Several listeners have asked me recently what books (fiction) I’ve read lately. I do keep a list and lately it’s come in handy as I’ve started several books and I get few pages in when I realize….oops, I’ve read this already. As it turns out, I spent much of the past year reading some new work but more often, re-reading some old favorites.
First of all…thanks to Armistead Maupin for bringing back “Tales Of The City.” I’ve missed my friends a great deal. I went to the Ferry Building last June to hear Army read from his new book “Michael Tolliver Lives.” In October I attended the Herbst Theatre event where “Lit Quake” honored Maupin. Actress Laura Linney, who plays Mary Ann Singleton in the Tales films, even showed up.
I’m also a big fan of Fannie Flagg. I’ve been to the Midwest only once (Chicago)…twice if you include Oklahoma City. As my in-laws tell me, Oklahoma is both the Midwest and the South. I re-read “Welcome to the World Baby Girl,” “Standing In The Rainbow” and “Can’t Wait To Get To Heaven.”
I also loved Thomas Spannbauer’s “Now Is the Hour,” Jeffrey Eugenitis’ “Middlesex, ” and “Short History of a Prince” by Jane Hamilton. I read Anderson Cooper’s “Dispatches From the Edge” and Augusten Burrough’s “Possible Side Effects.” I also re-read some favorites including Hemingway’s “Death In The Afternoon,” “The Great Santini” by Pat Conroy, “Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole and Wallace Stegner’s poignant “Spectator Bird.”
But I most enjoyed re-reading Herb Caen. KDFC’s Betsy O’Connor and I love to talk about our favorite Herb Caenisms. I once had the honor of being mentioned in Herb’s column…back in 1996, not long before he died. I have the item framed in my den. If you’ve lived here long enough to remember Herb, I highly recommend reading some of his old books.
I found all of them at various book sales and second hand stores. “Baghdad 1951″ was especially fun as Herb has a number of items from the very neighborhood where the KDFC studios are now located (3rd and Howard, across from Moscone, Yerba Buena, the “W”and SFMOMA). This was a rowdy ‘hood back in the day. I remember in 1984, when the Moscone Center was opening (the Democratic Convention). About the only thing around here in those days was St. Patrick’s Church which still stands between the new Jewish Museum and the Marriott Hotel. Do you remember Herb’s nickname for the building on 4th and Mission???