Spotted: Garcia: An American Life

Hello everyone!  Or maybe just “Hello one!,” minus the “every.”  If I’m lucky.  It has been an awful long while since I’ve posted anything.  No real excuses why I haven’t written in a while.  Lazy, busy.  Sure.  I did manage to read all of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” books in the interim.  So that’s something.  So anyway.  This book.

I’ve lived in and around the Upper Haight for about 9 years.  A good chunk of that has been within several blocks of where some serious Summer of Love shenanigans went down.  Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Country Joe McDonald and the Fish all lived in and around the area (Patty Hearst also hid out here for awhile too during her Simbionese Liberation Army days).  But no other house gets as much attention as where The Grateful Dead lived.

Now I actually walk by this house most every day.  I’ve seen gutter punks playing Sugar Magnolia on the street out front (expected), and I’ve seen a C-Class Mercedes pulled over on the side of the road with a woman in designer clothing taking pictures (less expected).  Maybe it’s because it has become quotidian to me, but I rarely give the house much thought.  I also have never been much of a jam band fan.  No disrespect to anyone, but I think a 20-minute guitar solo is a lot like a 1000 page book; odds are it’s too long for what it’s trying to accomplish.

So I can’t say it’s a complete surprise that I saw someone reading Garcia: An American Life by Blair Jackson on the bus, and then coincidentally followed him up the street and watched as he stood out in front of 710 Ashbury and just looked up at it.  I couldn’t tell if he was disappointing by how it looks like every other house on the street, or if he was just thinking about all of the lives and music its walls had seen, both inside and out.

If you’re ever in the area, to visit the house or not, this book is for sale at The Booksmith, coincidentally located on Shakedown Street.



Spotted: Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel

Lords and ladies, you’ll never guess what I saw the other day.

So sayeth the wiki:

Wolf Hall (2009) is a multi-award winning historical novel by English author Hilary Mantel, published by Fourth Estate, named after the Seymour family seat of Wolfhall or Wulfhall in Wiltshire. Set in the period from 1500 to 1535, Wolf Hall is a fictionalized biography documenting the rapid rise to power of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII of England, through the death of Sir Thomas More. The novel won both the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award.[1][2] In 2012, The Observer named it as one of “The 10 best historical novels”.[3]

Now of course, when I think of Thomas Cromwell, I can only think of James Frain, who played Cromwell in the Tudors, across from Henry VIII, as played by that crazy guy from the Woody Allen Movie with ScarJo:

Your grace

But then that makes me think of the time when he played this guy in True Blood, who was basically a raping vampire, the worst combination of things since seconds after the big bang:

Your neck

And now I’m hiding under my desk, forgetting what I was talking about.

Cromwell.  Wolf Hall.


Apparently, the author portrays Cromwell not as being the power-hungry sycophant that he is so commonly known for, but rather as a pragmatic and well-rounded character.  Although it seems like she started this project already with the mind-set that she was going to paint him in a softer light.  The truth is probably somewhere in between, as often seems the case.

This does sound like a fascinating read, especially if you like old stories about kings and queens like I do.  Maybe they should make it into a movie.  I wonder who would play Henry VIII?  Hmmmm….



Spotted: Grace

Photo1 (3)

Well it appears that this woman was so deep into Grace, by T. Greenwood, that she forgot to put her second glove on.  Or take the first one off.  The premise is an interesting one.  The store clerk who develops the photographs for a thirteen-year-old is the only one who sees that his family is about to implode via the haunting film he brings in for processing.  Apparently the grandfather is a hoarder.  As someone who has a family member who is borderline hoarder, I think it would be interesting to see how the author deals with this subject.  Or I could just watch that horribly addicting show.

Also, in a Between The Lines SF first, we’re going to actually tweet this to the author herself!  Hopefully we won’t get a cease and desist letter from her lawyers!  From her blog, she actually seems like she would be a pretty cool person.  In person.

Spotted: Bone, Breath, and Gesture

Dammit San Francisco, can’t you read books that I know about?  When I saw the young lady next to me reading a book with the title “Bone, Breath, and Gesture,”* I had no idea what it was about.  Sounds like it should be the name of the new Iron & Wine album.  I thought it could be either 1) creepy fiction, or 2) about skinny asthmatic mimes.  Wait, is that a rhinoceros on the cover?  No, had no idea.  Reading its description wasn’t too helpful at first.

This book is a collection of writings on principles and techniques by the pioneers of bodywork and body awareness disciplines. Together, they represent a historical record of the field of somatics. Ranging from hands-on workers like Ida Rolf to phenomenologist Elizabeth Behnke, their lives span this century. In these lectures, writings, and interviews, editor Don Hanlon Johnson has sought to revel the unbroken lineage, theoretical differences, and major similarities of these originators.

Wut.  But then I remembered a time when a friend mentioned that a family member of hers was getting his certification in “Rolfing.”  After explaining to me that no, in fact, it had nothing to do with the piano-playing Muppet, but was in fact something like extreme massage or chiropractics chiropractasy what a chiropractor does.  I honestly have no idea what phenomenology is, but how awesome is it that some does know what it is and is interested enough in it to be reading “lectures, writings, and interviews” about all this stuff!

And, no kidding, this is available at Green Apple books.  So will someone read this and tell me if I need to be Rolfed?

* Depending on the source, it is listed as either “Bone, Breath, & Gesture” or “Bone, Breath & Gesture.”  I guess the controversy of the oxford comma spills over even into alternative-ish medicines.

Spotted: Everything Is Illuminated

The only thing I had ever heard about “Everything Is Illuminated” was that it was a “hipster” book.  I never really knew what that meant, but I also never really doubted it, since most of the time I saw it being carted around by someone who could probably fall into that category.  And the obscure title kind of fits the part.  But then again, I really liked “Infinite Jest,” so what the f@ck do I know.

But then I see this pretty young lady reading it (wearing some sweet sweet riding boots that the wife would love), and she doesn’t really fall into that category.  And now that I know the plot line involves a young American trying to piece together what happened to his family during the Nazi liquidation of Jews in the Ukraine, I think I might have to revisit how I see this book.  Or maybe, you know, read it.

Spotted: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold

It’s supposed to hit 90 degrees here in SF today, an event which happens between never and two times a year, so my timing of writing about “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold,” a book I saw some months ago (over the summer, when it probably was cold), is a bit off.  But timing has never been my strong suit.  More of a weak suit, which, in my mind, is probably made from camel hair and has a stubborn stain of questionable provenance around the crotch area.  But, it is normally pretty cold here.  Never really really Michigan, Boston, Canada cold, but pretty chilly, especially during the summer months.  In fact, believing our Native American Summer (can I do this or is the whole idea of an “Indian” summer just racist and insensitive?  Please tell me.) to be effectively over, this past weekend I decided to make a nice hardy stew that required a 350 degree oven on the first day of our nice little heat wave .  So yeah.  Timing.  Not so good.

But what an awesome title for a book.  So visually mysterious.  You instantly conjure up the image of a a person having just walked in through the door from the outside, stomping the snow off of his/her boots, framed by the howling wind behind, and bundled up from head to toe, the person’s identity is obscured.  Not quite sure what to make of him/her.  Friend?  Foe?  It’s like what a spy would have written him/herself.

Oh wait, ONE DID.

John le Carré  is one of those names I’ve of heard on and off over the years, and I think more than once  phonetically confused with Louis L’Amour, an author who, rather confusingly/paradoxically to me, is an author of Western Fiction and NOT Romance novels with Fabio on the cover.

Turns out John le Carré, aka David John Moore Cornwell, was a spy, having worked for both MI5 and MI6 before turning to full-time writing under his nom de plume.  This is one of his better known works.  I’m preparing to pick this one up on a cold day, maybe while I’m eating a salad and some ceviche.  Just because that seems to be what I do.

Spotted: As I Lay Dying

I’ve actually read this one, believe it or not.  Oddly/Appropriately enough, I read it while my father was slowly succumbing to pancreatic cancer.  I don’t think I picked up the book because of that, but maybe the whole ordeal had put me in the mood to really get into Faulkner.

I didn’t read it while I was in his presence.  I only read it when I was in my own room, or maybe upstairs in the living room.  Or when it was my Mom’s turn to drive us to far flung cities to visit specialists while he slept.  I was worried that he would somehow find out that I was reading a book with such an immediate present-tense expression of death as a title.  And this was for the man who had a 20-year subscription to Playboy and left them very accessible, much to his son’s happiness from ages 8-forever.  And here I was worried that he might find out I was reading Faulkner.  Maybe he’d give an approving nod, that frown that isn’t really a frown because it connotes understanding rather than sadness.  But he never liked half of the books I read.  The only book I got him into was “Still Life With Woodpecker.”  He became a huge Tom Robbins fan.  I ended up borrowing “Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates” from my father.

Part of me thought that maybe I should read it in front of him.  I thought maybe it would say “I am so confident you will be ok that I am completely comfortable reading this, what some might say, horribly inappropriately timed choice of novel right here in front of you.”  Maybe my choice of literature would say what I didn’t think I could say with a straight face.

However as I read the book [SMALLISH SPOILER ALERT], I learned that the son is actually building the mom’s coffin while his mom is still alive, and pretty much right in front of her.  The horror of this scene, for all those involved, solidified my clandestine reading of this book.  But I never stopped reading it.  In fact, I think I continued to read it out of spite for the universe.  I mean, putting the book down would be kind of surrendering to a rather baseless sentimental association that this book, published in 1930, had anything to do with my situation, with my father’s situation, given the senselessness that my closest friend was not going to be around much longer.   Screw it.  I was going to read this book about someone dying while I watched someone die.  Take THAT Universe.  Take THAT senseless void.  I can be just as big of an asshole as you.

I tried to pick up “The Sound and the Fury” years later but was never able to get through it.  I still own “As I Lay Dying.”  I doubt I’ll ever read it again, but I also probably won’t get rid of it either.  It played a rather odd role during a particular time in my life.  When I look at the title, I don’t really feel any particular grief.  Or happiness.  I don’t even remember most of the story.  But I guess it’s a part of me now.

P.S.  I was tempted to refrain from imposing Faulkner’s face on this photo because, for once, this actually is a rather good pic of the person.

P.P.S. Sorry that got dark.  It felt pretty good though.  I did see another “Game of Thrones.”  Maybe I should start a “Game of Thrones” tally.

Spotted: Atlas Shrugged

When I was in middle school/high school, I would often see “Atlas Shrugged” in our local bookstore, staring back at me from the small fiction section.  Given the size of the book, it probably took up a good proportion of the small fiction section.   Given the size of our town, and the book store, it was probably THE same book that I saw every time I went there.

I found the title (not to mention the cover) quite titillating.  Having an affection for Greek Mythology that straddled the border between healthy intellectual curiosity and early indicator of future psychological problems, the idea of Atlas actually shrugging cast the anchor away for my imagination.  Why did Atlas shrug?  Did someone ask him a question and he didn’t know?  Did he have a cramp?  And what was the significance?  Is that why we have earthquakes?  Or was it just a metaphor for some other earth shaking event?

Unfortunately, I found the pure length of the book as intimidating as I found the title interesting, so I never actually bought or read the book.  I did read some of Ayn Rand’s essays though during trips in the back of our family’s truck, and found her idea of “objectivity” to be enticing, though ultimately impossible to confirm.

To this day.  I think Atlas Shrugged would be something I would like to read, but my curiosity has bee somewhat blunted by the way her name and this book have become closely associated with pure laissez-faire capitalism  (justified ) and the tea party (somewhat justified, not sure if they realize she was an atheist).   I’d like to read a good fictional novel, not sure if I want to get a misanthropic humanist philosophical allegory.   Is it worth the time and effort?

Spotted: Sure of You

I only finished “Tales of the City” about a month ago (I know I know.  I should have my SF residency revoked).   Which was also recently made into a musical.  And it was only three weeks ago that we found out Mr. Maupin and his husband (and Labradoodle) will be relocating to Santa Fe, citing a desire for “a little more space and some nature.”  A sentiment I think us apartment/condo/tiny house dwellers can well understand.

Fear not, Mr. Maupin.  This city will never forget you.  Exhibit A:

Wherein she was reading Exhibit B:

“Sure of You,” and all of Mr. Maupin’s works, can always be found at Green Apple Books.