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Monday, March 2, 2009

Shelf Life: Rodes Fishburne's Going to See the Elephant

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GENRE: A debut novel about trying to write a debut novel. That’s a genre, right?

MEET SLATER BROWN, FICTIONAL NOVELIST: “He’d come to San Francisco expressly for the purpose of writing something that would last forever. Only he didn’t feel he could share this personal ambition with just anyone. They would think what? That he was a fruitcake! That he had lost contact with reality? It was a tricky situation, having a plan you couldn’t share. Nevertheless, for the first three days he exerted the plan flawlessly and with maximum concentration from the his perch in the back of TK’s. In the evenings he would reread what he’d written by the bar’s dim light. Nobody paid him a scintilla of attention.”

MEET RODES FISHBURNE, REAL-LIFE NOVELIST: Born and educated in Virginia, Fishburne took the roundabout way to writing his first novel, including a few years as a fishing guide in Alaska as well as a decade as a journalist. He’s written for the New York Times, New Yorker and San Francisco Chronicle. He’s a member of the Grotto in San Francisco, which means he shares workspace with gifted writers such as ZZ Packer, Stephen Elliot and Po Bronson.

YAY AREA: Going to See the Elephant is set in a sort of present day San Francisco but reads like the nostalgic sepia-tone of old films. This anachronistic touch makes a lot more sense when you find out the story involves a mad scientist trying to control the weather.

DUST JACKET HYPE: “Rhodes Fishburne is a marksman hunting down first-novel fame, and he never misses,” Tom Wolfe.

DAVE EGGERS FACTOR: It’s refreshing to say that this book bears little resemblance to the meta-fiction fad that San Francisco-based author Dave Eggers brought to a boil a number of years back, despite depending on the “writing about writing” trope.

RF<3SF 4EVA: More than anything, Elephant is Fishburne’s love letter to San Francisco, written in a properly foggy, soft focus. Readers who have lived, visited, or even just dreamed about the city by the bay will certainly know the feeling.

Rodes Fishburne reads at A Cappella Books/Opal Gallery on Wed., March 4 at 7 p.m.

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