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King of Shadowsby Aaron Shurin
Synopses & Reviews
Based on the author’s life as a gay man and a poet, King of Shadows is a collection of twenty-one autobiographical essays that circle in and around San Francisco since the 1960s. The three longest pieces deal with Aaron Shurin’s coming into poetry and gay identity via a high school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, his deep relationships with poets Denise Levertov and Robert Duncan, and his personal history of venturing into San Francisco gay bars, starting in 1965 and ending just before Stonewall.
Aaron Shurin is the author of fifteen books, including Involuntary Lyrics and The Paradise of Forms, named a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year.
"This emotionally potent collection of 20 essays by noted Bay Area poet Shurin (Involuntary Lyrics) begins with a meditation on his fear of birds ('of course they're dinosaurs') and coming out in radical UC-Berkeley in the late 1960s. The collection progresses through meditations on how the difference between Shakespeare's Oberon and Puck shaped his identity as a gay man and a poet, and his indebtedness to Robert Duncan, Frank O'Hara and Denise Levertov. The accumulation of biographic and literary details conjures up an apparitional dreamscape of a very specific moment in American history — a new sense of personal and literary freedom, a new period of progressive political and literary ideas. Shurin's idiosyncratic style can startle with its imagery and captures a complicated, conflicted relationship to several cultural identities. Describing his anxiety about his looks before going to a bar, he writes 'oh, my wiry, independent, shtetl hair, my Ukrainian ribbons from my mother's side, folkloric bonnet of curls, was out of the question, way too heavily accented, ruefully unacceptable, untidy, un-Californian....' The author addresses forthrightly the question of AIDS by the end of this book, one of Shurin's best. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
“An astonishing precision of language pervades these twenty-one portraits of a mind’s intercourse with the world…Cherishing the complex specificities of language and experience is clearly Shurin’s ambition and creed. In King of Shadows, he brilliantly succeeds.” —Lambda Book Report, Fall 2008
“His luminous descriptive prose . . . injects lightness. . . . Shurin scatters several short pieces about gardens and flowers throughout the collection; these read like gorgeous, airy confections. Gradually these disparate essays coalesce into autobiography, and a picture—appealing in its completeness—emerges of Shurin as thinker, as poet, as member of the San Francisco gay community, and as human." — Katherine D. Stutzman, Pleiades
Book News Annotation:
Shurin has collected 21 essays, most previously published, that describe and celebrate his life as a poet and gay man in San Francisco since the 1960s. The title essay recounts his awakening into both worlds during high school. Annotation ©2008 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
A candid and rich account of gay life as a poet in San Francisco since the 1960s.
About the Author
Aaron Shurin is an American poet, essayist, and educator. Since 1999, he has co-directed the Master of Fine Arts in Writing Program at the University of San Francisco. Aaron Shurin received his M.A. in Poetics from New College of California, where he studied under poet Robert Duncan. He is a recipient of California Arts Council Literary Fellowships in poetry (1989, 2002), and a NEA fellowship in creative nonfiction (1995). Shurin is the former Associate Director of the Poetry Center and American Poetry Archives at San Francisco State University and the author of numerous books of poetry, including: Into Distances (1993), The Paradise of Forms: Selected Poems (1999), A Door (2000), Involuntary Lyrics (2005); and volumes of prose, including Unbound: A Book of AIDS (1997) and King of Shadows (2008), a collection of essays.
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