There is astounding quality and quantity (including free or $5 and $10 events) in San Francisco’s 10-day Litquake 2018 festival.
Now in its 19th year, the West Coast’s largest independent literary festival opens Thursday with a ticketed ($25) bash at the University Club on Nob Hill, a time for authors, fans and other members of the local literary scene to mingle, enjoy the hosted wine bar and snacks, and peruse the plentiful festival guide.
Among the offerings are thematically connected series led by notable authors and experts. The varied categories covered include: children and teen literature, adult art of writing, pursuing publishing, voices from world literature and Native American writers.
Discussions, panels, author readings and experiential gatherings delve into topics such as literary citizenship, exploitation and power, women’s writing, environmentalism, race and hate, Asian folk tales, bad poetry and bad stories. Sure to be hot this year are bad stories that degrade democracy — and more.
Many events are a party as much as a great time to discover new, local voices or become immersed in significant literary discussions.
Highlights include a North Beach Beat walking tour led by Beat Museum founder Jerry Cimino (4 p.m. Oct. 14); a bad poetry competition (7 p.m. Oct. 16 at the Make Out Room); a spoken word and jazz jam (8 p.m. Oct. 19 at Cafe Du Nord) and a live page-to-stage presentation of a new memoir by playwright Octavio Solis (7 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Elbo Room).
Not outrageous enough? Celebrate porn and compare biceps at “Beefcake, 50 Years of Tom of Finland” (7 p.m. Oct. 17 at the leather bar SF Eagle). Or check out fat activist Virgie Tovar and Daniel Handler in a program called “Bodies and What to Do With Them.” (7 p.m. Oct. 13 at Strut in the Castro).
Bay Area-based author and KQED book columnist Ingrid Rojas Contreras (“Fruit of the Drunken Tree”) joins a panel at 4 p.m. Oct. 13 at California College of the Arts for “The Art of the Novel,” and participates in a multi-author Grotto Writers reading at 6:30 p.m. at the Elbo Room during Lit Crawl, the event’s closing extravaganza Oct. 20 with hundreds of authors at events all over the Mission.
“Panels are one of my favorite activities,” she says in an email. “Literature can be a sideways, profound plunge into the investigations of the largest forces on our lives, and panels are the one public opportunity where writers get to flesh out what different symbols and issues mean to them. They’re magical events where bridges form between books and writers’ works.”
Contreras says people and writers in the Bay Area are spoiled by “legendary bookstores and booksellers who are giants” of passion and curation. Although she notes the social justice slant of the literary scene, rising rents and evictions are a constant, lamentable drain on local talent. “I’d like to see The City do more to protect the artist class,” she says. “(Also,) can’t we have a wing in City Hall where women and women-identifying folks get together and scream?”
If screaming doesn’t cause change, Contreras and other writers — along with booksellers, librarians and lovers of literature — are likely to use Litquake’s less-rant-like platform for expression.
From multiple vantage points, with everything from quiet, lyrical readings to bold, measured pronouncements to whispers shared between friends and strangers, collective voices will rise in unity.
IF YOU GO
When: Oct. 11-20
Where: Varied venues in San Francisco and the East Bay