Reviews

Write-up in CCSF’s Guardsman

Shake Off The Dust for City College’s Lit. Mag.
By Barbara Muniz

Remember your New Year’s resolution to dig out your artwork and finally show it to the public? Now is the time.

Forum, City College’s literary magazine, invites contributors to submit poetry, photography, stories, screenplays, music, creative nonfiction, and/or visual art. Selected work will be exhibited in their semiannual publication. Their website provides all the nits and bits on how to submit and upload your creation for magazine editors to evaluate.

Since its debut in 1937, the periodical has been produced by City College students. “We practically do everything here in Forum Magazine except the binding of the pages,” Professor Steven Mayers said. “Students learn how to copy edit, market, design the layout, fundraise as well as web publish and participate in all the phases of the production process to not only launch the printed work but also to promote it to the public.”

“Students learn how to copy edit, market, design the layout, fundraise, as well as publish, and participate in all the phases of the production process.”

-Professor Steven Mayers

Forum Magazine is a vehicle for students to expose their work. It is also open to former students, teachers, staff and anyone associated with City College. Now on volume eight and released twice a year during spring and fall, the periodical also has an online presence and a digital version available.

John Isles and Steven Mayers co-teach English 35 intro and intermediate literary magazine classes which is part of the English department’s certificate program in creative writing. In addition, students also become members of the Forum Literary Magazine Club.

Professors Isles and Mayers invite literary icons to include their pieces and participate in readings. Two such icons are fiction writer and poet Alejandro Murguía, chair of the City College Latina/Latino Studies Program as well as the current Poet Laureate of San Francisco. Another is University of San Francisco professor D.A. Powell also an internationally acclaimed poet.

Contributors may submit more than one piece, uploaded individually. The deadline is Feb. 23, 2016, but the earlier the better in case the organizers need additional details.

For submission guidelines, visit https://forumccsf.wordpress.com/or https://www.facebook.com/ForumMagazine

Shake Off The Dust for City College’s Lit. Mag.

Bukowski

by Kristine Nodalo | 

Charles Bukowski is one of the most prolific and vulgar writers out there. He stood at five feet eleven, often wearing a collared button-down shirt, with a chest pocket consisting of a few pens peeking out of it, covering a beer belly that hung over his waistline–a reminder of his romance with alcohol. His large, bulbous nose shadowed over stained nicotine yellow teeth. His ravaged face was marked with scars and blemishes, resembling the hard life he lived. He sauntered his way to each of the bars he made his second home and wrote at his first when he wasn’t. Nobody would have expected the success he had by just looking at him and his lifestyle, for Bukowski’s prose and poetry has been translated into twenty-one languages, sales for his books rise every year, and a great amount of avid Bukowski readers live all over the world. Charles Bukowski’s unique life experiences made him a successful writer, as they enabled him to color his writing with the kind of simplicity, tough, vicious honesty, and straight forwardness it bears that makes it different from others, revolutionizing literature and poetry, also providing consolation and representation, specifically for the underdogs of society—blue collared workers, prostitutes, and drunks—at the same time. (more…)

How to Tell a True War Story

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…)

Right on the Money: One Dollar Stories by Jessica Garrison

by Howard Brad Halverson |

We met at bar in LA. She was introduced to me because I was caught conversating about Georges Bataille the night before, the hostess of the party being so taken aback by this, exclaiming in shock “someone is talking about books at my party?” She subsequently had to introduce me to her writer friend. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon and I shared my cigarettes with Jessica, rolling one for her and one for our liaison too.  Ms. Garrison had such  a quiet composition, placid, and let me talk at her about my ideas of writing. It was so casual the thing called networking didn’t seem to apply. But we exchanged emails, sent a few brief messages then she all but disappeared from my conscious until a year or so had lapsed and I was gutting out my inbox and stumbled across an old message for a reading she was part of. I followed the link in the email, vaguely recalling her   to discover she recently published a collection of stories. One Dollar Stories is the title. I ordered a copy immediately intrigued to learn more about the aspiring author.
(more…)

Aubrey, Maturin and HMS Surprise

HMS Surprise is the third in Patrick O’Brian’s popular and well regarded series of Aubrey/Maturin novels. The series is centered around the lives of  Royal Navy captain Jack Aubrey and his close friend naval surgeon and intelligence operative Dr. Stephen Maturin during the Napoleonic War era. HMS Surprise was the first book in the series I had read and I found the opening a little jarring. It wasn’t that it wasn’t well written it was more a matter of its style. O’Brian was well known for his attention to period detail and period language. This attention to language extends to the the way in which the books are written and in fact, the narrator’s voice is strongly reminiscent of that time; there is something decidedly old-fashioned about O’Brian’s prose. Also jarring was the rather domestic bent of the early chapters. The novel opens with a somewhat technical meeting of elements of the British Admiralty and goes on to relate Aubrey’s efforts to get out of debt and marry his sweetheart as well as Maturin’s thoughts about the woman he is in love with.

As I said, that early part of the book was well written but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting, far less action-oriented. Nonetheless I continued. The tone changes somewhat when Aubrey takes command of a sailing frigate — the eponymous HMS Surprise. At this point the narrative becomes immersed in the compressed world of a ship at sea. Aubrey has orders to transport a British envoy to Asia and the voyage that results that is at the heart of the book. It is a long and sometimes difficult trip, one that O’Brian uses to touch on any number of aspects of early 19th Century life — O’Brian’s extreme erudition concerning his subject matter  is clear and his portrayal of that time is completely convincing. HMS Surprise isn’t just a naval or adventure novel but something far more expansive…it is a book that takes in a whole world, a stunning array of places and topics — from rigging and naval gunnery to sloths to life in the streets of Bombay to overland trade between Europe and Asia.

The reader of course sees much of this through the eyes of Aubrey and Maturin and the characters are very well drawn. Characterization runs through the narrative, in subtle and more obvious ways. By the latter part of the book, I felt as if I knew them as I had begun to know the world they lived in. Something which is reflected in the novel when Aubrey talks to the hands just before they engage the French. He addresses them like old friends and by this time, they are, having been together for thousands of miles. In a similar way, I felt as if I’d come to know those characters having experienced that same journey through the page.

Above all, the book was beautifully written. The language is often poetic and beyond the fine details, it is O’Brian’s sublime prose that brings the world of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin alive. From a simple description of a street at night:

“nothing but a row of doorways stretching on for ever under the moon, quite unearthly, strange, inhuman, deserted, and inimical.”

To how routine on Surprise:

“obliterated both the beginning of the voyage and its end, it obliterated even time, so that it seemed normal to all hands that they should travel endlessly over this infinite and wholly empty sea, watching the sun diminish and the moon increase.”

Some critics have likened O’Brian to a Homer of the sea and while such a statement may seem outlandish, O’Brian’s descriptions of the battle between Surprise and French ship-of-the-line Marengo would be at right at  home in the Iliad. One scene describes in perfect clarity the moment before Marengo fires on Surprise, contrasting that last instant of normalcy with what happens after:

“The crash of the broadside, and of the bow-gun, and of the twenty shot hitting her, come in one breath — an extreme violence of noise. He saw the wheel disintegrate…and forward there was screaming.”

There is great energy to O’Brian’s prose and it conveys action especially well, putting across the hurry, the confusion, of the battle:

“The third broadside merged into the fourth: the firing was continuous now, and Stourton and the midshipmen ran up and down the line, pointing, heaving, translating their captain’s hoarse barks into directed fire — a tempest of chain.”

And when Surprise shows her teeth against the Marengo it’s hard not to get caught up in the elation of the men:

“…but at this range not a shot flew wide. The powder-boys ran, the cartridges came up in a racing stream, the gun-crews cheered like maniacs, stripped to the waist, pouring with sweat, taking their sweet revenge…”

Ultimately I found HMS Surprise an excellent introduction to the Aubrey/Maturin series. There ware references to the two previous novels but they were adequately explained and don’t get in the way of narrative. Then novel is a rich mix of historical color, nautical detail, and clear, interesting characterization. By the time I reached the final page, the unease I felt at the beginning of the book was long forgotten — a fantastic read.

by Ayo Khensu-Ra