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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A book lover comes clean: I have never read ‘Infinite Jest.’ Or ‘War and Peace’

SFChron_2019_08_27_Page28sMy August 27 book culture column for the San Francisco Chronicle:

I’m coming clean. Here are books I’ve lied about reading: “War and Peace.” “Gravity’s Rainbow.” “Infinite Jest.” And that’s just for starters. Had my book club not shamed me into reading “Ulysses” and “Swann’s Way” I would have lied about those too.

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Is it worth paying $7,500 to have your book published? Maybe.

SFC_2019-07-30_E6My July 30 book culture column for the San Francisco Chronicle:

My ex-husband’s uncle was a World War II fighter pilot who went down with the plane. A true hero. Several years ago, the family paid someone to write Uncle Dante’s story. They had about 100 books made and distributed them to family and friends. Everyone cherished those books, and Uncle Dante’s heroism was memorialized. To me, that’s one of the very best examples of self-publishing.

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Tricks of the used-book trade at Green Apple Books

SFC_2019_07_16-E6My July 16 book culture column for the San Francisco Chronicle:

E.H. Mann flips through a huge stack of books as if it were a deck of cards, adroitly placing them in three separate piles: Buy, Maybe and No Way. Mann, assistant manager at Green Apple Books on Clement Street, has been the store’s principal used book buyer for the past 19 years. Up to 50 people a day bring in books to sell.

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No need to feel guilty about the pleasures of mystery books

Chron_2019_07_02-E6My July 2 book culture column for the San Francisco Chronicle:

I have a dear friend who for years was a big-deal corporate lawyer in a big-deal New York firm. She worked insane hours and sacrificed a great deal on the road to making partner. But she had a secret guilty pleasure: Great piles of mysteries, the trashier the better, covered every flat surface in her apartment. It was in these satisfying pages that she found relaxation. Throw in a pint of Haagen-Dazs and life was sweet.

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