Monday, October 17, 2005


I know I am a slave to literature, so it was heartening to see so many other book addicts on Saturday night at the 6th annual Litquake. Hundreds of people milled around in the Mission District of San Francisco, in a kind of literary pub crawl. You could wander from art gallery to furniture store to bar and listen to dozens of writers read their work.

The level of talent was extraordinary at the reading by the members of the Grotto, the writing collective in the city. I hadn’t heard of most of the writers, so I was stunned by the quality of their work. Marianna Cherry, who is best known for her erotica writings, read a story about a period of celibacy, where she tried to repress sadistic fantasies she had of her father. That might not sound like a palatable topic, but Cherry’s story was moving, as she explored learning to reach out to others despite terrible childhood secrets.

Alex Wellen is clearly accomplished, as he is a screenwriter, producer, and the author of the book Barman, about his law school career. I had never heard of him, but he had me laughing at his description of his family’s reaction after he took the bar exam. Now I have to read the book.

The theme was writing about one’s parents, and Jason Roberts wrote hauntingly about his father, a ne’er do well who won a Pulitzer Prize for photography on a fluke. His father had always been convinced of his own importance, to the detriment of his family’s heath. It was a powerful story.

There were other notable readings: Xandra Castleton on her heart murmur; Po Bronson on promises to his newborn son; and Josh McHugh on a family trip to Florida to swim with the dolphins. The emcee was Tom Barbash, who set a nice tone for the evening.

The evening ended at 9:40 and some of my friends headed over to the new DeYoung museum, which was open all night to accommodate everyone who wanted to see the fancy new digs. I had to pick up my daughter, so I ran into the nearest burrito place I could find on Mission Street, picked up a fiery hot chicken burrito, and headed to the East Bay. I was so jazzed. This is the best part of living in the Bay Area, I thought. The writers I heard inspired me to reach deeper in my own work and reminded me of the importance of listening to what others have to say.

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