City Lights Bookstore and visitors from Granta hosted a reading by two “best young British novelists” on April 22, 2013 at The California Book Club in downtown San Francisco. No doubt, all of our readers are familiar with City Lights Bookstore of North Beach. But, if you are like me, you might not yet be familiar with The California Book Club. This venerable institution is celebrating its centennial this year, and it is well worth a visit. The Book Club’s mission states “it supports the art of fine printing related to the history and literature of California and the western states of America through research, publishing, public programs, and exhibitions.” It does that in spades, hosting many readings and events in their beautiful facility on Sutter Street.
The Sutter Street location is the home of the 8300 volume Albert Sperison Library, all selected as examples of fine printing in keeping with the Club’s mission. It also is one of the most appealing reading rooms in the city, a true oasis and well worth a visit either for an event or just to enjoy the pleasant, bookish ambience.
Which brings us to the occasion of our recent visit: to hear readings from two up-and-coming young British writers.
Ross Raisin published his first well-received novel, God’s Own Country (or Out Backward in the U.S.) in 2008. He read a portion of his short story “Submersion,” a vivid description of a flood in a “small resort town by the coast.” As the story progresses, the description becomes increasingly surreal, with someone “clinging, spreadeagled, to the side of the church steeple.” Later, the narrator, watching the flood on TV in a local pub, sees “our father, asleep in his armchair, drifting down the high streams.” Mr. Raisin modestly stopped reading when his six minutes were up, not finishing the story, and leaving us all wanting more.
Nadifa Mohamed was born in Somalia and grew up in London before attending Oxford University, where she studied politics and history. She is well known for her first novel, Black Mamba Boy. Ms. Mohamed read from a piece published in Granta (an except from a new novel) about a female soldier in the Somali army, a believer in the revolution working on internal security. It is exceptionally evocative, placing us squarely in rural Somalia, experiencing the feelings of a dedicated soldier who is beautifully balancing intimate emotion and political force.
Here are the videos of these two remarkable readings:
Charles Kruger has been contributing to Litseen since the beginning of time. He is also known as The Storming Bohemian and founded and runs Theatrestorm and helps to organize Bridge Art Space . He also contributes occasional book reviews to The Rumpus.