by Ayo Khensu-Ra
Monday was the final class period for Forum this semester. In a way it’s hard to believe it’s all over and done with but within a week we (and you) could be holding a copy of the completed magazine, the very thing all that work was for.
Monday was the last class but it was far from typical. We talked about a few things, the upcoming reading, handed in final portfolios, got old work back. It was a quiet evening far removed from all those nights filled with proofreading, discussion and decision. In the past we’ve had food and drink on the last day of class; once we went out for coffee. In other words, this end of semester was slightly anticlimactic as life often is. There is also the upcoming reading at L’s Caffee which should make for a bit of a celebration. I suppose I’m commenting on the strangeness of ending up somewhere that is quite different from where we started. But could it really happen any other way? It was dark when class broke up on the first night and now that it’s another season, it was still light on that final day (also class ended a bit earlier). Time marches on. And cliché as it may sound I certainly learned new things about myself and about the process of producing Forum even though it wasn’t my first rodeo.
Although before I go suggesting the destination isn’t important I should probably say that in this case it is — the destination being the magazine. It’s almost here and again, you can pick up a copy next Thursday at the reading at L’s Caffee. I think I can speak for the entire Forum staff when I say I hope you’ll enjoy it.
L’s Caffe have been kind enough to sponsor a reading/fundraiser for Forum.
Reading will be crime novelist and teacher Seth Harwood and poets Nic Alea and Aimee Suzara and possibly others (watch for updates). There will also be the usual open mic, maybe a raffle and, excitingly, the latest issue of Forum will be out so you’ll have your first chance to see (and/or purchase) the latest batch of poetry, prose and art from the CCSF community.
Thursday, May 31
2871 24th Street, SF CA
between Bryant + Florida
at 6:30 pm
by Ayo Khensu-Ra
May 2nd has long held a sort of special aura for me. Improbably I reckoned some years ago that this was the date I picked up a certain book in the Hilo Public Library. While I wouldn’t say that book changed my life, it’s still one of my favorites — a strange mixture of science fiction, humor and gloom.
Anyone familiar with the series of which the book is a part will probably have guessed by now that I’m referring to the late Douglas Adams’ Mostly Harmless which was (amazingly) published some twenty years ago. I say amazingly because I was in middle school around that time an awkward, uncertain kid (it might be argued that I’m an awkward uncertain adult but that’s another story.)
The book is Adams’ final chapter in the series that began with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy , a novel that was based on Adams’ own BBC radio program of the same name. Three books sit between the first and Mostly Harmless. They all center around the misadventures of Arthur Dent a fairly ordinary Englishman who just happens to be the last male survivor of the destruction of the Earth. I’ve enjoyed all the Hitchhiker’s books quite a lot but Mostly Harmless was the first I read and so is extra significant but something else I think draws me to that book in particular.
There’s a certain brilliance in Adams’ style. In each of his books he referenced and played with science fiction conventions bringing a kind of order through craziness. The books are very funny. Adams’ narrative voice is often calm, almost dry while discussing something completely absurd. But beyond that, Mostly Harmless has a rather intricate, intriguing plot. There are a number of threads to the story and there is a certain bigness to it that one might not expect from humorous science fiction novel. The elements of the story tie together wonderfully, everything falling right into place for the conclusion. It must also be said that the conclusion is far from a happy one which is something else that intrigues me about the novel–its mixture of comic and tragic. That mixture is something I later came to appreciate in the work of writer and director Joss Whedon (Whedon is probably best known as the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the much-praised and oft-analyzed TV series; his take on Marvel’s The Avengers just arrived in theaters). While Whedon’s work is certainly more serious in tone, humor is one of his trademarks. I don’t want to get too carried away with analysis or overstate what Adams was trying to do but I do think Mostly Harmless and the other Hitchhikers’ books are more than mere light entertainment. Mostly Harmless is wildly entertaining and it is extremely well-written, smart, witty and yes, a little grim. But if the arts are always on some level an attempt to make sense of life, the universe and everything then the comic and the tragic must inevitably meet.
Douglas Adams died in May of 2001, he was 49. I’ve often wondered what he would’ve written had he lived longer. He indicated that he might write another Hitchhikers’ book, that perhaps he might’ve liked to end the series on a happier note. A sequel to Mostly Harmless has been penned by Eoin Colfer. I haven’t read that book yet and while I probably will at some point, I can’t imagine it will be quite the same as reading Adams. At any rate, when May 2nd rolls around, I’m still reminded of picking up that book that evening in Hilo 20 years ago, the days and months afterward as I read through the series.
How to Tell a True War Story
by Ava Stewart
Ava Stewart is a student at CCSF from Santa Cruz, CA. While spending a year in a half in Tucson at the University of Arizona, she studied the works of war author Tim O’Brien during in an English class over the course of a year. Shared below is a review of one of her favorite literary pieces, “How To Tell a True War Story,” a reflective piece O’Brien wrote to illustrate the rogue beauty of the trauma and devastation he experienced during the Vietnam War.
O’Brien paints a stunning visual in “How to Tell a True War Story” that seeks to investigate the truth in war stories being told by Vietnam veterans. Whether exaggerations or fact, the narrator seeks to guide views as best as he can through his experiences in Vietnam when he was serving during the war. The narrator bases a majority of the story around the death of a close friend of his who was killed suddenly by a small land mine as he was walking in the forest of Vietnam. He follows this with other stories that occurred (or did they?) because of his passing. (more…)
Benjamin Bac Sierra author of the novel Barrio Bushido and poet Athena Kashyap whose work has appeared in Noe Valley Voice, Spork, The Fourth River and many others will be reading this coming Monday, May 7 in Visual Arts 114. There will also be standard reading fare — an open mic as well as food and drink and a raffle. Hope to see you there.