Adonis Diaries

A love affair: San Francisco and the hard copy books

Posted on: July 3, 2011

A love affair: San Francisco and the hard copy books

The center of gravity of literary activities in San Francisco has shifted to the Mission District (with high concentration of Latinos). The Mission District has many libraries targeting special interest readers such as Bolerium, Borderlands, Dog Eared Books, Libros Latinos, and Modern Time.  Readers find plenty of restaurants and coffee-shops designed to welcome readers in an appropriate atmosphere of relaxed setting.

I have also a love affair with San Francisco.  For three years I read countless books, mostly of Californian authors such as Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac, Jack London, Steinbeck… I used to carry a book to the numerous parks that San Francisco is studded with, small and vast like the Golden Gate or the Presidio, and enjoy relaxed days, on mostly sunny days…

There were at least half a dozen parks in a mile radius from where I lived on Sutter Street.  I walked all San Francisco on foot: You hop on a bus and ten minutes later you reach destination, by stages:  There is no rush to reaching destination. San Francisco reminded me of Beirut in the early 70’s:  A city of movable fairs, and parades with exceptions.  I cross the Golden Gate to the northern cozy towns, each town with its own life-style and idiosyncratic architecture, and the majestic forests, and vineyards…I go south to Carmel, Monterrey… I go south-east to the Silicon Valley towns…

Anyway you venture, you are happy with new discoveries.  I walked every street and district North Beach, Chinatown, Barbary Coast, Financial district, Hayes Valley, Haight-Ashbury, Noe Valley, Mission, Richmond, the Embarcadero…

The first center of gravity of literary activities was first located in the Barnaby Coast district during Mark Twain and Ambrose Bierce , then to North Beach during the Beat Generation of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg (City Lights library), and then to Haight-Ashbury during the hippies generation in the 70’s (The Booksmith, Bound Together libraries…)

Don’t be surprised to find a book on an empty table: many people have this custom of leaving their books once they have finished reading it.  San Francisco enjoys the highest spending on books, and on alcohol. The trend in reading sessions is to asking questions. Author Jack Boulware said: “The sectors of publishing and entertainments are not well-developed in San Francisco.  An author is not subjugated to constraints as in New York:  He can express, innovate, and experiment…Here people sit relaxed on sofas in cafe an in broad day light”

The yearly reading session festival Litquake (in its tenth anniversary) was launched by a group of authors sitting in a bar and having this conscious realization that “something has to be done”.

There is a private library on Post Street (street parallel to the financial street) that was founded in 1854 and holding 160,000 manuscripts; it is in a nine-floor building called the Institute of Mechanics.

Note 1: The article was inspired by a piece published in the French weekly “Le Courrier International” number 1078

Note 2:  Evan Karp has filmed 1,800 reading sessions and published them on YouTube.

Note 3: Charles Kruger wrote a diary of reading sessions that he attended in 90 days and published them on his blog Stormingbohemia.com

Note 4:  The most read magazines published in San Francisco are: the trimester McSweeney’s, the monthly The Believer, Zoetrope, Zyzzyva, San Francisco Panorama, Longshot Magazine, Pop-Up Magazine…

Note 5: The scheduled lecture demonstrations are: The Monthly Rumpus every month in the Mission district (the rumpus.net); Literary Death Match (literarydeathmatch.com); the yearly Litquake (litquake.org) and the festival to be held 7 to 15 of October; 826valencia.org; vesuvio.com; and jdvhotls.com.

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adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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