Today, I went to check out the famous Beatnik bookstore City Lights.
Check out on the upper windows, it says, “Open Mind,” “Open Books,” “Open Heart.”If only.
City Lights used to be the radical beating heart of San Francisco back in the late 1950s when subversive fag poet Allen Ginsberg, read Howl! to an elated audience. I decided to swing by because actually, the full title of the shop is City Lights Book Sellers AND PUBLISHERS. The caps are my own but I thought, OK, I’ll go and see if there is some nice Sylvia Beach character in there who I can talk to about Sex Drive and she’ll go, “A memoir about masturbation! O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! We must publish you immediately!” But instead there was a snotty 20-something on the front desk with no “Open Heart” to speak of who sucked her teeth when I asked who I should speak to and handed me a sheet of printed paper which bore the snippy message, “City Lights does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. We do not publish New Age, self-help, children’s literature, or genre works such as romance, westerns or Science fiction.” Which made me think, Well, no wonder your bookshop’s half empty and/or full of 50-somethings (I know, that’s nearly me, but at least I wasn’t wearing Chinos and an ironed stripy shirt) who pick up a book with a famous name on it and then close it quickly because they remember that reading poetry and literature can actually be quite hard going.
Still, I was pleased to see an anthology by Eileen Myles though in the Poetry section.
She is the lesbian who the big, butch, sex-crazed academic poet in Transparent Season 2 is based on. I wonder why there are so many lesbian poets. Carol Ann Duffy, the British poet Laureate is a big lezza. Actually, I know exactly why there are so many lesbian poets. People joke about the Drama! Drama! imperative of your average lesbian relationship, the excruciating intimacy you get when two women get together. Well there you have it. Excruciating intimacy makes for some great poetry. A bit of a nightmare experience when it all goes wrong. But let’s not go into that.
Anyway, snotty girl on front desk in City Lights. I bought a postcard of a grumpy looking Vladimir Mayakovski because it seemed to suit the vibe of the place and the chick goes, “That will be one dollar. Would you like the 2 cents change?” Of COURSE I want the 2 cents change you sour-faced misery-guts-enemy-to-any-muse! I’m a writer, I need every cent I can get!
Of course I didn’t say this. I let her keep the 2 cents. Maybe they will put it towards an activist group who are fighting for City Lights to jemmy open its heart. They could all do with a little Annie Sprinkle joy in that place.
Luckily, City Lights is just around the corner from China Town so I went and slaked my frustration on some shopping. I love knick knack shopping. If I’d been stoned, the damage would have been worse:
The Chinese shop assistants were very helpful. There was a book in City Lights called Super Sad True Love Story written by the now-superstar best-selling writer, Gary Shteyngart. It’s about a future where America has been taken over by the Chinese. Well, it’s happened already honey and thank goodness for that. The Shteyngart book also had a blurb on the back about how one of the characters is an “impossibly good looking Korean girl.” Sigh. I am so bored of books by male writers with impossibly good looking female leads. It’s so lacking in imagination. Anyway, the good news in San Francisco’s China town is that monkey’s are go! It’s the year of the Fire monkey as from Monday. If you don’t know what element you are – in Chinese astrology you have one of 12 animals and your element is either water, fire, earth, wood of metal- you can find out what you are on: http://www.astrologizeme.com/your_chinese_sign.shtml