Thursday, August 21, 2008

City Lights: 50 years on the cutting edge of publishing

Megan Walsh writing in The Times visits the defiantly independent San Francisco bookstore and publisher that has its roots in the beatnik 1950s and a promising future in baiting the establishment.

City Lights, San Francisco’s indie publisher and bookshop, may sit on a fault line but over the years it has created a few shock waves of its own. More than 50 years on, authors, readers, booksellers and publishers are still squeezing into this cake slice of a bookshop in North Beach for a taste of what’s next.

It was established in 1953 by poet and ‘beatnik’ Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin to provide a progressive, all-paperback alternative to books available at the time. It’s where the Beat Generation laid their hats and where publishing and selling Allen Ginsberg’s Howl got Ferlinghetti and bookseller, Shigeyoshi Murao, arrested in 1957 on obscenity charges. Their victory in court guaranteed the sale of other previously banned books – including D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. (Three years later British readers achieved similar rights after the failed prosecution of Penguin for publishing Lady Chatterley’s Lover.)
Read the full Times piece online.


Anonymous said...

And just diagonally across the road from City Lights, is the Beat Museum on Broadway with memorabilia from Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and the gang. Worth a visit.

Anonymous said...

The photo is taken from the pavement outside Pearl's jazz club, also worth a visit.