Posts Tagged San Francisco
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2012). Contemporary fiction. Hardcover. 288 pages. ISBN: 978-0-374-21491-3.
A fun, amusing, smart page-turner that’s perfect for long winter nights. I picked it up and immediately became attached to the San Francisco setting, the Google culture and geeky characters wrapped up in the story of old vs. new technology. Clay Jannon loses his fantastic web-design gig, stumbles upon a graveyard shift in an obscure indie bookstore. The clientele and books seem strange. Clay, a fantasy fan, begins to investigate and becomes entangled in a super-secret society searching for immortality. Reminded me a bit of Douglas Coupland’s Generation X. As Coupland covered Microsoft and my generation, Robin Sloan tackles Google and today’s e-reading 20-somethings. In this novel there’s much discussion about bookstores, book-selling, e-readers, book-scanning and the future of books and book publishing with cloak and dagger sleuthing mixed in.
FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review from the publisher.
Now Flora wondered if that weren’t a survival mechanism on her mother’s part. Muriel gave up living in the present in order to live in the future, in the only way the future could ever be experienced. In this way, she continued to stay alive beyond the present.
Flora thinks she’s going to die on her 60th birthday. A professor and wife of a Rabbi, the San Franciscan had a dream or vision many years ago in which she was told when but not how she’d die. So she’s rather obsessing on this and in doing so fails to see the world about her and to truly enjoy herself. Simultaneously her widowed 86-year-old mother Muriel embarks on extensive traveling and love affairs. Expiration Date is that rare find in a novel these days. It contemplates aging—not glossing over the negatives or puffing out the positives—but with flair and honesty. It also vividly captures the intricacies and challenges in most mother-daughter relationships. [“..with her mother, Flora felt ugly, inadequate, and inferior.”]
Expiration Date proves both humorous and vitalizing. Turns out that maybe expiration dates are only in our minds. Life doesn’t begin or end at a particular time. Those are just the silly notions that our society deems necessary or sensible.
purchase at Amazon: Expiration Date
Title: Drake’s Bay
Author: T.A. Roberts
Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Permanent Press (April 1, 2010)
Review source: publisher
It was all so unlike my normal life program: ancient manuscripts, secrets, Nazi submarines, darkly blonde, beautiful women, scones. Although I was uncomfortable with whatever Brian, let alone Kay, was up to, it was all so damned intriguing.
In Drake’s Bay, T.A. Roberts crafts a thriller steeped in academia and history. Roberts pulls together Sir Francis Drake, California history, and boating in a completely innovative way. Even if the reader knows little about any of these subjects, Drake’s Bay seduces with its impeccable visual and historical details. When San Francisco State professor Ethan Storey takes on an outside project: to archive the library collection for a wealthy family, power-plays and danger follow.
Somewhere amidst all these old books might be Sir Francis Drake’s logbooks of his world voyage from 1577-1580, a huge find for historians and also there’s a brass plate from the voyage of infinite monetary worth for others [particularly two dueling families]. Other historians have cataloged the collection before Ethan and no one has found the true bounty. The logbooks may not even be among the hundreds of books that Ethan finds himself amidst for several days a week. However, the suspicion that the logbooks are out there and connected to these antiques seems likely. Ethan’s girlfriend Kay, an attorney, represents the Ballantine family who has long held an interest in finding the real brass plate [a fake currently exists] and log books.
This mystery is far from antiquated and dusty, there’s murder, chases, and cutthroat deals. When I first received the book and saw that it was about Sir Francis Drake and boating and other seemingly male interests, I wasn’t sure it would be my type of read. I don’t gravitate to that many thrillers even if I like to mix up my reading. Drake’s Bay remains smart, challenging, and provocative from beginning to end. I know my stepfather, a former Navy officer in Vietnam, should really enjoy this one. Drake’s Bay is anything from the usual on the run thriller: an old wooden schooner, Amsterdam, a father-son relationship, moneyed families, competitive universities and scholars all play a role in this deceptively cunning thriller.
Buy Drake’s Bay
When gay rights continue to be threatened today, a film about a 1970s gay rights pioneer is important to see. Unfortunately it will not reach the audiences that it needs to reach most. Here in Massachusetts, we have gay marriage. In California, where Harvey Milk fought for gay rights so ardently, gays have had their civil rights taken away and now are fighting Prop 8 (the recent vote against gay marriage). This should be merely a historical film but it cuts into today’s political climate as much now as it did then. It saddens me. I saw the film with my close friend who happens to be gay. We saw it in liberal Brookline at the Coolidge Corner theatre. During classes we took together there was an early undercurrent of “is he or isn’t he gay?” and I just don’t see why this type of discussion still exists or needs to exist today. Why does who someone chooses to have sex with really matter in the end? More importantly, why should society and the government care so much?
At 40-years-old, Harvey Milk lamented that he hadn’t done anything with his life and after looking around his neighborhood and realizing he had a chance to make a difference, he threw himself into politics. He vigilantly worked against many against many anti-gay initiatives. His effervescent personality, resiliency and perseverance (he ran for office four times) paid off when he finally became elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and the first openly gay elected politician, in 1977. Everyone seemed to like him and he developed a huge grassroots following. During his short time in office, he managed to pass a major gay rights ordinance for San Francisco. Milk and Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by disgruntled former San Francisco supervisor Dan White.
Sean Penn [The Interpreter, Mystic River] portrays Milk in a powerful, profound, commanding performance and will most likely be nominated for an Academy award. He is ebullient and convicted to the end result and wins you over from the first frame. He makes you love Milk right off. He also makes you feel like you are watching a documentary at times. He has the mannerisms and affectations down. And when he’s with his lover, played by the talented James Franco [Pineapple Express, Spider-Man 3], the sex appeal oozes. The duo has smoldering and intense chemistry. James Brolin [W, No Country for Old Men] as Dan White and Emile Hirsch [Into the Wild] as Milk’s protege Cleve Jones, are outstanding as well. First-time screenwriter Dustin Lance Black weaves a compelling script, while director Gus Van Sant [Elephant, Good Will Hunting] scores another convincing, provocative film that delves into a difficult, emotional subject.
Milk is a moving, inspirational film. The gay rights movement, starting around 1970, piggybacked on the civil rights movement, and is equally as historical. Though there are not as many big names attached to the movement or memorable speeches or seminal/blood shed moments. Being openly gay and advancing the rights of gays not only in California but throughout the country by making people realize that being gay wasn’t something that should hold them back or allow them to be discriminated against. He created legislature against such discrimination. Harvey Milk began every speech saying, “My name is Harvey Milk and I’m here to recruit you.” He had a “platform”, so to speak,” of getting people to come out to their families, friends, and co-workers. That is his legacy.
Dubbing himself the Mayor of Castro Street, Milk had charisma. He declared that it was “not just issues. This is our lives we are fighting for.” And that it was never just gay rights but human rights. Harvey Milk understood the big picture long before others did and longer before many more will.
–Amy Steele [12.10.2008]
STEELE SAYS: SEE IT IN THE THEATRE
During 2004, a filmmaker and his crew recorded events at the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco for a year. This is the #1 suicide spot in the world. In this film, we see many of the 24 suicides committed during that span of time. It also includes interviews with those who attempted suicide and survived as well as with family members and friends of those who successfully jumped off the bridge and ended their lives. It is somber material and strangely compelling. Really actually fascinating as it delves into mental health and treatment of the mentally ill [denial about depression, mental illness or the commitment to actually end one's life by those closest to the person]. The Bridge juxaposes the beauty and power of this beautiful structure and the devastation of mental illness and this bridge as a way out of the pain of despair, intense sadness and hopelessness. It is honest and rare for suicide to be addressed so directly and honestly by a film. Unless you have felt such crushing depression or the feeling that there is no way to go on anymore. You’ve tried and tried and feel you do not fit in, you will never succeed and most importantly will never feel content in this world. For many, the only way out is to jump. Many of the friends and family members understand the choices that these people make. “I have understood that there are people who have incessant pain,” one woman says. Jumping off the bridge is dramatic and either draws attention or will prove to someone that no one even notices or cares. But it is quick and painless. There are a few cases where the person survives, though.