Monday, October 10, 2011

Booklaunch party at the Green Arcade Bookstore celebrating F. S. Rosa's new novel "The Divine Comedy of Carlo Tresca"

On September 14th we celebrated Francesca's book launch at the Green Arcade bookstore at Market Street and Gough, The novel is published by Ithuriel's Spear in San Francisco and recounts the adventures of the murdered anarchist Carlo Tresca in a lively afterworld populated by deceased revolutionaries and political troublemakers of several different persuasions.

Francesca signing poet John Norton's copy
Jim Mitchell introducing Francesca
The book shop was filled to the sidewalk
Francesca with Matt Wilson
Jim with poets Will Torphy and Lew Ellingham

I was pleased to open the event with the following introduction:

Welcome everyone to our book launch party for Francesca Rosa’s new novel. I am the publisher of Ithuriel’s Spear; we are an independent, non-profit book publisher specializing in the literary arts, and almost all of our work is written by authors who live here in San Francisco. Since 2005 we have published twenty titles of poetry and prose, and I should mention also that we are associated locally with Intersection for the Arts, from whom we receive fiscal sponsorship as a non-profit organization. 

Francesca Rosa’s novel The Divine Comedy of Carlo Tresca represents a rather unique contribution to the production of literature in our San Francisco community, not only because of its extraordinary length, weighing in at almost 600 pages and 1.25 lbs., but also because it is an overtly political work, asserting itself in a literary environment which, unfortunately so for many of us, has become almost completely apolitical in recent years. Reflecting an abandonment of public interest in progressive politics and the current inability of the Left to organize effectively or to coordinate a mass response by citizens disadvantaged presently by widescale unemployment, budget cuts in education and welfare benefits, and the marginalization of Labor in American social life, it comes as quite a shock to realize that the only effective large-scale populist response to the current economic crisis has occurred instead on the side of the right. We seem to have entered an era not of reform politics as one might have expected, but instead we seem to find ourselves sucked ever further into the black hole of the status quo. 

Circumstances of course used to be very different in this city. Thirty years ago a conference called Left Write! was held in Noe Valley. In the words of the organizers it was convened to address the issue of how local writers could best join together to conduct a unified political struggle representing the interests of workers, women, ethnic and sexual minorities, and economically disadvantaged persons in general. 

The ensuing years have not been kind to the intentions and ideals articulated at the Left Write conference, and so it happens that in the midst of our current situation the arrival of Francesca’s novel arrives as something of a bombshell, or perhaps, better, a landmine with a long-delay fuse. Without indulging in remorse, her book reminds us of past vows and commitments, not only those of our own youth, but those undertaken by a whole company of celebrated figures in the history of protest politics: socialists, anarchists, peaceniks, feminists, civil rights leaders and feminists, ranging in time from the days of Rosa Luxemburg and Mother Jones and Emma Goldman across the last century and on to those concerned with the present Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These figures collide and richochet off each other in an imagined after life, all encountered and mediated through the eyes of Carlo Tresca, the hero of the novel, who lies dying in the streets of Manhattan in a pool of his own blood, having been murdered in 1943, probably by gangsters. 

Tresca next enters a sort of Tibetan Book of the Dead -type bardo or underworld, occupied in this case mainly by professional troublemakers and working class heroes, a realm of Commie zombies and a land of undead Reds, and characters as diverse as Mahatma Gandhi Leo Trotsky and Count Tolstoy who at one point engage in a heated debate on the philosophical merits of direct action. In the words of Hilton Obenzinger, this book is a “rowdy romp in the netherworld of revolutionaries seen through the eyes of recently murdered Carlo Tresca, a wild ride through a century of strikes, massacres, demonstrations, uprisings and wars.” 

A word now about Francesca Rosa: she is the author of Post War and Other Stories which was published with Ithuriel's Spear Press in 2006. She serves proudly as a rank and file union member with SEIU local 1021, and as a member delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council. She has lived and worked in San Francisco since the 1970's and is a long time reader of labor and left history. She first came across the name Carlo Tresca while reading Elizabeth Gurley Flynn's autobiography, The Rebel Girl. Soon thereafter she began the present novel, bringing early drafts of the book to Robert Gluck's writing workshop, and then working on it though independent study with Bob while completing an M.A. in English at San Francisco State. She is currently working on a book of short prose pieces and essays and has been drafting notes for a mystery novel set in San Francisco.

I should mention also that Francesca can be found on weekends working a small parcel of land at the community garden located on Dearborn Street near 18th, and I can tell you from personal experience that she grows killer-tomatoes. 

F.S. Rosa's novel The Divine Comedy of Carlo Tresca is available at Small Press Distribution in Berkeley.


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