Nazi-defying ordinary-citizen saboteurs. If eminent endorsements don't sell it enough, maybe random pullquotes will: "If they did not find the reindeer soon, the Swallow team might perish." Or: "Hellberg could not outshoot the Germans. His only hope was to outski them." Meet the authors at the Jewish Community Center, 3200 California (at Presidio), S.F. 7 p.m., $10-$25; 292-1200 or www.jccsf.org; and Wednesday, Dec. 15, at City Lights, 261 Columbus (at Broadway), S.F. 7 p.m., free; 362-8193 or www.citylights.com.

San Francisco, you may have noticed, is full of stuff-liking white people. The stuff San Francisco white people like includes blogger Christian Lander and his bestselling 2008 book, Stuff White People Like: A Guide to the Unique Taste of Millions. Of course, the same stuff also includes not liking Lander or his book. As once described by him as "one of the top U.S. destinations for white people in terms of both travel and living," San Francisco is also "one of the world's premier locations for white person research." So how is it for researching white people? Find out tonight when he reads from his new book, Whiter Shades of Pale: The Stuff White People Like, Coast to Coast, from Seattle's Sweaters to Maine's Microbrews (Random House, $15), at Books Inc., 2251 Chestnut (at Avila), S.F. 7 p.m., free; 931-3633 or www.booksinc.net. Hmm. The Marina, eh?

Monday, Dec. 6
Perhaps to make up for all the white people, Granta magazine will be celebrating young Spanish-language novelists tonight at City Lights. These include but are not limited to Carlos Yushimito, Andrés Felipe Solano, and Carlos Labbé, whose names might not yet be familiar, and who, by contrast with Lander, might admittedly seem quite exotic: a Peruvian writer of Japanese descent, inspired by Brazil; a Colombian writer who lived for half a year in South Korea at the request of that nation's government; a Chilean writer who lives in New Jersey. But with our own nation's population tending toward Hispanic majority, and this issue of Granta being the first one fully in translation, and Mario Vargas Llosa having just won a Nobel Prize, Spanish-language literature speaks to the espíritu de la época. Tonight's readings and discussion will be hosted by the lauded novelist Daniel Alarcón, a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley's Center for Latin American Studies. City Lights, 261 Columbus Ave. (at Broadway). 7:30 p.m., free; 362-8193 or www.citylights.com.

Monday, Dec. 13
Hey, look: a poetry reading! Well, when's the last time you went to one? Okay, then. Go to this one; it should be great. Left Coast Writers presents Nevada City's Molly Fisk, who is — but you knew this, of course — the author of the amazing poem "Prayer for Joe's Taco Lounge, Mill Valley," among many others, reading from her new book, The More Difficult Beauty (Hip Pocket Press, $17); along with former San Francisco criminal defense lawyer Rebecca Foust reading from God, Seed (Tebot Bach Press, $20), a book of environmental poetry illustrated by local artist Lorna Stevens. And there's even a guest appearance by S.F. poet Robin Ekiss, reading from The Mansion of Happiness (University of Georgia Press,$17). Admission is free and so are refreshments at Book Passage, 1 Ferry Building (Market and Embarcadero), Suite #42, S.F. 6 p.m.; 835-1020 or www.bookpassage.com.

Monday, Dec. 20
How Grinchy would it be to say that holiday stories these days seem to lack inspiration? Even the good ones can get so canned and tedious. Elves, reindeer, peace, goodwill. We get it! Even the plight of poor Charlie Brown and his tragic little Christmas tree seems by now so familiar that it's hard not to yearn for something fresh, modern, genuine. Cue the Porchlight Storytelling Series' 12th Annual Holiday Dream Show. Live stories, no notes, 10 minutes or less — as per Porchlight usual — but here with a seasonal bent. Since it's been running for only a dozen years, this tradition hasn't had time to get run into the ground. Last year's Holiday Dream Show theme: "Toy!" This year's: Don't know yet! (Not as of this writing, anyway.) But that's the beauty of it. Verdi Club, 2424 Mariposa (at Hampshire), S.F. 8 p.m., $15; 861-9199 or www.porchlightsf.com.

 
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