Meanwhile, In California… Justin Chin at City Lights

1. City Lights’ Peter Maravelis introduces the program. “Justin Chin has a new book — that is an event in itself.” 2. Justin Chin reading from 98 Wounds upstairs at City Lights. “All hope suffers from its own insufficiency.”

Last night, Justin Chin read from his new book 98 Wounds at City Lights. It’s the fourth book Manic D Press has published of Justin’s work and the first since Gutted, which received the 2007 Thom Gunn Award for Poetry.

“Justin Chin has a new book — that is an event in itself,” said City Lights’ Peter Maravelis in his introduction to the poet. Michelle Tea, Ali Liebegott, and Beth Pickens from RADAR Productions were also there, all smiles, eager to appreciate the new work. Tea told me RADAR helped fund the completion of the book through a grant, and I watched Justin sign at least five books for Pickens.

1. Author of Fine, Fine Music Cassie J. Snyder sits with Ali Liebegott (The IHOP Papers) and Beth Pickens, managing editor of RADAR Productions. 2. Beth Pickens, Justin Chin, and Ali Liebegott joke around as Chin signs copies of 98 Wounds.

Manic D publisher Jennifer Joseph was also there and said a few words. “I have to tell you that 98 Wounds is the most challenging book I have published for him. … I love all of Justin’s work but this was a difficult book for me, and I’d love to know if you guys find it equally challenging, in what ways you find it challenging,” she said, clearly having spent a lot of time with this book in particular, as well as with the rest of Chin’s work. “I’d love to have a conversation about this book with somebody besides myself,” she thought out loud, “because nobody else has read it yet. I’m really curious what people will have to say.”

Justin was visibly nervous until reading for a couple of minutes — not the first time this week I’ve noticed someone in front of a microphone transition from tentative to confident as a result of uttering their own compositions. But (in both cases) the writing transformed the author into steadied affirmation — a sure sign of honesty through words, if not good writing.

You can judge for yourself, if you’d like to.

1. Michelle Tea tells old pal Manic D Press publisher Jennifer Joseph about the recent developments in Valencia: The Movie/s. 2. Jennifer Joseph prods Justin Chin about his socially acceptable reading.

In addition to the three prior Manic D books, Chin has also published two nonfiction works and a collection of ephemera from his somewhat alternate life as a performance artist. 98 Wounds is composed of short stories and little tidbits that tie them together.

When the reading was over and all of the books had been signed and everyone but the last handful of us remained, Joseph sat next to Chin and remarked that he had read “some very socially acceptable choices.” She had just been telling me how abrasive most of the book is and seemed surprised he had found enough of the social stuff to round out an evening. Or, at least, that he had decided not to be confrontational. The reading was short. I bought a copy and am going to read it now.

You might enjoy this excerpt from “Bolster,” from the section entitled “Things that Convey Hope, or the Possibility of Happiness Forthcoming”:

But stories wear out, erode. You leave them behind — in an old apartment, under the sink, in the back of a cab squashed between the seat cushions. Or the story loses its legs, its lungs; the meaning holding it aloft wavers, flinches too much, gets outdated. Over time, you become someone else. The story suffers from too much light, too much darkness, from the constant poking and peeling, over familiarity.

And what is left but all those dark eyes staring back at us. Look at the pictures, look in the archives, look in the footnotes, look at the souvenirs. Look in the mirror, in all the reflective surfaces.

The next section is entitled “Things One Might Take to Be a Sign of Great Meaning & Significance but are Really Unremarkable & Inconsequential.”

For more on the SF/Bay Area check out Litseen.

98 Wounds

by Justin Chin


Evan Karp is the creator of and Quiet Lightning, a monthly, submission-based reading series-turned nonprofit that publishes each month’s show as a book. He writes a literary culture column for the San Francisco Chronicle.

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