Q&A with Robin Carlson: ‘The Cold Canyon Fire Journals’ and Rebirth from the Flames

by Rebecca Rukeyser

When Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve, an ecological preserve in the California Coast Ranges, was ravaged by the Wragg Fire in 2015, Robin Carlson found herself struck by a sensation of loss. “Although my mind understood fire’s importance in the ecosystem, my heart did not,” she writes. The way to reconcile her contradictory feelings—those of a Californian haunted by a well-founded fear of fires and of a trained biologist with knowledge of fire cycles—was to return to Cold Canyon, notepad in hand, to observe the devastation and first stages of regrowth. And she kept returning. Sometimes she was accompanied by scientists, […]

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‘Czesław Miłosz: A California Life’ by Cynthia L. Haven: The West Coast’s Mythic Allure

by Peter Schlachte

Czesław Miłosz: A California Life (256 pages; Heyday) is as much as portrait of a place as it is of a person. Cynthia L. Haven’s biography of the 1980 Nobel winner and towering voice in 20th century literature explores Miłosz’s work not distilled through the lens of his upbringing in Lithuania nor his formative years in Poland, but through his later life, residing on Grizzly Peak in Berkeley and teaching Slavic languages and literatures at UC Berkeley. From the opening pages, Haven writes beautifully of California’s history and landscape. Here she is describing California’s famously balmy weather: “At first, the […]

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Q&A with Mick LaSalle: ‘Dream State’ & the American Soul

by Zack Ravas

Local readers likely know Mick LaSalle as the longtime film critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, where he’s worked since 1985. What they may or may not know is that he’s also an accomplished author: we featured his short story “Fresh Kills” in Issue 108, and he has several books to his name, including Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood, about the actresses who rose to fame during that brief window of time before Hollywood censorship took hold; and The Beauty of the Real: What Hollywood Can Learn from Contemporary French Actresses. His latest book, Dream State: California in the […]

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‘Why to These Rocks: Fifty Years of Poems from the Community of Writers’: In Touch With the World

by Meryl Natchez

When I applied to the Community of Writers Poetry Workshop in 1987, I had no idea what I was letting myself in for, or that this unique summer program would become my poetry home. I had just read The Gold Cell, and saw an ad in Poetry Flash that mentioned Sharon Olds was teaching at the workshop. I blush to say that I’d never heard of Galway Kinnell or Robert Hass at that period of my life; with four children and full-time work, I was out of touch with the world of poetry. When I arrived in Olympic Valley that […]

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