This year, Litquake, the festival that originated in San Francisco and inspired others across the globe, turns 18. It's now old enough to "vote, pay taxes, buy a lottery ticket or a condom," organizers said.
The nine-day festival begins tonight with an opening ceremony at 7:30pm at Cafe du Nord where guests can brush shoulders with literati, and ends on October 14th with a Lit Crawl through the Mission.
The festival started in 1999 as a one-day event in Golden Gate Park—when it was known as Litstock—and featured a mere 22 writers. Now, with more than 800 authors, the event is the largest independent literary festival on the West Coast.
Along with local literary publication Zyzzyva, Litquake shares a building in the San Francisco’s Mechanics' Institute, and the institute will host a number of events during this year’s festival.
"Every year it’s as fresh as it ever was, the writers they bring in, the way the events are curated—and you might not be able to say that of every literary festival," said Ralph Lewin, executive director of the Mechanics' Institute.
Amongst the must-see events on Lewin’s list are the opening ceremony, and First Fiction: The Ties That Bind, a talk between first-time novelists Rachel Khong, former editor of Lucky Peach magazine and author of Goodbye, Vitamin, and Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, the author of A Kind of Freedom, on October 10th at 6:30 pm at the Mechanics' Institute.
Other highlights include the Barbary Coast Prostitute Walking Tour; a word-by-word live performance of Joan Didion's Slouching Towards Bethlehem, which captured Haight-Ashbury during the Summer of Love; The City Under the City: Speculative San Francisco, which explores dystopian and utopian storytelling about the city; and Vibrator Nation: How Feminist Sex-Toy Stores Set the Business Abuzz, led by Dr. Carol Queen of Good Vibrations, which also celebrated its 40th anniversary in the Mission earlier this year.
Lewin also recommended that everyone attend the Lit Crawl on October 14th in the Mission.
“[You] go from a furniture store, to a bar, to a clothing store—you may encounter the US poet laureate in one, or in a bar—a short story writer, or in the next, someone who’s writing nonfiction about something you’ve never thought of,” said Lewin, “[it] provides you with encounters of brilliance on a Saturday night in the Mission.”
Lit Crawl participants can also attempt their own expressions of brilliance at Muni-themed haiku during the Muni Diaries Haiku Battle event in Clarion Alley.