Tag Archives: City Lights Books

The Painted Word at City Lights Books

The Painted Word cover

Last Thursday I had the good fortune to be able to see Phil Cousineau talk about his new book, The Painted Wordat City Lights Books in North Beach. This is a book that we’re promoting heavily at my internship right now, but I hadn’t had the chance to sit down and read it. I got the sense that the author was kind of a big deal, but I wasn’t familiar with him or his career, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

As it turns out, Phil Cousineau is an incredibly charismatic, engaging guy who puts on a heck of an event. He appeared with his illustrator, Gregg Chadwick, who brought along some of his original artworks for The Painted Word and talked about them at length. The idea behind the book is word histories, not just of extravagant, sesquipedalian words (although there are plenty of those in the book), but also of seemingly mundane, everyday words that have fascinating histories hidden in their roots and suffixes. Although the writer and illustrator didn’t consult in depth on the illustrations, preferring to let images arise naturally from the words, there are plenty of serendipitous connections between art and word. For example, the illustration for the word “aesthetics” is a painting of a maiko in Kyoto, with emphasis placed on the nape of her neck; elsewhere in the book, Cousineau explains that the word “gorgeous” arose from the French word gorge, throat, at around the time high-necked fashions gave way to more libertine necklines. Cousineau also tailored his appearances to each specific venue by selecting words that fit the place; for City Lights it was shanghai (the verb, not the city–a common practice in the old Barbary Coast). It was far from a typical reading, though–the extemporaneous drawing of connections from word to word to word was a lot more like poetry, and it was a joy to witness, especially when members of the audience began suggesting their favorite words. It was also a highly successful event from a promotional point of view–the store sold out of books, and sales of his previous book, Wordcatcher, are also way up (as one of my bosses says, you know you’re doing well when you bring the backlist along!).

Unfortunately, City Lights was the last Bay Area event for The Painted Word, but here are his remaining appearances, including four more in central and southern California. (I’ve just grabbed these from our website and don’t have full event details at the moment, but if you’re interested in any of them, feel free to drop me a line and I’ll happily get more info for you!)

9/25/2012            Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee
9/30/2012            Institute of Noetic Sciences, Chicago
10/4/2012            Golden Notebook, Woodstock
11/7/2012            Warwick’s, La Jolla – with Gregg Chadwick
11/7/2012            The Inside Edge, Irvine
11/8/2012            Book Soup, LA – with Gregg Chadwick
11/9/2012            Esalen, Big Sur

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Link roundup: Podcasts, courses, events and more!

Still working on getting some real posts up, alas. Here’s what I’ve got for now:

  • Books and Booze, a group for Bay Area publishing professionals, is having a networking event at Chronicle Books on November 8! Now to convince some fellow interns to go with me.
  • UC Berkeley Extension now offers a course on Litquake, where you can learn about the festival authors and their work. Way out of my price range, but a totally cool idea. (That said, Litquake itself is coming up fast and the volunteer party is this weekend!)
  • The SF Arts Commission’s Deep Roots podcast features San Francisco’s poet laureate Alejandro Murguia this week. (via Mission Loc@l)
  • Not lit-related, but AWESOME: Shawn Clover has put together a set of composite photos that blend scenes from the 1906 earthquake with modern San Francisco. Dennis Smith’s San Francisco Is Burning has been on my to-read list for some time now… maybe I should bump that up. (via Burrito Justice)

I’ll be attending this panel on West Coast publishing at City Lights tonight, and I’m pretty excited about it (though a bit gutted that I’ll probably be late thanks to work). The publisher of one of the houses where I intern (who I haven’t actually met yet) will be on the panel. I’m really interested to hear what everyone has to say!

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Jack Kerouac Alley and City Lights Books

With two internships, a part-time job, and a freelance writing/social media gig, I am crazy busy these days and have had no time to post! But here are a few pictures I took of City Lights Books and Jack Kerouac Alley last week while waiting for a book event at City Lights for my internship (more on that later). If you don’t know, City Lights Books is a wonderful bookstore founded by Lawrence Ferlinghetti in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco, and Jack Kerouac Alley is the alley next to the bookstore, which runs between North Beach and Chinatown.

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I’m alive

But I’ve been very, very busy. I’m currently in limbo at my mom’s house in Folsom, getting ready to move into my new apartment on Wednesday—more on that later. The move from Japan to the States, needless to mention, was hellish and stressful and full of mixed-up emotions and bureaucratic loose ends, but it’s almost (almost!) done, and then I can start getting to know my city again.

As a peace offering, here are some links I’ve collected during the past few weeks. Most of them are a bit out of date by now, but they’re definitely worth a look.

First up, two new offerings from Litquake: They’ve recently launched the LitCast podcast and released a summer reading list populated with new Bay Area fiction.

7×7 has a nice article about City Lights Books, in which founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti looks back on the bookstore’s beginnings and its evolution through the last half-century. It’s the first in a series called “The Most Creative Spaces in San Francisco History,” which also covers the Fillmore, the Castro Theatre, Stern Grove, and more.

The SF Agenda has an Insider Tips Q&A with Valencia author Michelle Tea about her restaurant , shopping, and sightseeing recs. Read all the way to the end for info on the Columbarium, the only non-denominational burial place still in use in San Francisco, and to hear her tell it, one of the city’s hidden gems.

The Millions‘s #LitBeat takes a look at a recent event at the Mission’s Makeout Room. It gives a pretty good feel for San Francisco’s literary scene and the kind of events that form its backbone. It’s also timely for me—the article’s author has also just arrived back in SF after several years away.

And finally, Alejandro Murguía has been named San Francisco’s new Poet Laureate (SFGate, Mission Loc@l). From the SFGate article: “If Murguía has his way, the Board of Supervisors might follow up roll call with a haiku at its next weekly meeting.” He has a lot of really interesting ideas—check out the articles to read more. Murguía had several readings and appearances at the San Francisco International Poetry Festival, which ended yesterday.

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