Roots and Branches: Contemporary Essays by West Coast Writers

Howard Junker, Editor Atlas Press (GB) $10.95 (0p) ISBN 978-1-56279-014-1
These 35 essays by West coast-based writers are all drawn from the pages of Zyzzyva, the San Francisco literary magazine edited by Junker. But the pieces don't all center on the West; instead, they range broadly in subject matter. L.T. Jordan discusses a Dublin barroom encounter with poet-playwright Brendan Behan, who at the time was still making a living as a house painter. Alan Dundes analyzes AIDS jokes as a contemporary form of folklore and a coping mechanism; Blair Fuller tells of taking LSD as therapy for depression in 1963; and Hildegarde Flanner recounts her ``love affair'' with bamboo. The collection is very uneven in quality. Some pieces are powerful, such as Richard Grossinger's about his apprenticeship as a novelist during hisp. 81 student days at Amherst in the early 1960s, and David Harris's ``My Best Friend,'' about his 13-year friendship with a drug dealer; indeed, Harris's is perhaps the best in the collection. Others, however, are vague and uncompelling, and the West Coast focus itself seems arbitrary. Also disappointing, as well as puzzling, is that male authors far outnumber female. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/30/1991
Release date: 10/01/1991
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