City Lights is an independent bookstore- publisher combination that specializes in world literature, the arts, and progressive politics. It also houses the nonprofit City Lights Foundation, which publishes selected titles related to San Francisco culture. It was founded in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter D. Martin (who left two years later). Both the store and the publishers became widely known following the obscenity trial of Ferlinghetti for publishing Allen Ginsberg’s influential poem Howl and Other Poems…
It is a mecca of the Beats, the crowd that came to the fore in the late 1940s and early 1950s. “In 1953, as Ferlinghetti was walking past the Artigues Building, he encountered Martin out front hanging up a sign that announced a “Pocket Book Shop.” He introduced himself as a contributor to Martin’s magazine City Lights, and told him he had always wanted a bookstore. Before long he and Martin agreed to a partnership. Each man invested $500.”
I love traveling and where I am, if there is something related to books, I go there. Paris was Shakespeare & Co. and Gertrude Stein’s house; Key West meat Hemingway’s house where he wrote A Farewell to Arms and To Have and Have to among others; Florence meat walking where Dante walked and his house is still there…anyway, San Francisco meant ground zero for the Beats, and Richard Brautigan. I love Brautigan’s works, and for a time, chased down the more elusive ones vigorously. Walking in to City Lights Books, with its warped floors and steeped history was thrilling. And all the books! Floor after floor.
Ahhh, books. I love them.