When Gutenberg created the printing press, humanity took a massive leap in literacy, social equality, and political democracy. It’s hard to imagine in this day of tablet phones and digital literature, but after World War II the American paperback created a revolution of its own: it made books available for cheap and made publishing possible for all kinds of niche writing including that always-highly-touted, but-often-most-all-but-ignored object: the contemporary poetry collection. It wasn’t exactly the Gutenberg revolution, but the effect was impactful, widespread and, in the case of City Lights, sustained.
This year, Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights paperback publisher and bookstore is 60. Here’s the Los Angeles Review of Books on the birthday and the publisher’s latest release…
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Major cultural changes often result from individual vocation and choices. Ferlinghetti’s life story seems so characteristically American. He had a rocky beginning in life: his Italian father died six months before his birth and his French mother was sent to an asylum a few months after.