Beat Tour Revisited - City Lights Bookstore

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Liz
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Beat Tour Revisited - City Lights Bookstore

Unread postby Liz » Wed Mar 15, 2006 5:54 pm

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Backtracking a bit, prior to our Bohemian coffees at Vesuvio we browsed in City Lights Bookstore, another famous stop on the Beat Tour, at Columbus and Broadway in North Beach. City Lights, the nation’s first all-paperback bookstore, was founded in 1953 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin. An alternative book store featuring beat prose along with revolutionary and evolutionary literature, City Lights was a literary hangout for the Beats. From the start it was a meeting ground for artists and writers and featured books of literature, politics and popular culture. In 1955, Ferlinghetti launched City Lights Publishers with the now-famous Pocket Poets Series. Since then the press has gone on to publish a wide range of titles, both poetry and prose, fiction and nonfiction, international and local authors. Today, City Lights has well over a hundred titles in print, with a dozen new titles being published each year. The world famous City Lights is known to this day for its commitment to progressive ideas and resistance to censorship—the publishing of Howl a case in point.

The first edition of “Howl”, Number Four in the Pocket Poet Series, was printed in England by Villiers because Ferlinghetti, its publisher, was looking to save money. This led to a customs seizure that was quickly dropped, but was then brought to the attention of the SFPD, which filed obscenity charges against Ferlinghetti for selling the poem. The San Francisco Chronicle (which alone among the local press put up a real howl about censorship) reported, in part:

‘Collector of customs Chester MacPhee continued his campaign yesterday to keep what he considers obscene literature away from the children of the Bay Area. He confiscated 520 copies of a paperbound volume of poetry entitled Howl and Other Poems….”The words and the sense of the writing is obscene,” MacPhee declared. “You wouldn’t want your children to come across it.”’

The 1957 obscenity trial was brought against Lawrence Ferlinghetti as the poem’s publisher. Nine literary experts testified on the poem’s behalf, and along with the support of the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), Ferlinghetti won the case. The court had decided that the poem was of “redeeming social importance”, and set a legal precedent for censorship. This case was widely publicized, with articles appearing in both Time and Life magazines, bringing Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and City Lights instant fame and drawing attention to the Beat Generation. (We’ll take you by Six Gallery tomorrow)

The City Lights Bookstore of today has grown four times its original size, but it retains its anti-establishment feel. On the outside window there is a big poster of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady.

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I loved the signs and posters on the walls inside—esp. the one that refers to us out here as the “Left Coast”.

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There is a section in the basement on communism and socialism and various other anti-establishment topics. The upstairs is devoted to poetry. There are pics of the Beats on the walls of the stairwell and a huge pic of Gregory Corso upstairs. The upstairs also houses the Beat Section.

City Lights has closed twice, both times for political rather than business reasons: at the start of the 1991 Gulf War, and in 2003, when the ship symbolically shut its doors for a day as part of a “no business as usual” protest of the war in Iraq.


http://www.citylights.com/
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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gilly
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Unread postby gilly » Thu Mar 16, 2006 8:39 pm

My sort of place,Liz :disco: ..I could spend all day there :cloud9:
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Unread postby bluebird » Thu Mar 16, 2006 9:44 pm

gilly wrote:My sort of place,Liz :disco: ..I could spend all day there :cloud9:


Me, too, gilly. I always wanted to have a sleepover at a library, but a sleepover at City Lights would be even better. No sleeping...just going from book to book...
Thanks, Liz.

bluebird
The edge … there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. HST

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Thu Mar 16, 2006 9:49 pm

bluebird wrote:
gilly wrote:My sort of place,Liz :disco: ..I could spend all day there :cloud9:


Me, too, gilly. I always wanted to have a sleepover at a library, but a sleepover at City Lights would be even better. No sleeping...just going from book to book...
Thanks, Liz.

bluebird


Imagine the treasures! That would be fun, bluebird!
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
Wow! What a ride!

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Liz
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Unread postby Liz » Thu Mar 16, 2006 11:23 pm

I think we all could have spent a lot longer in there, but we were strapped for time. Real life sucks sometimes. :bawl:
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.


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