Litquake 2012

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Sebastian Yen/Staff

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From Oct. 5-13, Litquake 2012 shook San Francisco with literary events.

Two Guys from Chicago: Daniel Clowes, Dave Eggers”

Despite the formal feel of two red velvet chairs spotlighted on stage, “Two Guys from Chicago: An Evening with Daniel Clowes and Dave Eggers” began casually.

The two compiled a humorous Power-Point of past drawings with slides of different artistic phases, such as “scary faces from disturbed young men” and “unfortunate adventures in the rendering of nudes.” Respective writer and graphic-novelist Eggers and Clowes are much more than just those narrow descriptions. They made this clear through their frank conversation, meandering through topics of failure, success and their creative processes.

Although it was clear that many flocked to see Eggers, the two played off of each other better than expected. Clowes’ humor made him the unexpected star of the event. His time at the Pratt Institute and the struggles and rejections that he faced created a full picture of his development as a wide-ranged artist and the reality of the road to success.

— A.J. Kiyoizumi

“Original Shorts: Suspicious Circumstances” lines

It was  cloudy and raining outside the Make-Out Room (a trendy, dimly lit bar in the Mission District) on the night of the 10th, which was coincidentally apt for the tone of the debut stories being read during “Original Shorts: Suspicious Circumstances.”

The reading included work from authors Will Boast, Christopher Coake, David Corbett, Valerie Fioravanti, Tupelo Hassman and Matt Stewart. Their assignment? Write an original short story that involves a situation that is somehow suspicious or foreboding.  The results were a diverse lineup featuring characters drenched in self-deprecation, young lovers held at gunpoint and a hilarious international incident at a border-crossing-gone-wrong in Istanbul.

The effect was as mixed as the author’s chosen topics; some stories landed, others tried a bit too hard, but all entertained.

— Ryan Koehn

Visionary Women: Extraordinary Work”

At “Visionary Women: Extraordinary Work,” four acclaimed authors — Anne Fingers, Tony Mirosevich, Judith Tennenbaum and Angela Lam Turpin — explored the topics of female perspective, individual versus global milieux and their personal experiences at Hedgebrook, a writing retreat for women.

Each author introduced a piece of her work, which ranged from fictional modes of addressing social shifts in heterosexual marriages to the colorful personal memories that can be triggered by washed-up treasures on the beach. While perspective and writing style varied among the authors, they all agreed that their experiences in Hedgebrook gave each of them the space to strip herself of all social responsibility and connect with herself through her writing. The event itself proved to be similarly cathartic, as taking an hour away from the bustling world to sit quietly and listen to four uniquely powerful voices was simultaneously comforting and inspiring.

— Anna Horrocks

“You’re Not Doing It Right: Michael Ian Black”

Comedian, author and VH1-frequenter Michael Ian Black discussed the two books he released this year at The Booksmith on Oct. 7: his memoir, “You’re Not Doing it Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations” and a political collaboration with Meghan McCain (U.S. Senator John McCain’s daughter), “America, You Sexy Bitch: A Love Letter to Freedom,” where they take turns commenting from their diverging political perspectives.

From his memoir, he read a chapter about trying to have a baby with his wife and his fears of fatherhood. From “America, You Sexy Bitch,” he read the first chapter about how he casually tweeted Meghan McCain about writing together.

His tone was part deadpan, part seriously serious. The intimate Q&A session of about 80 people was confessional. He talked about his greatest fears, his marriage and his invitation to celebrate Thanksgiving with the McCain family (“John doesn’t like me very much,” he joked).

This leap in seriousness from the comedy of shows like “Stella” and “The State” was uncomfortable for Black. He related his work in comedy to a story about how he stopped dressing like Ducky from “Pretty in Pink” when he felt his appearance started to define him. Similarly, the memoir is a way for him to escape being trapped by his jokes.

— Caitlin Kelley

“Literary Clown Foolery”

The circus came to The Booksmith on Friday as the Literary Clown Foolery troupe performed a series of skits that used Andrew Shaffer’s “Fifty Shames of Earl Grey” as a “jumping-off point for a night of madcap antics,” as Shaffer put it in our interview. The event was in one sense a tribute and in another a parody of a parody (bestseller “Fifty Shades of Grey” is Shaffer’s source material), as different aspects of the romance novel were deconstructed.

Hosted by comedy duo Gretchen and Dr. Schmidtt (Tristan Cunningham and Polina Smith), the show began with a screening of the promotional video for “Fifty Shames.” Using “Twilight” dolls, titular character Earl Grey seduces Anna. Next, there was Gretchen and the doctor’s re-enactment in a video of a tea bag being dipped into a cup with “in and out” being shouted. There were sex scenes in both videos, the attempted clown sex being more awkward than that of the dolls, as the fully dressed Gretchen and the doctor filmed many takes, stumbling around each other.

The climax of the erotica-centered evening occurred when Shaffer imitated one of the doctor’s skits by caking on clownish red lipstick and trying to do a pushup. This added a third layer of parody to an already ridiculous show. Shaffer and the clowns played out a respectful one-upmanship of mockery that made for quite a spectacle.

The show ended with a tea-bag-swinging dance party put on by the clowns. Guests left feeling satisfied.

— Caitlin Kelley

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