Top 10 Bay Area Literary Events of 2012

You had to have been there has seldom been as true, at least coming out of my mouth. As Isaac Fitzgerald said: "Amazing. Not an event. A moment." The variety of readers -- in content, in life experience (for that mansion seemed to bring out the spirit in people) -- the feeling of roaming through a place with such a steep cultural legacy, and adding to that: part revival, part celebration of something new, I will never forget this night.

I was tipped off to the work of László Krasznahorkai only a couple of months before his rare U.S. visit to read at City Lights, but I fell fast and hard for his endless, meandering blocks of prose, and meeting him was a highlight of my year without question. Honestly, his influence on my own work and thought process was immediate and overwhelming. Most of this event was a Q&A, though he says some very wise things and, in fact, listening to and watching him talk was how I imagine it'd be to have a civilized conversation with a benevolent lord: Everything he says is coming from a higher plane of existence, so far as I'm concerned. After the Q&A he read for 16 minutes in Hungarian.

Jull Costa, who has spent decades devoted to the translation of Nobel Prize-winner José Saramago and is one of the most highly-renowned translators of Spanish and Portuguese in the world, gave a terrifically graceful and heartfelt presentation of Saramago's work, meandering from text to context and back again. I learned, I loved the writing of Saramago -- especially as read by the woman who gave it English -- and, more than ever before, I took away a profound respect for the art of translation.

I first saw Matthew Dickman read last year at the outstanding Nothing Is Hidden event Genine Lentine put together at the SF Zen Center, and wasn't going to miss seeing him during Lit Crawl (he lives in Portland). CJ Evans started things off right, and Knapp's story about pro wrestling was funny, smart, and superbly well-written. But I couldn't stop talking like Dickman for several weeks (it's really more of a chanting); that's how I know someone's really good for me.

Bonus Event! December 1 • Alice Notley @ the Unitarian Center

This was mouths-open the most intense word experience I've ever had. Poetry might not be a strong enough word for what this was. Divination. Like the work of Krasznahorkai, Notley came into my life just a couple of months before this reading and it affected me instantly and with great profundity. As I said in our interview: reading Alice Notley is like reading a new language for the first time and immediately understanding it. To see her read three passages from three books, each immeasurably more "far out" than the preceding, was truly astonishing. The final reading, the last 17 minutes -- from a work-in-progress -- follows a consciousness that begins to divide in the way of an amoeba.

Yeah, that's 11. I snuck one in for good luck. Here's to 2013!

For events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook. Follow Evan Karp at @Litseen.
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