In 1999, San Francisco-based writers Jane Ganahl and Jack Boulware discussed their dissatisfaction with a city that was leaning away from its rich literary history in favor of technological innovation. Hoping to inspire renewed interest in the literary arts, Ganahl and Boulware оrganized Litstock, a single-day reading series held in Golden Gate Park. In 2002, the annual event expanded its range of programming and was renamed Litquake. Two years later, Litquake introduced Lit Crawl, a booze-fueled night of literary pub-crawling through San Francisco’s Mission District.
After going fully virtual for the 2020 festival, Litquake returns this week with 300 authors and more than 80 online and in-person events. It will conclude with Lit Crawl on Oct. 23. Notable Litquake participants include Devorah Major, Isabel Allende, Brontez Purnell, Vanessa Hua, Dave Eggers, Tongo Eisen-Martin, Daniel Handler and Ingrid Rojas Contreras, to name just a few.
Litquake kicks off at 6 p.m. Thursday with “The Masked Ball: Litquake’s Coming Out Party.” The opening party ($50 general admission) will be held at Saint Joseph’s Arts Foundation in San Francisco and feature both a poetry reading by Devorah Major and a performance by the Marc Capelle Trio, as well as complimentary tacos from Taqueria Angelica’s.
The program lineup that follows offers events that vary in subject and scope. Events like “Europe in Turmoil: Historical Fiction from World War II” and “Alternative Histories” cast a gaze in the rearview, while “Into the S—storm: Debut Authors Dish on the Weirdest Pub Season Ever” and “The Tarnished Side of the Golden Gate: New Novels” explore a social landscape that is immediately familiar.
In addition to a lively night of jazz and spoken word, Week 1 of Litquake features several live panels of local authors who will discuss the craft of writing itself, covering the art of the novel, the short story and the memoir. For those who favor poetry, don’t miss “Grace Notes: Poetry at Grace Cathedral,” a celebration of “the sacred and profane,” along with “The Revolution Poeticized,” a showcase of Black Bay Area poets. Parents with young readers might consider Kidquake, a series of assemblies and workshops led by acclaimed authors of children’s books.
Week 2 will celebrate two exceptional independent presses: Black Freighter Press and Foglifter Press. It will also shed light on the experiences of Philippine American, diasporic Vietnamese and Black writers and artists. Authors who are slated to discuss their new works include Tomás Morín, Isabel Allende and Rabih Alameddine.
Lit Crawl is Litquake’s final flourish. The crawl will begin at 5 p.m. Oct. 23 and highlight beloved local collectives, publications and presses. Manic D, Amble Press and Red Light Lit are among the participating presses this year. Mission District hosts of the crawl include Manny’s, Make Out Room, Silver Sprocket, Adobe Books and The Chapel.