"True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country." —Kurt Vonnegut
When some of us were 24, we were wide-eyed things exhausting ourselves in budding careers, earning pennies for the privilege of living in San Francisco and then spending said pennies on malbec at Hotel Biron and vintage furniture at Stuff. We were "adulting" but barely, faking it till we made it.
For anyone who's lived here since the late '90s or early 2000s, it seems uncanny that Litquake is 24 this year. The scrappy local literary festival started by Jane Ganahl and Jack Boulware has made it. And now, presumably exhausted, mama Ganahl and papa Boulware have handed over their grown-up brainchild—now a national influencer with a touch of global wanderlust—to a newly appointed executive director, Norah Piehl. When this year's festival opens with a glamorous kickoff at Nob Hill's University Club on October 5th, it will mark the end of an era and the start of another; a new chapter, ahem.
When singer/songwriter Susanna Hoffs was herself barely a quarter-century young, her band The Bangles had just released its first full-length album. Hoffs didn't have to fake it long (if she ever did): The group's sophomore album went double-platinum three years later with mega-hits including "Manic Monday" (written by Prince) and "Walk Like An Egyptian." Hoffs will be a headliner at Litquake 2023, on stage with her guitar at Verdi Club to talk up her debut novel about, you guessed it, a young woman in music.
Hoffs' presentation of This Bird Has Flown is one of the highlights we're most looking forward to at this year's edition of Litquake. Find a handful more below, and don't forget to close it out with the Lit Crawl on Saturday, October 21st.
Here's what to lit at Litquake 2023. The festival is October 5-21; find the full schedule online at litquake.org.
AI and the Future of Literature
AI is set to eat the entire world, which makes this mashup of tech and lit especially relevant. Join ZYZZYVA editor-in-chief Oscar Villalon as he moderates a panel of Silicon Valley types—including Raiya Kind (Google), Jessica Powell (Audioshake), and James Yu (Sudowrite)—along with Oakland-based writer Ryan Sloan, on a topic that's gnawing most writers today: How will AI change our writing process? Can literature be automated? Will writers become like floppy disks? Discuss.
// 7pm Sunday October 8 atGray Area, 2665 Mission St (Mission); get more info and register for free at tockify.com.
Bangles' Icon Susanna Hoffs at Verdi Club
If you're old enough to remember teasing your bangs, then chances are you'll recognize author Susanna Hoffs, the iconic voice of The Bangles who brought us some delicious, now-throwback classics including "Manic Monday" and "Walk Like an Egyptian." Now 64, the singer, songwriter, pal of Prince (RIP), and U.C. Berkeley alum is taking a fresh tone as a novelist with a bit of inspiration from her past. Hoffs' literary debut, This Bird Has Flown, follows a 33-year-old one-hit-wonder whose luck is about to change, and is the “smart, ferocious rock-star redemption romance you didn’t know you needed,” according to The New York Times.
Catch Hoffs and her guitar on stage with Page One Podcast host Holly Payne, in conversation about words, music, and the striking similarities between writing a song and crafting a novel.
// 7pm Wednesday Oct. 11 at Verdi Club, 2424 Mariposa St; for info and tickets ($40 advance/$45 door; includes a copy of the book), visit tockify.com.
Selected Shorts With Host Andrew Sean Greer
Andrew Sean Greer.
(Courtesy of the author)
Pulitzer Prize–winning author Andrew Sean Greer can hold his own in a spotlight, but tonight he's sharing it with some real pros: actors, that is. ASG is hosting the Litquake edition of Selected Shorts, the popular radio show and podcast that puts great stories into the hands of thespians for performances that bring the written word to life. Take a seat for what promises to be an unforgettable night of one-of-a-kind storytelling with guest readers Tate Donovan, Baron Vaughn, and Michaela Watkins
// 8pm Saturday October 14 at Marines Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter St 2nd floor; tickets ($25/advance and $30/door) at tockify.com.
'The World According to Joan Didion'
(Courtesy of @msladyevelyn)
Sixty-seven years ago, Sacramento-born Joan Didion graduated with a Bachelor's from U.C. Berkeley and made her way to New York for a job at Vogue. It was in those early, lonely years in Manhattan that the California girl wrote her first novel, Run, River, set in her own hometown. At Litquake this year, the late Didion comes home to Berkeley in biographical form.
Author Evelyn McDonnell's The World According to Joan Didion is an intimate look at the life, work, and legacy of an author of unmatched style and substance, who remains deeply beloved here in California.
McDonnell—who has also chronicled the lives of Bjork and The Runaways—will read from her new book and engage in conversation with Lisa Reinertson, sculptor of the Didion statue that sits pretty inside the Sacramento Public Library.
// 7pm Wednesday October 18 at Mrs. Dalloway's Bookstore, 2904 College Ave. (Berkeley); find details and register for free at tockify.com.
'Vulgarian Rhapsody' With Alvin Orloff and Friends
Everything will be fabulous, or shall we say fabulosa, when LAMBDA Literary Prize finalist and bookshop proprietor Alvin Orloff launches his fourth novel. With a gayest-ever resume that includes stints as an exotic dancer, performer with the "absurd performance art/homocore band" The Popstitutes, and cofounder of the floating queer cabaret Klubstitute, Orloff is just the right guide to lead us through San Francisco’s rainbow bohemia of the late 20th century. He does just that in Vulgarian Rhapsody, a romp about with drag queens, barflies, and bon vivants grappling to hang onto their lifestyles in the face of a shifting culture.
After reading, Orloff will be in conversation with Brontez Purnell, author of 100 Boyfriends. Musical guest star Jennifer Blowdryer and drag legend Birdie Bob Watt bring further glitter to the affair.
// 7pm Thursday October 19 at Fabulosa Books, 489 Castro St. (Castro); get more info and register for free at tockify.com.