Books

Interview with Nicole Krauss, author of ‘Forest Dark’
Structurally, Nicole Krauss is a master of entwining narratives, while philosophically she has grappled deftly in all four of her novels with complex questions of memory’s pull on self-awareness, and how our everyday selves and experiences fragment under nostalgic scrutiny. These two strengths, of the writer and the scholar, form a braided whole in Krauss’ new novel “Forest Dark” (Harper; $27.99), which is split into two distinct stories about Jewish New Yorkers — one an aging male lawyer, one a 39-year-old writer and mother — fleeing their everyday lives for Israel.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
Recommended reading, Sept. 24
We recommend these recently reviewed titles: Forest Dark By Nicole Krauss (Harper; 290 pages; $27.99) In her triumphant new novel, Krauss reprises the themes of loss and quest, and continues the structure of dual protagonists whose trajectories may eventually align. She has once again mastered a light touch in pursuit of weighty themes.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
Literary guide
Sunday Janna Barkin “He’s Always Been My Son.” 4 p.m. Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. www.bookpassage.com Ilona Bray “Mossby’s Magic Carpet Handbook.” 3 p.m. East Bay Booksellers, 5433 College Ave., Oakland. www.ebbooksellers.com Kathleen Buckstaff “Get Savvy.” 7 p.m. Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. www.bookpassage.com Terry Allen Kupers “Solitary: The Inside Story of Supermax Isolation and How We Can Abolish It.” 2 p.m. Copperfield’s Books, 850 Fourth St., San Rafael. www.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
Roundup of children’s books
Her Right Foot By Dave Eggers; illustrated by Shawn Harris (Chronicle; 104 pages; $19.99; ages 5-8) San Francisco has a One City One Book program. Each year, folks read the same book. Maybe it’s time for One Country One Book, and “Her Right Foot,” this momentous picture book, should be the first. Focused on the iconic Statue of Liberty, it is factual about her story, conversational in its telling, playful in artistic style, and powerful in its message.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
Weekend booking: Francis Ford Coppola
Ever curious and ever the maverick, Francis Ford Coppola is now spreading the gospel of something called live cinema. Mixing techniques from theater, TV and film, the medium lets audiences watch performances, shot by many cameras, in real time. The director outlines the concept in his new book, “Live Cinema and Its Techniques” (Liveright; $25.95), his second published work, after last year’s “The Godfather Notebook.” “The purpose of this book,” Coppola writes, “is not to indulge in nostalgia, whether for live television or for the early days of filmmaking, but to explore this new medium, to discover how it is different from other creative forms ... and especially, to look at how it can be used and taught.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
‘Sing, Unburied, Sing,’ by Jesmyn Ward
The opening scene of Jesmyn Ward’s new novel, “Sing, Unburied, Sing,” is not for the faint of heart. In it, Jojo watches with equal fascination and horror as his grandfather, Pop — the man who raised him — slaughters a goat. “Pop slits. The goat makes a sound of surprise, a bleat swallowed by a gurgle, and then there’s blood and mud everywhere,” Ward writes. Later, she describes the slickness of the skin as it peels off the goat’s bloody hide like a banana. It’s a fitting image for a book that’s filled with death and ruin, of characters so distraught and lonely that many can’t find enough light or hope to claw a clear path out of misery.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
Historic literary journal Reed magazine celebrates 150 years
To look at the story of Reed magazine is to glimpse the panoply of American history. One of the nation’s oldest literary journals west of the Mississippi, Reed was founded in 1867 by the female students of California State Normal School, a teachers school that would become San Jose State University. “It’s kind of a staggering concept. We were founded two years after the Civil War ended,” says Cathleen Miller, Reed magazine’s editor in chief. “We are almost as old as the state of California.” Back then, the journal, which celebrates 150 years in 2017, was handwritten and called the Acorn — a small booklet of student musings and reflections.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
Brontez Purnell reading, performance at City Lights
Brontez Purnell, a fixture of the Bay Area queer-punk-art scene for more than a decade, will read from his novel, “Since I Laid My Burden Down,” at City Lights on Wednesday, Sept. 20. His band, the Younger Lovers, is also set to perform. The reading and performance begin at 7 p.m. at City Lights, 261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco. — Ryan Kost
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
‘An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic,’ by Daniel Mendelsohn
The critic James Wood begins his book “How Fiction Works” with this little dictum: “The house of fiction has many windows, but only two or three doors.” The same basic tenet can be applied, I think, to literary criticism. There are only so many ways one can write about a book. There is the New Critics-style textual approach: a no-frills method that sticks to the text itself, analyzing its properties and techniques wholly from within. One may take the historical stance (think of New Historicist critic Stephen Greenblatt) — that is, telling the history of the work itself, its cultural peculiarities, as well as its influence on subsequent generations, in order to gain insight into the time in which it was written.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
‘Forest Dark,’ by Nicole Krauss
Nicole Krauss writes novels the way James Wood writes critical essays: They are cerebral and contemplative, intimately engaged in a dialogue with literary predecessors. But her books aren’t merely brainy. This author is incapable of writing a sentence that does not seem chiseled to perfection. Krauss’ previous novel, “Great House,” followed four disparate characters thousands of miles apart, apparently linked by a huge, mysterious writing desk that’s gone missing. Though some reviewers found the links between these people so enigmatic as to make for an unsatisfying whole, the judges for the National Book Award were impressed. They named it a finalist for the prize.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
10 fiction contenders named for National Book Award
Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s first novel saw the light of day last month. And just like that, the Oakland resident — a New Orleans native and graduate of UC Berkeley School of Law — is now one of the contenders for the National Book Award for Fiction. “A Kind of Freedom,” published by Berkeley’s Counterpoint Press, is one of 10 titles that made the longlist, announced Friday morning. The novel tells of an African American family in New Orleans over three generations. In her review of the book for The Chronicle, R.O. Kwon wrote, “Sexton details some of the many ways racism adds to the difficulties faced by [its characters]. ... The white police officer who extorts money ...
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
J.P. Donleavy, author of ‘The Ginger Man,’ dies
LONDON — J.P. Donleavy, the incorrigible Irish-American author and playwright whose ribald debut novel “The Ginger Man” met scorn, censorship and eventually celebration as a groundbreaking classic, has died at age 91. Mr. Donleavy, a native New Yorker who lived his final years on an estate west of Dublin, died Monday in Ireland. His death was confirmed by personal assistant Deborah Goss. The author of more than a dozen books, he sometimes was compared to James Joyce as a prose stylist, but also was admired for his sense of humor. “The Ginger Man,” first published in 1955, sold more than 45 million copies and placed No.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
Recommended reading, Sept. 17
We recommend these recently reviewed titles: The Golden House By Salman Rushdie (Random House; 380 pages; $28.99) Rushdie’s latest novel is a dirge for the American dream, a Greek tragedy with Indian roots and New York coordinates.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
Literary guide
Sunday Florencia Ramirez, Pope Brock, Karen Gettert Shoemaker Once and Future Planet: Plants, Water and People 5 p.m. City Lights, 261 Columbus Ave., S.F. Charles Rubin “Leaning On Thin Air.” 4 p.m. Book Passage, 100 Bay St., Sausalito. Monday Bruce Henderson “How the Ritchie Boys Defeated Hitler.” 7:30 p.m. Kepler’s, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park. Joyce Maynard, Lucy Kalanithi “The Best of Us.” 6:30 p.m. $8-$50. Commonwealth Club, 555 Post St., S.F.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
‘The Burning Girl,’ by Claire Messud
Adolescent female friendship is at the heart of Claire Messud’s sixth book, “The Burning Girl.” For readers of Messud, this narrative might appear to be a departure from her previous novels (most recently “The Woman Upstairs” and “The Emperor’s Children”), where the author took on complicated characters while commenting on the social norms and constructs of our society. Her new novel falls into the coming-of-age genre, an unadorned narrative that charts the broken friendship of two teenage girls, but as her readers have come to expect, Messud is committed to the deep emotional excavation of her characters, revealing and exploring the complex inner impulses that fuel their stories.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM