best reads of the year + fun at fusion city

Over at The Millions today, Max gives me the chance to sing the praises of the best books I read this year. Top o’ the Heap: The Death of a Beekeeper, which I’ve surely mentioned in these pages before. You may also find a couple of surprises on the list, as Max allowed us to write about any book we read this year, not just those that were published in 2005.

Two gorgeous events to sum up today. On Monday night, I had the pleasure of joining Kate Braverman for her wild and wacky “literary talk show,” Fusion City, over at Edinburgh Castle. Other guests were Kim Addonizio, Katia Noyes, and Charlie Anders. San Fran’s much-beloved Daphne Gottlieb was the performance artist. Kate danced and played the tambourine and recited her poem Rushing, her husband Alan provided accoustics, Daphne performed a zesty mix of her own poems, and then the rest of us sat down to talk with Kate about the experience of publishing our first novel. The stage lights were bright, the audience was candle-lit, and the talk was unpredictable, which gave the whole thing a sort of surreal this-aint-the-today-show feeling.

Revelations of the evening: Kim Addonizio has taken up the trapeze arts! Plus, Katia and Charlie both made a Best 10 Queer Books of 2005 list, but I don’t know what list, so I’ll have to update you on that later.

Then, last night, I got to meet up with Don George again, this time at Book Passage, where seven contributors to his Lonely Planet anthology By the Seat of My Pants shared our travel stories. Among the offerings: snake karma with Linda Wantanabe McFerrin and a visit with the Prince of Licthtenstein by Kathie Kertesz. Book Passage’s Tim Pearson took great care of us, and I had the pleasure of meeting a woman who will be in my grad novel seminar at St. Mary’s next semester, novelist Camille Minichino.

tonight at book passage

Don George, weekly travel columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and editor of the Lonely Planet humor anthology By the Seat of My Pants, will be at Book Passage in Corte Madera tonight at 7:00. I’ll be joining him to talk about my essay, “Blackout in Ushauia,” which involves an electrical outage at the Southern tip of Tierra del Fuego and an awkward encounter my husband and I had with a large family in our hotel room. Other contributors will also be sharing their funny travel stories.

doing time

Remember that piece in Harper’s a few months back wherein Lynn Freed compares teaching creative writing to suffering in a gulag? Did it seem a bit over-the-top? From the mind of Mark Pritchard, author of Too Beautiful and Other Stories and How I Adore You, comes a hilarious spoof, The Secret Diary of a Prisoner in the Creative Writing Gulag. Here’s a sample entry:

October 5, 1983
I try to begin each class with a bit of Proust, Stendahl, or Trollope. One of the students snickered every time I said “Trollope;” he thought I meant a whore. Faced with À la recherche du temps perdu, only one student had a question: “Has anybody ever read this whole thing?”I moved on to a discussion of point of view. A student wearing what I later discovered was a cap associated with the American sport of baseball offered this observation: “So, no matter how many people you got, third person is only one person.”Only two more months before I go to Ibiza.

fusion city!

Wondering what to do with your Monday night? Join me at San Francisco’s Edinburgh Castle Pub. Kate Braverman is hosting a new series billed as a “literary talk show,” and this is the second event in the series. We’ll sort of be talking about first novels, but with Kate at the helm, anything could happen. In the lineup: Kim Addonizio, Katia Noyes, Charlie Anders, and yours truly. Also on the ticket: a performance by Daphne Gottlieb. 950 Geary, 7:00 p.m.