Al Young title

Al Young’s SITTING PRETTY: A buried classic novel

March 3rd, 2014


“A novel you’ll want to go on forever about a charmer who can outfox Redd Foxx — at making life and making love ‘a pleasure.'”
— The New York Times

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SITTING PRETTY cvr Signet 1977

The Signet mass paperback (1977)
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Full-page announcement, Variety, 1976, from First Artists/Universal Pictures

Editorial Reviews


As Sit tells it, his life in and around San Francisco is based on a simple philosophy: “Play all the possibilities and stagger your bets.” Al Young deserves high marks for his novel that makes one think twice about success and failure in life. — Paul Obluda, The San Francisco ExaminerSitting Pretty is long-time poet and novelist Al Young’s novel from the mid-70s that has been reissued in 1986. Spoken, for it seems more grounded in the oral than the written tradition, by SidneyJ. Prettymon, a. k. a. Sitting Pretty, this novel set in the San Francisco Bay Area is rich in local color, authentic, and thoroughly enjoyable. The surface of the book is bright and clear, written as it is in the black idiom, with underpinnings rich in emotional tones. Sitting Pretty covers one year in the life of the narrator. The book opens with Sitting Pretty living in the Blue Jay Hotel in Palo Alto, a place that caters to those down on their luck, such as Miz Duchess, a tough but lovable Cherokee woman who dines on Alpo; Willie G., who goes from working in the junk yard to fashionable security guard at a modem art museum back to the junk yard; Broadway, a flashy young man who ends up busted for cocaine; and the silent and intuitive Professor. The exploits of these secondary characters pate, however, in comparison to those of the narrator, who fights the battle of the bottle, not always winning, but always fighting with humor; who goes to jail for unpaid parking tickets and gets bailed out by his lawyer son; who establishes contact with his wife after years of neglect only to discover that she has developed cancer; who is offered a job pitching T.V. and radio shows and becomes famous in the process; who has a tryst with the enigmatic Marguerite of exclusive Atherton, a black woman who passes for white; and who ends up hanging out at Jo Jo’s Let’s Get It On Club where he begins to cultivate an interest inJoJo, the proprietor as well as expose himself to some young, hip, radical black poetry. The action keeps the book going along at a fast clip, but the value of Sitting Pretty is in the narrator’s “philosophizin.” His insights are grounded in the experience of black America, yet they are universal enough to make this a novel of wide appeal. — From Independent Publisher –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Al Young is the award-winning author of several screenplays and more than 22 books of poetry, non-fiction and fiction including the novel and the musical memoirs, Seduction by Light, and Drowning in the Sea of Love. He travels extensively, lecturing and reading from his work, which has been widely translated. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.



December 15th, 2012

Download the audio MP3

  Hear Al Young’s “What December Remembers,” his last poem of 2012 for KQED’s The California Report, plus some end-of-year reflections with show host Scott Shafer.


Courtesy images


St. Anthony’s Dining Hall | Glide Memorial Church, San Francisco

How good it feels always to feed and feed
not really the poor, but actual people, table
by table, more than just one mouth at a time;
next-generation descendents and ancestors,
one by one, one on one, one to one. What fun
to deify and defy, to feed yourself, to last.

Body Shop El Águila, San Ysidro, with its big sign in English: “MAY WE HAVE THE NEXT DENTS?”

Yes, like in Stormy Monday Blues, the eagle flew
on Friday, and Saturday he went out to play
– except this year’s Christmas fell on a Tuesday.
He needed him a hard-work weekend long enough
to knock out a foundry full of fender-benders.
To make ends meet, to lavish, to water his wayward,
can’t-speak-Spanish daughters with digital gifts;
to rescue their brother, to win back their mother,
he needed back-busting blessings to lose those blues.
¿La vida loca?  Yes, life was still whatever it was,
his sweet and cruel Christmases the craziest.

The Poet at Three

The poet at three crunching on a candy cane,
sucking on an orange. Sandy Claws knocking
back a cold Co-Cola, all sly, all wise, all smiley
and winky, all White Christmas dreamy, messing
with the kid: a snowy red picture that sticks.
All the way from Mississippi’s Gulf Coast
the poet will clear Cal’s glossy golf courses
(Pebble Beach, Hidden Valley, Pelican Hill,
Old Brockway, Coyote Moon, Incline Village)
to land and hang with joy. To and from worlds
he’ll get to know, the poet will take heart and give.

© 2012 Al Young


OH, NO, NOVEMBER, NOT AGAIN! ~ A Poem by Al Young

November 1st, 2012

  Listen to Al Young’s fresh poems monthly at KQED’s ‘The California Report Magazine’


© Elliott G. Garbauskas |

Mendocino Coast late sunset | Wikipedia
Photo via Betty Crocker Recipes at


Nobody knows November better than
all those on whom November zeroes in
real close, real hard. From Mendocino cold
to stark Kern County homelessness, behold
the ways we come at holidays: We scheme,
we borrow, break down, beg & pray & dream.

Why sport November? Try another shot.
Thanksgiving, Christmas, voting year or not
— eliminate the holidays. Postpone.
What makes us want to hibernate & groan
about how dark & cold our mornings get?
Just picture Turlock turkeys gobbling wet,
well-doctored feed, an evil meal, their last.
Feast on the breast & meat Novembers cost.
Dig into cooked root veggies, fallen leaves,
& smell the yawning earth; the way she loves
a coat or shawl or sweater fuzzed with lichen.

Time out. Oh, no, November, not again!
Our Veteran’s Day (once called Armistice Day),

the Bay of Pigs, the hit on JFK,

Presidio of Monterey, Seal Beach,

Fort Pendleton, McClellan, Travis. “Reach

for the sky, partner. And don’t nobody move!”

The stage-coach robs us now. Do you need proof?

Nobody knows November better than

all those on whom November zeroes in.

©2012 Al Young

Al Young at SoundCloud




June 21st, 2012


l Young’s Monthly Poem Broadcasts at KQED’s ‘The California Report’

Joseph Robinson/Courtesy Al Young

Al Young: One Poem a Month

“Al Young, who served as California’s poet laureate from 2005 to 2008, is writing an original poem for us on the first Friday of each month this year. The winner of awards and honors too numerous to mention, Al Young has contributed to The California Report many times over the years. Starting today, we’re making it a regular thing. Al Young spoke with host Rachael Myrow about what inspired him to write us a poem about California every month.”
— The California Report

  What December Remembers
December 14, 2012

Oh, No, November, Not Again!
November 2, 2012

October 5, 2012

Two Septembers
September 7, 2012

One August Summary
August 3, 2012

July Never Lies
July 6, 2012

We June Bugs Jazz June, Too
June 1, 2012

A May to Warm the Borderlands
May 4, 2012

April, The Coolest Month
April 6, 2012

Did She Who Made the Lamb Make the MGM Lion, Too?
March 2, 2012

February: A Deep-Sea Brew
February 3, 2012

Now with the Two-Faced Mask of Janus Off

(Web Bonus Poem)


WORKING WORDS: Punching the Clock and Kicking Out the Jams | Edited and introduced by M.L. Liebler

November 7th, 2010


Just out from Coffee House Press | Fall 2010

Punching the Clock and Kicking Out the Jams

Edited and introduced by M.L. Liebler

Paperback: 563 pages
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1566892481
ISBN-13: 978-1566892483

© Linda Koutsky: Cover photo, cover and book design

M.L. Liebler

M. L. Liebler is the poet laureate of America’s working class. The collection he has assembled rings out with truth, intensity and love. In a world full of despair, it is comforting to have writers so gifted and generous singing our song of rebellion and hope. Make no mistake about it: the voices of the working class are shut down and snuffed out—and for good reason. Should they truly be heard, all hell might break loose. This book is the kind of spark we need these days—a rich, intense and inspiring collection for and about those who get their hands dirty every single day so the wealthy elite never have to. At least for now.” — Michael Moore

“This book is not ‘fresh-air.’ It is a mighty wind. . . . While the nightly news continues to ‘do the numbers,’ as if we were all investors, here’s the larger part—the real grit and savor of American life. Spelled out in plain English.”— Peter Coyote


From the White Stripes’ “The Big Three Killed My Baby” to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”; from the folk anthems of Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie to the poems of Walt Whitman and Amiri Baraka; from the stories of Willa Cather and Bret Lott to the rabble-rousing work of Michael Moore—this transcendent volume touches upon all aspects of working-class life.

A collection about living while barely making one, about layoffs and picket lines, about farmers, butchers, miners, waitresses, assembly-line workers, and the “Groundskeeper Busted Reading in the Custodial Water Closet,” this is literature by the people and for the people.

Amiri Baraka
Bonnie Jo Campbell
Willa Cather
Andrei Codrescu
Dorothy Day
Emily Dickinson
Diane di Prima
Bob Dylan
Woody Guthrie
Allison Adelle
Hedge Coke
Lolita Hernandez
Philip Levine
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Bret Lott
Thomas Lux
Thomas Lynch
Michael McClure
Michael Moore
Mark Nowak
Edward Sanders
John Sayles
Quincy Troupe
Mick Vranich
Diane Wakoski
Jack White
Walt Whitman
Al Young

. . . and many more

— a taste of the very last piece in this juicy new anthology

Booker T. & the MG’s, 1962

Al Young

For a splendid surprise, click gently on the text below

© 1982 and 2010 by Al Young