Charles Fracchia is passionate about San Francisco's history. A lifelong resident of the city, he's published three books about it, including his latest, When the Water Came Up to Montgomery Street: San Francisco During the Gold Rush. He's also the founder and president emeritus of the SF Historical Society, and was one of the founders of Rolling Stone magazine. In his new book, the first ever to focus entirely on how the Gold Rush impacted SF, he theorizes that San Francisco's "instant city" development during the gold craze may be responsible for its culture of tolerance and inclusiveness today.
Writer, actor, and comedian John Hodgman has had a wild ride since publishing his first book, a collection of fake facts and "Complete World Knowledge" titled The Areas of My Expertise, in 2005. In that time, he's become the resident expert on "The Daily Show," co-starred in numerous films, and portrayed the "PC" in Apple's ongoing series of "Get a Mac" commercials. He's also written a sequel, More Information Than You Require, recently released in paperback. The More Information audiobook, also just released, features celebrity guests ranging from Sarah Vowell to Zach Galifianakis. Hodgman will appear in San Francisco at City Arts & Lectures this weekend.
Jonathan Lethem's best-known novels, Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude, took place in his native Brooklyn, but his new Chronic City shifts its setting to the more rarefied world of Manhattan. It's the story of Perkus Tooth, a pot-fueled music critic and pop-culture theorist, whose unlikely friendship with former child star Chase Insteadman takes the pair on a wild odyssey through the city. Lethem is a former Bay Area resident, and he'll appear in both San Francisco and Berkeley this week to read from the book. We spoke to him about reading aloud, the portrayal of marijuana in literature, and his favorite things to do in the area.
His new book may be titled Manhood for Amateurs, but Michael Chabon has once again proved himself to be an old hand when it comes to getting great reviews. Chabon, a Berkeley resident, discusses numerous topics in the book, his first-ever collection of essays. (It's probably the only genre he hasn't tried, having released novels, short-story collections, a young-adult book, and a collection of adventure stories for McSweeney's.) Many of the essays focus on his geekier passions, including Legos, baseball cards, Star Trek, and comic books (the inspiration for his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay). The centerpiece of the book, however, is his musings on being a father.
Tonight's the last night of structured, regularized events before the free-for-all that is the Lit Crawl. On tap: spoken-word poetry, an all-female panel, the history of zines, and a special event for teenagers.
Actress and poet Amber Tamblyn, who's all over the festival this year, is the star of the new documentary The Drums Inside Your Chest, which takes its name from a poetry group she co-founded. The spoken-word concert film features seven poets and a "vaudevillian magician host" (their words), and is being shown in conjunction with Docfest. (9:15 pm at Roxie Theatre, 3117 16th St. Tickets are $10 at the door.)
Thursday boasts one of Litquake's most fun lineups of events-- perfect for those who want to take part in the festival without being subjected to dry lectures or obscure topics. If you're interested in mystery novels, children's books, humorous takes on American history, or erotica, there's something for you to enjoy.
Tonight centers around one special author: Amy Tan will be receiving Litquake's Barbary Coast Award for her contribution to the Bay Area literary community. You may know Tan as the author of Asian-American identity stories like The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God's Wife, but there are a few things you might not know about her: she's written an opera libretto (for the adaptation of The Bonesetter's Daughter, performed in SF last year), once had a PBS children's series (based on her Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat), and has a master's in linguistics (from San Jose State).
It was a dark and stormy day in San Francisco, and weather that is, undeniably, frightful might keep even the most dedicated Litquake fans from their appointed rounds. If you can round up a pair of rain boots and a sturdy umbrella, though, tonight is full of great events that will keep your brain buzzing and your toes toasty.
Nick Hornby isn't settling for mere literary fame. The bestselling author of High Fidelity, About a Boy, and A Long Way Down has two projects arriving simultaneously: his new novel, Juliet, Naked, and the film An Education, for which he wrote the screenplay-- and that's not mentioning the album he has in the works (more on that in a second).