Breakfast at City Lights

Some good luck: nearly three years working as an editor/cub reporter for Miriam Wolf on the San Francisco Bay Guardian‘s Lit. section, a monthly books insert. Some even better luck: the call to go interview Nancy Peters and Lawrence Ferlinghetti on the 40th anniversary of City Lights Books and it’s Pocket Book poetry series, most famous, of course, for Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. I emerged with renewed admiration for the Beat mentality, and Ferlinghetti’s business model (why aren’t more independent booksellers also book publishers?). Long buried in nostalgia, co-opted by advertising, and reduced to a pose, the Beats represented something I desperately wanted (to be part of a vibrant creative circle), and something I wanted to escape (a kind of smug, very San Francisco cultural superiority: we’re enlightened and you’re not!) Not for the last time, I discovered in the process that you’ve got to get over your heroes before you can claim them again.