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Spring Lit

New anthology from the Write On Mamas, with an excerpt. Plus: Local lit roundup, complete literary listings


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'The Aftermath of Forever: How I Loved and Lost and Found Myself—The Mixtape Diaries' Summing-up a book of 10 break-ups in a couple paragraphs is akin to summing up 10 break-ups in a 155-page book. But for anyone who's ever suffered a chest-imploding break-up, the kind that leaves you on the floor in a puddle of tears, whiskey and absolute despair, The Aftermath of Forever ($12.95; Microcosm Publishing), is a good place to start the healing process.

After getting married at age 21, and subsequently divorced a few years later, North Bay native Natalye Childress documents her journey of self-discovery through her eventual marriage to (this time) the right man. The resulting essays in this collection are accompanied by a mix-tape to describe the experience. The songs lean in the direction of indie-rock and feature Sonoma County standouts the Velvet Teen and the New Trust.

The reader is not spared the juicy details of Childress' Bay Area romances, which lend a voyeuristic feel to Aftermath—similar to a relationship she describes in one of the book's essays. This is a naughty, logical and well-written collection with a built-in appeal to men and women in their 20s and 30s.—Nicolas Grizzle


'Dendrophilia and Other Social Taboos: True Stories' Bohemian contributor Dani Burlison has released a book of essays written over four years for other publications. Burlison's readers have been clamoring for a collection of her work in one artfully designed package for a while, and those who haven't yet experienced the snark, the wit, the perfectly placed profanity of her writing should prepare for an afternoon of fun and empathetic schadenfreude.

Largely comprising pieces from Burlison's McSweeney's column of the same name, Dendrophilia ($12.95; Petals and Bones) is the perfect waiting-room time killer, especially if you'd like to be thinking about something other than what you're waiting for. Essays include "It's not Cannibalism If Nobody Died," "I'm Dreaming of an Anne Frank Christmas" and "One Settled Comfortably in the Cukoo's Nest," and those are just the catchiest titles. The pieces themselves are entertaining and thought-provoking—even when those thoughts are "What's a cuddle party?" or "Where can I get adult-sized footie pajamas?" And just this week, Burlison was contacted about optioning it for a television series (which would be perfect for this set of stories).—Nicolas Grizzle


'Another Way of Seeing: Essays on Transforming Law, Politics and Culture' Peter Gabel is president of the Arlene Francis Center for Spirit, Art and Politics in Santa Rosa, and an editor-at-large at Tikkun, the journal of progressive Jewish thought. Gabel has put together a collection of essays, Another Way of Seeing (Quid Pro Books; $23.99) drawn from Tikkun and elsewhere that highlight his interest in what he describes as the "spiritual dimension of social life—from the desire for things to the desire for love, community, solidarity and connection with others."

Gabel sets out to infuse critical discourse on law and politics with his "spiritual-political way of seeing," and he engages that rubric in essays that, by turn, take on the Supreme Court's ruling for George Bush in Bush v. Gore ("by going so far beyond the legitimate limits of constitutional interpretation, the court made transparent what is usually mystified"), to the dust-up over then-candidate Barack Obama's apparent failure to wear an American flag lapel pin during a presidential debate.

The flag-pin "controversy" was seized upon by the Washington commentariat, left to right, as some kind of a telegraphed signal from Obama about his patriotism and lack thereof. Gabel's got another way of seeing it: "I like the way Obama sometimes wears the flag pin and sometimes does not," he writes, "showing respect for the cultural achievements of the historical community that he seeks to represent while resisting any fixed and robotic deference to a false image of community that traps all of us in a painful spiritual isolation."

That really does sound quite painful.—Tom Gogola


'World of Change' "Forget your own problems, here's what poets think is wrong with the world today." That's the idea behind World of Change ($20; New Way Media), a new poetry anthology edited by David Madgalene, who brings the best of the North Bay together in one letter-sized book. Contributions come from several Sonoma County poet laureates—and from several others who write about why they wrote their poem for Madgalene's latest compilation.

Topics include social injustice, murderous climate change, money, for-profit organ harvesting and Jack Kerouac. Compared to Madgalene's own stream-of-consciousness style, the pieces here are more traditional free verse poems, and each has a distinctive voice.

Some pages are reminiscent of John Cage's collection of lectures and writings, Silence, at least in appearance. Care is taken to preserve the line breaks determined by the poets, and other formatting details are honored, such as a memorial to Andy Lopez in the shape of a cross made of asterisks and names of the slain 13-year-old's family, a poignant example of concrete poetry.

An overarching feeling of doom and gloom pervades the book, but that's to be expected in any poetry collection dealing with society's problems. Are we ever going to fix any of these things? We await Madgalene's next anthology for an answer.—Nicolas Grizzle


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