June's Literary Events

Thursday, June 2
Selling paperbacks has never been more revolutionary. It was pretty damn revolutionary before, in the beginning, when open-minded booksellers saw paperbacks as the great democratizers of literature because the masses could afford them. Technology now having democratized literature even more, many of those same masses don't need as many of those paperbacks, and many of those booksellers, accordingly, are out of business. Big bookstore chains haven't helped, but it's cold comfort to see them go under, too. These are the points of discussion in Paperback Dreams, an hour-long documentary featuring several stalwarts of the beleaguered bookselling business, including the owners of Kepler's and Cody's. If nothing else, it's a reminder that the independent bookstore is still — now more than ever — viable as a "literary laboratory." Tonight's screening precedes a discussion with director Alex Beckstead and local booksellers at the Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight St. (at Cole), S.F. 7:30 p.m., $6-$9; 668-3994 or www.redvicmoviehouse.com.  

Tuesday, June 14
Necessarily, the publicity material for Nick Krieger's memoir, Nina Here Nor There: My Journey Beyond Gender (Beacon Press, $15), includes an "Author Note on Pronouns." "Dear Reader," it begins. "You may notice the 'Nina' in the title of the book and the author 'Nick' are the same person. The two names capture different moments in time. I realize this can be confusing. Welcome to my life." That's not peevishness; the book really is welcoming, as befits an honest chronicle of self-discovery through heretofore unknown categories of queerdom. Now here's Krieger again, about halfway through the memoir: "Like gay pride weekend, a week with my parents always seemed like a good idea until it dragged on and on, ended in exhaustion, and left me swearing I'd never participate again, only to forget by the following year." However we identify, it's heartening to know how much we all still have in common, like being able to drive ourselves and each other crazy. Krieger reads from and discusses his book at the Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk Memorial Branch Library, 1 José Sarria (at 16th St.), S.F. 7 p.m., free; 557-4400.

Monday, June 20
Orientation and Other Stories (Faber, $23) is the much anticipated debut fiction collection from Daniel Orozco, formerly a Stegner Fellow and now a creative writing teacher at the University of Idaho. How do we know it is much anticipated? He says so in his acknowledgments: "This book has been a long time coming and a lot of people helped. Thank you, all. Thanks for waiting." We like Orozco's work for several reasons. One reason is a sort of luminous transparency: We perceive a storyteller's mind at work with such clarity and intimacy that it's as if we're participants. It's like, yes, of course, being painted and jumped from are two things that happen to the Golden Gate Bridge; let's look into that, fictionally, with "The Bridge." Another reason is his sly knack for elaborating inherently dehumanizing procedurals into poignantly funny narratives, like the corporate orientation in "Orientation," or the police reports in "Officers Weep." For more reasons, meet him in person and hear him read at the Booksmith, 1644 Haight (at Belvedere), S.F. 7:30 p.m., free; 863-8688 or www.booksmith.com.  

Thursday, June 23
Let's just take one stanza from one poem in David Meltzer's When I Was a Poet (City Lights, $11), the just-published 60th installment of City Lights' longstanding Pocket Poets series of paperbacks. It's from the title poem, and it goes like this: "When I was a Poet/Everything was Possible/there wasn't Anything/that wasn't Poetry." If the past tense there seems a little wistful, bear in mind that it's from the first poem in the first part of a six-part book (and that part five is called "Poems"). For Meltzer, even reminiscence is a way of charging ever forward. The Beat mainstay still is a poet, in other words, and he'll prove it at City Lights, 261 Columbus (at Broadway), S.F. 7 p.m., free; 362-8193 or www.citylights.com.

Thursday, June 30
You may not suppose the world needs another book-length consideration of the controversial Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich, but come on: how many have you actually read? Start with Music for Silenced Voices: Shostakovich and His Fifteen Quartets (Yale University Press, $28), the newest nonfiction tome from Wendy Lesser, who also edits the Berkeley-based Threepenny Review. You may think it restrictive to focus on his lesser-known chamber music, but that would mean you're an unqualified snob. What makes Lesser's book such a ripping good read, in addition to deeply considered music appreciation, is her intelligently personal involvement with the subject. "On May 28, 1964, Shostakovich completed his Ninth Quartet, which was dedicated to Irina Antonova Shostakovich," she writes. "When I asked her some forty-four years later whether she could see anything of herself in the quartet, she shook her head. 'No. But he said it was there. He started to write it almost the moment I appeared in his apartment.'" Don't you want to know where this is going? Lesser reads from her book at City Lights, 261 Columbus (at Broadway), S.F. 7 p.m., free; 362-8193 or www.citylights.com.

 
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