Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Progressive Reading Series

While there was a lot of George W. Bush-bashing at Monday night’s Progressive Reading Series in San Francisco, the real focus was on the power of literature. Hundreds of people crowded into the Make-Out Room, a trendy bar in the Mission district, for another round of readings produced by writer Stephen Elliot.

The evening raised $3,000 for progressive campaign races. Elliot said much of the money will go to help Tony Trupiano in his campaign to unseat Republican Thaddeus McCotter in Michigan’s 11th Congressional District.

Lots of fun in the evening. Jack Bouleware read an appropriately outrageous and often disgusting essay about his poop-eating dog. (Appropriate because he wrote San Francisco Bizarro, a book about the weirdest aspects of San Francisco life.) Katherine Noel followed him with an excerpt from her much more sober novel, Halfway House.

The ever-amiable Jason Roberts read from A Sense of the World. The book flew to the San Francisco Chronicle bestseller list after a glowing review in the book review section. It got a lukewarm review this week in the New York Times, which is a bummer, but I hope Roberts doesn’t take that opinion too seriously; obviously many people think the book is a gem.

The poet W.S. Di Piero was up next. He’s won so many awards that I couldn’t keep up with their recitation, but his four poems were wonderfully poignant. Comedian and writer Nato Green softened up the crowd with his caustic and comic jokes.

Then it was star time. No one knows for sure who got to ride in the big black Lincoln Town car, avec chauffeur, that was waiting outside the bar on 22nd Street. Most people bet the ride was for Jane Smiley, who lives in Santa Cruz. But maybe it was for Jonathan Franzen, who seems to have a sister and brother-in-law in the Bay Area. Franzen announced to the crowd that he just discovered that he and Smiley grew up at the same time in the same small town in Missouri; they may have even swum in the same swimming pool.

Smiley got a lot of applause for just coming on stage, and more from reading from her book Thirteen Ways to Look at the Novel. Then Jonathan Franzen bounded softly to the stage to read from his new memoir, The Discomfort Zone: A Personal History, which has religious themes throughout. It will come out in the fall. Both were somewhat soft-spoken and reserved, but grateful to be reading in front of such a literate and politically-correct audience.

I’m not sure if there is a San Francisco literary scene, but one aspect of it was out in full force. Sighted: Grottoites Peter Orner, Po Bronson, Tom Barbash, Allison Hoover Bartlett, Katherine Neilan. Kevin Smokler, who is forging a new citizen journalist corps, attended, as did Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter and author of The Mommy Brain, Katherine Ellison. Wall Street Journal reporter Julie Flynn Siler was there, too, as was Susan Frienkel, who has a book coming out from UC Press on the decline of the American chestnut tree.

I STOPPED by Cody’s on Telegraph twice on Monday. It was its last day. Everything in the store was 20% and there were long lines both times I peeked in.

1 comment:

Armand said...

wow- sounds like quite an event.

- Armand