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Queens, Chimpanzees, and Gut-Bearing Memoirists: Lit Picks for Feb. 8 - 21

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Yann Martel appears at Kepler's Books on February 10. (Photo Credit: Geoff Howe)

Sometimes all you want is a big, juicy, dramatic book to consume all of your free time.  Something like Alexander Chee’s The Queen of the Night: a dramatic, ambitious trip though a famous opera singer’s life during the Second French Empire. Chee comes to San Francisco this month to celebrate the publication of his new novel, just 13 years after beginning work on it.  He’s just one of a choice selection of authors to be making the rounds in the Bay Area during these cold sun days of late winter.

Wednesday, Feb. 10: Yann Martel at Kepler’s Books, Menlo Park 

JannMartelIn 2001, Yann Martel had a big hit on his hands with Life of Pi, a parable involving a boy, a boat, and a tiger. The book became a global phenomenon and was made into a visually stunning film, directed by Ang Lee.  Martel’s new novel, The High Mountains of Portugal, again dabbles in faith and animals.  A quest, a ghost story, and a contemporary fable all rolled into one, the novel promises to mix the same sense of mystery, grief, love, and magic as its predecessor. Details here

Saturday, Feb. 13: One Year Anniversary Party at Liminal, Oakland.

Mg Roberts reads at Liminal’s One Year Anniversary on Feb. 13.

Gina Goldblatt founded Liminal, a feminist writing space in Oakland, as a place where those who feel excluded from the mainstream literary establishment might find community, workshops, and support for the often difficult writing life. Deviance: Inhabit the Liminal Space celebrates the first year of life for this crucial space, and features readings by Daphne Gottleib, Alexandra Naughton, Lauren Traetto, Annah Anti-Palindrome, Lake Lady, Indira Allegra, Alexandra Kostoulas, Liz Green, Brenda Usher-Carpino, Jezebel Delilah X, Chani Bockwinkel, Mk Chavez, Maw Shein Win, Hanna Pesha and Mg Roberts, Joy Elan and Aquelia M. Lewis. Details here


Monday, Feb. 15: Meredith Maran at Book Passage, Corte Madera

thRecently, I gave as a birthday present to a friend, a gifted writer with a knack for writing memoir, Meredith Maran’s latest book, Why We Write About Ourselves. The new collection, edited by Maran, presents anecdotes, interviews, and tips from some of the best memoirists publishing today: a list that includes Cheryl Strayed, James McBride, Anne Lamott, Edwidge Danticat, Ayelet Waldman, Meghan Daum, Dani Shapiro, Nick Flynn, and Sandra Tsing Loh. For anyone who wonders why the heck anyone would write about themselves brutally and honestly, despite the risk of targeting for a 21st century festival of shame, this is the book for you. Maran will be in conversation with author Bich Minh Nguyen at Book Passage.  Details here

She also appears on Wednesday, Feb. 17 at A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland.

Tuesday, Feb. 16: Jarett Kobek at City Lights, San Francisco

51lo+KrfhnL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_It’s become fashionable to hate the internet, even though most of us spend most of our waking hours willingly ensnared in the dizzying depths of the World Wide Web. Jarret Kobek’s experimental novel, I Hate the Internet is subtitled a useful novel against men, money, and the filth of the instagram.” The book opens with Adeline, a women in a “culture that hates women” who has recently expressed “unpopular opinions” online. In retribution, she’s just received  a bullying, rapish message of the type often received by women who express any sort of opinion online. “The Internet was a wonderful invention,” writes Kobek. “It was a computer network which people used to remind other people that they were awful pieces of shit.” Thus begins 280 pages of writing about San Francisco, “a once vibrant city, a cauldron for social change, but now a sugarcoated sepulcher that, though beautiful still, has been hollowed out from within by the intersticed forces of technology, oligarchy, and a greed protected from failure by the Internet-induced vapidity of those who used to read, before we all started talking about Miley and Beyonce.” Take a deep breathe, and dive in. Details here

Tuesday, Feb. 16: Alexander Chee at Green Apple Books, San Francisco

17912498Thirteen years ago Alexander Chee began work on The Queen of the Night, an epic, opera-fueled novel published this month. “Last year at this time my biggest fear, after 13 years, was that I could work on a novel all this time–a little over a decade–and no one would care,” Chee wrote on his blog earlier this year. Chee’s fears didn’t come to fruition. The Queen of the Night has found its way onto best of 2016 preview lists at Wired, Elle, The Millions, Buzzfeed, and Entertainment Weekly. The story, about a famous soprano in the French opera during the Second French Empire, has received excellent reviews. Plus, I could stare at the swoon-worthy cover for hours.  Details here

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