The Editors of the Baffler Are About to Tear S.F. a New One Tonight at City Lights

John and muleJohn and mule

There’s an epidemic of highly communicable bullshit happening in San Francisco right now, but two experts will be administering a serum full of antibodies tonight.

Thomas Frank and John Summers, former and current editors of The Baffler, are coming to City Lights Bookstore to deliver an overdue smackdown on everything that gets the city’s smartypants misfits all riled up.

[jump] The topic is “the innovative city,” and Frank and Summers will be speaking to their own contributions to the latest collection of essays from the archives of their resurrected magazine, No Future For You: Salvos from the Baffler.

Although virtually 100 percent of people who go on to read it will agree with the statement “Obama > Bush,” the grim reality lays bare in that the post-Great Recession Obama Era has generated bullshit on a scale not previously seen in American history.

And San Francisco is its capital.

The book certainly makes a fine starting-off point for a look behind the techno-utopian rictus. Every 21st Century neoliberal granfalloon gets its day: LinkedIn, VICE, Fifty Shades of Grey, the insipid slogans of the creative class, and even President Obama himself. All this skewering manages to evade a mounting taste of bitterness or a pervading mood of despair, although it may get the reader in a bit of a lather. It’s hard to read A. S. Hamrah’s evisceration of Thomas Kinkade’s self-mythology or Susan Faludi’s absolutely delicious takedown of corporatized feminism without starting to hope that the next essayist speaks to one’s personal pet peeves:

“Ooh, please let the next one take a wrecking ball to people who call themselves ‘tastemakers’! Please tear ‘disruption’ apart!” 

Its only real fault is a sin of omission. If there’s one thing No Future for You conspicuously lacks, it’s an essay on climate change (or, since the phenomenon is real, an examination of the bullshit that is climate change denial). But maybe even The Baffler hasn’t yet found a way to approach that monstrous, metastasizing threat to our future without sounding dour.

As it is, everything in this collection is bracingly witty (with some genuinely provocative pieces, such as Barbara Ehrenreich’s inquiry into whether God is evil). Why settle for killing a sacred cow when you can look at the deceitful practices of the entire sacred beef industry?

No Future for San Francisco, with Thomas Frank and John Summers. City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus. Wednesday, Oct. 22, 7 p.m.

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