Books

Paul Madonna at Book Passage in SF
Celebrate Small Business Saturday at the San Francisco Ferry Building, where Paul Madonna will be hosting a meet and greet in conjunction with his recently released novel, “Close Enough for the Angels.” Madonna is a Bay Area darling, due in part to his long-standing comic series “All Over Coffee,” which ran in The Chronicle for 12 years. “Close Enough for the Angels” (from Petty Curse Books) incorporates more than 100 rich drawings, which bring a haunting visual element to a story of a mysterious disappearance and a former celebrity’s unwilling return to the limelight. Discuss “Close Enough for the Angels” with Madonna at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 25, at Book Passage (1 Ferry Building).
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
‘The Truth About Me: Stories,’ by Louise Marburg
Let us now praise small literary presses: that growing band of sane, brave curators in an otherwise frantic literary landscape. Shepherding into daylight a selection of excellent new works (that may have been rebuffed or ignored by larger houses), these pioneer publishers do hero duty. The Bay Area’s WTAW Press (emerging from the monthly Sausalito reading series Why There Are Words) is a fine exemplar. Offering Louise Marburg’s debut story collection “The Truth About Me” as one of two inaugural titles, WTAW Press has, to my thinking, cracked it out of the park. This is joyful news for literature, and certainly for story collections — a form that larger publishers often snub.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
Recommended reading, Nov. 19
We recommend these recently reviewed titles: Future Home of the Living God By Louise Erdrich (Harper; 264 pages; $28.99) Erdrich’s latest novel unleashes a dystopia based on the oppression of women, imagining a world in which climate change has fast-forwarded from imminent to here-and-now.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
Literary guide, Nov. 19
Sunday Oliver Chin “The Discovery of Ramen: The Asian Hall of Fame.” 11 a.m. Books Inc., 1375 Burlingame Ave., Burlingame. www.booksinc.net Eduardo Galeano tribute Alice Walker and others read new stories by Galeano. 6-9:30 p.m. $15-$18. First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way, Berkeley. www.brownpapertickets.com/event/3091252 Marin Ballet “The Nutcracker.” 2 p.m. Diesel, 2419 Larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur. www.dieselbookstore.com Vanessa Spina “Keto Essentials.” 2 p.m.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
A selection of first sentences from new books, Nov. 19
It rained like we were a splatter of bird s— God was trying to hose off his deck. “What the Hell Did I Just Read,” a novel by David Wong Getting out of prison is like having a rotten tooth pulled from your mouth: it feels good to have it gone, but it’s hard not to keep touching at that hole. “Every Man a Menace,” a novel, now in paperback, by Patrick Hoffman In every book my husband’s written, a character named Colin suffers a horrible death.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies,’ by John Boyne
At nearly 600 pages, Ireland native John Boyne’s 10th novel for adults is what one might call epic. Or, to use another tread-worn phrase, sweeping. Spanning seven decades, from 1945 to 2015, the door stopper of a book checks every box when it comes to literary themes: a young protagonist’s coming of age, Great Love found and lost, hard-won triumph over prejudice, and so on. Yet despite its ambitious scope, “The Heart’s Invisible Furies” also narrows in on something very specific. On a molecular level, it traces one man’s life and struggles across two continents and three countries.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
‘In the Midst of Winter,’ by Isabel Allende
Isabel Allende’s “In the Midst of Winter” is her 19th novel, and it is told with her characteristic warmth. Lucia Maraz is a charming 61-year-old Chilean woman who has taken up residence in Richard Bowmaster’s spare Prospect Heights basement apartment. Richard is a reserved, gloomy white academic who is also Lucia’s boss at New York University’s Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, where she works as a visiting professor. Although Lucia harbors a crush on Richard, and tries to coax him into a flirtation, he keeps a safe distance from her. During a blizzard, things change. Richard drives to the vet with his sick cat, and on the way back, accidentally crashes into the back of a Lexus.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
‘David Bowie: A Life,’ by Dylan Jones
Just a few pages of the more than 500 in this beguiling new oral biography of David Bowie address the singer’s apparent lifelong devotion to Buddhism. But the testimony on those pages would seem a crucial key to Bowie’s fantastic success, his phenomenal ability to re-create himself time and again over a half-century as rock music’s biggest enigma. “It might have been easy to assume this was just another affectation, but he subscribed completely to Buddhist ideas of ‘self-empty’ and ascetic withdrawal,” writes Dylan Jones, the British writer and magazine editor who compiled “David Bowie: A Life” from nearly 200 interviews with Bowie’s friends, colleagues and other associates.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
Jesmyn Ward, Masha Gessen among National Book Award winners
Jesmyn Ward has won the National Book Award for fiction for her novel “Sing, Unburied, Sing.” Told from multiple perspectives in a fierce, unadorned style, the book centers on a family’s road trip in hardscrabble Mississippi. In her review of the novel for The Chronicle, Alexis Burling wrote, “It’s Ward’s clear sense of time, place, and the rich mysteries stuffed in-between that brings this soulful, truth-telling novel together. … Ward’s descriptions of the ‘feathery dark heart’ of the region’s bayous, the oppressive heat and its dense woods marred by a violent and tragic history ring out like poetry dangling from the ghost-ridden branches of its trees.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
‘The Dark Dark: Stories,’ by Samantha Hunt
Many of the narrators in novelist Samantha Hunt’s debut story collection, “The Dark Dark,” are unreliable. Whether they speak in the first person or the omniscient third, they are not to be trusted. Unreliable narrators are in fashion in contemporary fiction, but their use is especially fitting in Hunt’s stories: The author of “Mr. Splitfoot” and “The Invention of Everything Else” writes about people living lives of uncertainty in an unreliable world. Even the titles of some of the 10 stories seem almost like warnings that we are about to enter dark and unsettling places: “Beast,” “The House Began to Pitch,” “Cortes the Killer.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
Celebrity anthology becomes force for child literacy
In 2001, James Owens had an idea for a book, one whose purpose was so simple it sounds almost comical in retrospect. “I was running out of things to read,” says Owens, a professor at the University of Southern California. “But I thought, well, it’d be really interesting to hear about the books that inspire prominent people, and maybe I’ll come up with a book list for myself, and then of course be able to share that with others.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
Emma Cline, Vendela Vida and ‘The Girls’: A conversation
Emma Cline’s 2016 debut novel “The Girls” was one of last summer’s hottest reads. The book presents a coming-of-age tale steeped in the characters’ dark fascinations, as the author borrows details from the Charles Manson family cult to explore one adolescent’s craving for attention and love. Cline will be in conversation with fellow novelist Vendela Vida at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 16 at the Nourse Theater, 275 Hayes St., San Francisco. Like Cline’s novel, Vida’s work often features young female protagonists dealing with issues of violence and self-discovery. The conversation is part of the “On Arts” series presented by City Arts & Lectures every fall.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
At home in Hawaii: Poet W.S. Merwin and the sense of place
I first encountered the poetry of W.S. Merwin in 1987. I was a newly converted English major, and the assignment was to peruse our poetry anthology and note any poems that intrigued us. I still remember sitting in the dining hall, thumbing through Robert DiYanni’s “Modern American Poetry: Their Voices and Visions.” Somehow, I found myself reading Merwin’s “A Door” and “When You Go Away.” Almost immediately, I could feel the entire room moving away from me, as though it were on a conveyor. I had never encountered anything like his poems: dark but beautiful, accessible but otherworldly, grave yet lyric. Reading those poems in that book on that day changed my life.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
New books by Naomi Alderman, Ann Leckie, William Gibson
The Power By Naomi Alderman (Little, Brown; 386 pages; $34) The winner of the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, Naomi Alderman’s “The Power” takes a simple-seeming science fiction premise — what if women were suddenly more physically powerful than men? — and spins a dystopian tale that is elegant, elaborate, insightful and frightening in its implications.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM
New books by Annalee Newitz, M.T. Anderson, Maggie Shen King
Autonomous By Annalee Newitz (Tor; 301 pages; $25.99) It’s 2144, and synthetic biologist/pharmaceutical pirate Jack Chen is beginning to think she has made a terrible mistake. Workers across the globe are becoming dangerously obsessed with mundane tasks after dosing themselves with a productivity enhancer known as Zacuity.
01/01/1970 12:00 AM