Back From San Francisco

Z and I returned home from our second annual trip to San Francisco early Sunday morning. Like, really early. 2:00 am, which was 23:00 San Francisco time. And since we had been staying up late there, our internal clocks were completely out of whack.

Of course we visited City Lights on one of our peregrinations around the city. How could we not? I was much better with my buying urges this time, as I didn’t want to be hit with the outrageous “heavy checked bag” penalty at the airport. I made it by one pound, too!

So. At top left is Rad Women A-Z, which I picked up because Grand Rapids recently commissioned 27 artists to paint 27 electric boxes around downtown. Many of these are in my neighborhood or on my route to work, and they are wonderful! I absolutely love public art projects like this, and I hope the city continues to commission work like this.

Top center is We the Resistance, a collection of essays and stories about nonviolent resistance, which is much needed, as, since the entrenched (e.g. Caucasian, male, conservative, christian, capitalist, etc) power structures default to violence in their enforcement of the status quo, it is easy to want to meet force with force, and that is by definition a limited and self-limiting toolset.

Top right is The Hammer by Adelade Ivanova, one of three books of poetry I picked up more or less at random, from the “recommended by the staff” shelves. The other two are Kamau Daaood’s The Language of Saxophones at bottom left and Lynn Breedlove’s Forty-Five Thought Crimes at bottom right. I have only started Daaood’s book, and it is superb! I have always loved jazz poetry, and my first forays in to the form were fun to read and write but, well, not good. These are extraordinary.

Bottom center is another impulse buy, this one based on the title alone: The Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism. This is some heady reading. I was not at all surprised, given the title, that I opened to a random page and found a quote from Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. It just seemed like that kind of book. And it is the third in a series, which means, once I finish it and scraped my brain off the ceiling, I will need to go back and read the previous two.

This visit reinforced my opinion that City Lights is the most finely curated bookstore I have ever visited, and bookstores nationwide could take cues from their selection and public engagement.

San Francisco was not all books, but the food and art will need to wait for additional blog posts.

A Quiet Week

It was a quiet week here at Winkelman Abbey, what with the latest polar vortex turning Grand Rapids into a wasteland of ice and snow. Not a lot of time or energy for complex tasks (or thought), so it is just as well that the new stack was small.

From left we have the latest issue of The Paris Review and the new Two Lines journal. Next is 77, the most recent shipment from my subscription to Open Letter Books. The last two are If This Goes On and Hope in This Timeline, books from a couple of Kickstarter campaigns which I backed some time ago. They will go nicely with the other resistance-themed anthologies which I have picked up over the last few months.

Speaking of such anthologies, I am still reading through A People’s Future of the United States, which remains amazing. Such consistently powerful writing from an exceptionally diverse group of writers! I expect to have it finished by the end of this week.

This issue of The Paris Review includes an interview with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who will turn 100 in a couple of weeks! The interview was conducted over several weeks in 2018, when he was 99. That he is still alive is remarkable, and that he is still active in the literary world is nothing short of astonishing! In the interview he offhandedly mentions regular occurrences from his early life in France, like occasionally seeing Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoer in a cafe in Paris. You know – trivial things.

Ferlinghetti’s book A Coney Island of the Mind was published in 1958, which means it has been out for over 60 years. I have the 50th anniversary edition, which I picked up at City Lights Bookstore this past June. Ferlinghetti has been doing great things in and for the literary world for a decade longer than I have been alive, and he is still going at it, with a new book, Little Boy, coming out on March 19. I was going to hold off on buying more books for a while, but I can see this is a lost cause.

For more on Sartre and de Beauvoir, I highly recommend At the Existentialist Cafe.