Telling the stories behind a major issue of our day: immigration

HSFC_2020_01_14_Page30My January 14, 2020 book culture column for the San Francisco Chronicle:

In our highly charged political world it seems everyone has a pet cause. It may be climate change, gun control or health care. Mine is immigration. In his first month in office, President Trump issued the first executive orders on immigration suspending visas, expanding the use of detention, limiting access to asylum, authorizing more aggressive ICE enforcement, banning Syrian refugees — the list goes on. Since then things have gone from bad to worse.

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The writer as glamorous drunk? That myth is long gone.

HSFC_2019_12_31_Page28My December 31 book culture column for the San Francisco Chronicle:

The other day, while listening to a podcast from “Selected Shorts,” the public radio program where actors read short fiction before a live audience, I caught Leonard Nimoy reading Raymond Carver’s dazzling, heartbreaking story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” The four characters sit around a kitchen table drinking endless glasses of gin and talking about love. And a lot more.

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Book lover’s movie fantasies play in the theater of the mind

HSFC_2019_12_17_Page30My December 17 book culture column for the San Francisco Chronicle:

I love movies almost as much as I love books. Sitting in the dark, surrounded by strangers, with a bag of popcorn on my lap and lost in a story on the big screen, I’m in heaven. It’s right up there with curling up on a comfy couch with a soft fleece and a great novel.

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The young adult book genre has become a literary juggernaut

HSFC_2019_12_03_Page30qMy December 3 book culture column for the San Francisco Chronicle:

The publishing industry classifies readers between the ages of 12 and 18 as “young adult,” or YA. When I was on the young end of that spectrum, one of my favorite books, I’m somewhat chagrined to admit, was “Seventeenth Summer,” a teenage romance written in 1942 (about 12 years before I discovered it) by Maureen Daly, herself a teenager at the time.

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Rescued Sausalito bookstore delivers on community engagement

HSFC_2019_11_19_Page32My November 19 book culture column for the San Francisco Chronicle:

Sausalito is an easy target. All you have to do is stroll down Bridgeway Promenade any weekend afternoon and be engulfed in a stream of highly scented, unfortunately garbed, mimosa-swilling tourists shopping at the always-Christmas store or buying nautical-themed paperweights and you’ll have plenty of dissing material. Oh, I forgot the ice cream. Inexplicably, tourists always eat ginormous waffle ice cream cones, often at 10 in the morning.

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Why poetry? Learning to get it, with an assist from Jane Hirshfield

HSFC_2019_11_05-E6My November 5 book culture column for the San Francisco Chronicle:

I suck at poetry. I’m just no good at appreciating it. And I’ve always felt that’s a shameful character defect, especially for a voracious reader such as myself. So I recently set out on a self-designed poetry appreciation course. Naturally, I started with books to tell me how to fix the problem. And there are some excellent ones.

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It’s OK to be an armchair traveler as long as you’re reading the right books

HSFC_2019_10_22-E6My October 22 book culture column for the San Francisco Chronicle:

To some, armchair traveler is a derogatory phrase leveled at someone who learns about a place indirectly through books, movies and/or television without ever leaving home. Not me. I love being transported to a new world from the comfort of my couch, especially via beautifully crafted prose.

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Is Litquake too much? Not for this book lover

SFC_2019-10-08-p28My October 8 book culture column for the San Francisco Chronicle:

For Jack, the moment when he knew the long hours, the money woes, the countless details were all worthwhile came during the 2008 tribute to Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Tom Waits was onstage improvising music to “Coney Island of the Mind.” Marcus Shelby was playing bass. “It’s all downhill from here,” he thought.

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