Marin County writing review for authors and readers

Fall 2018 - our 7th Year

"Dazzling portrayal" to San Francisco's 1939 World's Fair. Historical fiction by Christie Nelson, MillValleyLit, contributor.

"The Night F. Scott, Papa, Tall Tom, and Wee Willy Faulkner Came To Maxwell Perkins' Birthday Party" - fiction by Grant Flint.

Interview: Marin County author, screenwriter, filmmaker James Dalessandro.

Historical Fiction more "true" than "Fact." Is the Big One still coming...Or just the fires?

The 1970's Santa Cruz Poetry Festivals with Literary Outlaws Ginsberg, Bukowski, Timothy Leary, William Burroughs and more.

"Ghost Town"lynn arias bornstein verse. This issue's featured poet.

Fire and Fury - a poem by Dotty LeMieux - see below

Thanks to our fabulous donors, sponsors and subscribers who underwrote this issue!

Do you enjoy noN-nil ear? Jennifer Egan delivers power chords of Non-linear in her 2010 break-out novel. Funny, intense, sad, real, unreal. A Visit to San Francisco's Fab Mab scene is so "there" it will make you want to scrape the mosh off your Doc Martens.

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Return to 1979. Tom Barbash's evocative and wildly absorbing novel about the Winters, a family living in New York City’s famed Dakota apartment building in the year leading up to John Lennon’s assassination. Available Dec. 2018. He welcomes you to his book launch Dec 3rd, 2018 at Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA.

A novel about a pole dancer, a farmer, and a canoe. The latest from Susanna Solomon, the first MillValleyLit writing contest winner, who became a regular contributor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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HOME| THE LITERARY LATTÉ - Stories & Poems | ON MY NIGHTSTAND - Books Reviewed |THE SCENE - Lit Events |SALON - Interviews, Submission, Contacts

Mill Valley Literary Review 2018 #14 - Historical Fiction Issue

A Visit from the Egan Squad

Jennifer Egan's visit to Book Passage turned into old home week. Appropriate, as not only did Egan grow up in San Francisco, the City makes a guest appearance in her latest, a intensive work of historical fiction, Manhattan Beach. Jennifer Egan & MillValleyLit Editor Perry (McKleroy) King both attended Katherine Delmar Burke School in San Francisco (yearbook photos below). Burke's School is referenced in her oddly but aptly named hit album/novel*, A Visit From the Goon Squad.

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jennifer Egan & MillValleyLit Editor Perry King both attended S.F. K.D. Burke's School (referred to in A Visit from the Goon Squad). Book Passage, Corte Madera, Ca 2018.

Egan's former teacher at San Francisco's Lowell High School sat with us at the Marin Book Passage event. Ms. Woo proudly noted that Egan babysat her children! Mill Valley author Tom Barbash, a friend of Jennifer, joined us in an apres-read chat with Egan. Perry King had interviewed Tom for our Spring 2014 issue and we often see him on our compulsive cafe hopping. Tom presented Egan an ARC (advanced reader copy) of his latest novel - historical-fictionesque The Dakota Winters (see sidebar).

Tom is an instructor at CCA in Oakland (formerly California College of Arts and Crafts) where Jennifer's mother is a trustee. A few days prior, Ms. Walker had been honored at CCA's largest Gala and was introduced by Jennifer, who spoke of Mom's avid support of her writing career. Novelist, journalist Vendela Vida, wife of Dave Eggers, also attended the CCA Gala.

Mill Valley author Tom Barbash visits Jennifer Egan

The high-cheek-boned Egan was casually elegant in a cubist-inspired skirt and sleeveless, V-neck chiffon blouse. She gave a professional but relaxed reading, allowing only the slightest dipping of her model-width smile at an elderly lady's Q&A faux pas: "When you decided to make (x) really the (y) of (z) ..." thus disclosing a major surprise plot point of the book. The audience however, cringed and shushed her, some protesting, "I haven't read it yet!"

 

Jenifer Egan center middle above. Perry McKleroy King center middle row - Burke's yearbook.

We're lucky that the life of an archeologist was not as appealing to the Illinois-born Egan as she fantasized. Egan wanted to be an archeologist until she went on a Native American dig in Kampsville, Illinois (very near where this MillValleyLit publisher grew up). She told us that she was assigned one square meter of earth. She thought archeology was digging. Wrong. There was no digging. It was really just carefully brushing away to uncover the finds. Hmm.... kind of like reading Egan's measured yet enthralling literary works, we think.

"A watery world..."

Manhattan Beach is Egan's first historical novel and a whopping departure from the one that rang the bell, A Visit from the Goon Squad. Although we suggest that she warmed up her historical fiction chops in her underrated second novel of 2001, Look at Me. This multilayered and personal novel provided detailed background on the once-terrifically industrious Rockford, Illinois. In fact, I mentioned to Jennifer that I loved Goon Squad and the Pulitzer Prize is great and all, but I thought Look at Me was her best work. She smiled and simply said, "Me, too."

The following are our notes from her reading as well as from our chat following:

Jennifer Egan said that she saw an exhibit of Andreas Feininger photos of NY in 40's and the old photos of the waterfront were her inspiration for writing what became Manhattan Beach. Andreas Feininger was a Parisian born, American photographer and a writer on photographic technique. He was noted for his dynamic black-and-white scenes of Manhattan.

"It all started at the edge ... Brooklyn." In 1987 Egan moved from San Francisco to New York (resided in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, Brooklyn). She began thinking about the port at Manhattan Beach and how it functioned in WWII as the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

"It seemed like a mysterious place." The Yard was the largest builder and repairer of boats but was decommissioned in the 60’s. Later there was a movie studio in the shipyard that still had old WWII maps. It is now more commercial. She mentioned that this book is lot about real work - the working class. She said, “I was not fluent in the language I was trying to learn.” "Kind of not like me as a writer." She read letters between Lucille, an actual female ship fitter and Al, who was a machinist. She said she was in Lucy’s world. It was a “delicious thrill to travel in time.” She continued, "I got caught up in the letters between them as Lucille mentioned that she dreamt of having a son with him." Lucy went from maidenhood to marriage in three months.

 

Jennifer knew the future more than the letter writers' "present." Egan became curious and looked her up and to see if a son was born. There was an obituary. Al survived her - they had two daughters in Brooklyn. "I wrote an essay regarding Lucy and got an email from her daughter, Judy, who was a 'real connector.'” She was introduced to Al (Alfred Kolkin) then in his 80’s, who had donated his letters to Brooklyn Historical Society. He drew a map including speakeasies and prohibition era spots. Between 2005 and 2010 Egan spoke to deep-sea divers, ship repairers and civilian divers. She experienced and heard many stories with detail and texture - like a “second bank of memories that were not my own... It was a watery world.” Egan even dressed in the actual 200-pound suit that the era's divers wore to capture the feeling.

 

"I met Ida - a fantastic welder. She talked with sensual delight." Ida said it was the best and at five-foot tall, her slightness and limberness helped her. Women were fired before WWII was over. Ida was championed for her good welding, then laughed out of her work. “She was angry.”

 

In 2012 she sat down to write and her first surprise was how the Depression affected "the beach" (Manhattan Beach.) Next, an organized crime figure folded into it - much, she noted, as they did into polite society. Prohibition turned normal citizens into criminals as they purchased and drank hooch from these underground liquor dealers.

J. Macon King asked, "I felt like a fly on the wall at the first meeting of the gangsters and union boss. How did you research the tough guys?"

She replied, she watched a lot of movies. She researched the Irish waterfront. "My father was Irish American." The research must have been ethnicity challenging as there were Irish, Italians and Jews overlapping. In addition, Russian women did everything, and she wanted Russians in the story.

"I didn't write about people I know, or characters or things in my own life." She said she tries to "keep excitement in my writing." "In this book...familial relationships are at work. And... "A sense of that time and place." The book can be considered a trajectory of American global power and how American power was going to change; how that amassing power started inhabiting in 1942. Her desire was “Bringing to the present the collective and individual memories.” She was “trying to understand the 70 years before” and wanted to write about that.

She states she writes by longhand, then outlines, and follows up with edits by hand to "access my unconscious ... write things not expected." Even as an experienced novelist, working on her fifth book, the first draft of Manhattan Beach project ran very long. The novel went through 35 drafts in almost 1,400 pages of handwritten manuscript. (Yep, that's Historical Fiction - see James Dalessandro interview.)

Jennifer Egan recommended, "Let anecdotes coalesce.” But... Egan wishes she had interviewed a WWII diver named Jim Kennedy, but before she had the chance, he died. “So, don’t wait to interview!”

Reported by Perry King and J. Macon King.

 

* A Visit from the Goon Squad, besides its musical basis, the sections are labeled "Side A" and "Side B" and each chapter is song title-esque.

On this tour, Egan had previously read at Green Apple Books on the Park in San Francisco.

_______________

 

What is it about Mill Valley that has been so artistically/ literarily generative for so very long?

"The Mill Valley scent of madrone, redwood and chaparral, the impressive sleeping lady above us, the creeks and falls, the many trails through wild, yet accessible nature...That feeling, you just know is there. A convergence of harmonious, creative, peaceful energies, the history of hot springs, hikers and hippies...and the omnipresent vibe of "Do something! Do something meaningful, do something good." J. Macon King

 

POETRY CORNER

Photo: Fire, fire on the mountain... created vivid skies in Marin (Aug. 10, 2018)

Fire and Fury

by Dotty LeMieux 

 

We measure our days in smoke

Fires raging to the north of us

The south of us, the east

Particulate matter in the nose

The mouth

The lungs

The dreams of ash which overwhelm

our dreams of sleep

 

We measure our days in embers

from a thousand cigarettes,

phlegm from lungs greedily inhaling

Years piled up in mounds

of butts, heaps

of burning tires, rivers on fire

 

We measure our days in red running heat

pouring down suburban streets

Molten cars, homes, bodies, dreams

disrupted, blistered

The last residents of Pompeii

 

We measure our days in waves from above

pressing down the sky,

from below threatening the shore

Sunset orange with rhetoric

Polemic spewed by angry gods

Skies of pink fill the sailor’s heart

with visions

of bloated fish bellies floating

Chemical rivers

Plastic oceans

 

We now measure our days 

in credible fear

of sear and flash

the mushroom blast

the last thing you hear

softly falling ash

 

Dotty LeMieux was publisher/editor of The Turkey Buzzard Review in the fabled lost city of Bolinas, Ca. She's published three chapbooks: Five Angels, Five Trees Press; Let us not Blame Foolish Women, Tombouctou; The Land, Smithereens Press, and has been published in numerous literary journals. Dotty and her tree-law practice reside in tree-lined Gerstle Park, San Rafael, Ca.

MILL VALLEY, California - Home to The Mill Valley Film Festival, Mt. Tam, Muir Woods, redwood trees, Dipsea foot Race, waterfalls, rock stars, artists, & WRITERS, WRITERS, WRITERS.

Mill Valley's literary pedigree is impressive, more so for a town of barely 14,000: Jack Kerouac, Gary Snyder, Peter Coyote, David Harris, Martin Cruz Smith, Alan Watts, Sam Shepard, Jack Finney, Don Carpenter, Gina Berriault, Kay Boyle, Louis B. Jones, Wright Morris, Michael Murphy, Elsa Gidlow, Joyce Maynard (J.D. Salinger's companion), Tom Barbash, Cyra McFadden, poets Jane Hirschfield, Maxine Chernoff, Echo Heron, Yoko Ono and lyricists including John Lennon and Tupac Shakur. The late Tom Clancy often wrote in Mill Valley.

Authors who call(ed) Marin County home include Isabel Allende, Amy Tan, Anne Lamott, George Lucas (San Anselmo), Jack London, Jan Kerouac (Kerouac's daughter, also a writer), Ram Dass, Stirling Silliphant, Shel Silverstein, Sterling Hayden, Susan Trott, Catherine Coulter (Sausalito), Leonard Gardner, Van Morrison (aural poet), Philip K. Dick (Point Reyes Station), Barnaby Conrad, Joe Eszterhas (Tiburon), Richard Brautigan, Ambrose Bierce (San Rafael), Poet Aram Saroyan (son of William Saroyan) and Jim Carrol in Bolinas, Dave Eggers, Danielle Steel (Stinson Beach), Allen Drury, T.C. Boyle, Gerald Nicosia, James Dallesandro. Julia Child lived in Ross while attending Branson School.

Writer connections: Ernest Hemingway's son -Jack, and grand-daughters Mariel and Margaux lived in Mill Valley's* Boyle Park area in the 60's. Papa's nephew still lives in Tiburon (editor, writer). John Steinbeck's connection: Ed Ricketts - marine biologist author\Steinbeck inspiration - "Doc" in Cannery Row, Lee in East of Eden -Rickett's son, Ed Jr., lives in Mill Valley. Ricketts, Sr. was also a muse to Joseph Campbell and Henry Miller. A student of S.F.-born Robert Frost's Dartmouth College lectures lives in Tiburon. This is also stretching it but we love the story: Dylan Thomas once hit Mill Valley on a book tour and drank mightily at “The Deuce” - the iconic 2 a.m. Club on Miller Avenue. In a hilly Mill Valley neighborhood nicknamed "Poet Hill" all streets are named after poets. In San Anselmo, the Sleepy Hollow neighborhood and streets are named after a former resident's good friend, Washington Irving. As far as we know, Washington never slept here.

 

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Hemingway COMIC ART: cropped from Hemingway: Speciale Nathan Never¬†#4, “Fantasmi a Venezia” (“Ghosts in Venice”) 1994.

Egan solo photos: Perry King

Sidebar photos and uncredited photos: J. Macon King.

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