In the first post of City Lights’ new blog, Executive Director Elaine Katzenberger says of a 2012 entry into the blogosphere: “What could be better than slipping into the warm, easy welcome of a party in progress?”

The most interesting party guests are those versatile people who seem to know something about everything. If you want to be a more entertaining houseguest or you’re just an aspiring polymath, you should start reading the blog, which has covered lots of ground in its mere month in existence. I’ve read about such topics as the Grateful Dead, the prison industrial complex, the link between the Jonestown Massacre and the murders of Moscone and Milk, Max Ernst’s artist son Jimmy, numerous influential figures featured in honor of Women’s History Month and Black History Month, surrealism, and even shampoo for pubic lice (really).

To gain some insight into the project’s design, I asked Katzenberger a few questions about the origins of the blog and what readers should expect in the future.

How are contributors chosen?

We wanted the blog to somehow capture the “essence” of City Lights, the qualities that form the core of our efforts here, and what it is that folks come to us for. As we were defining the subjects and the kinds of writing we’d like to offer, we were also coming up with a sort of wish list of contributors, drawing from our own City Lights authors and also our natural “extended family” of writers, so to speak. We’re extremely lucky that over the years we’ve managed to draw so many talented and intelligent people into our orbit, and especially that so many of them were willing to commit to making a contribution to this project! As the blog develops over time I think you’ll see more and more of that extended family represented, and hopefully the themes themselves will start to generate their own momentum, too.

What should the blog’s readers expect over the next few months?

More of what you’re seeing now, and hopefully more posts from folks who actually work here at City Lights, too. I think that’s sort of missing now, and it’s probably not surprising that the most difficult feature to pin down has been getting those of us who’re right here in the building busily keeping City Lights going to actually sit down to write about it!

I like the title: “Abandon all despair ye who enter here.” How’d you choose it?

Ah, glad you like it! It’s a sign in the bookstore, one of many that Lawrence Ferlinghetti has painted and posted all around the store. You can always recognize them from his signature calligraphic style. Next time you come by, challenge yourself to find that one! Some others: “Printer’s Ink Is the Greater Explosive,” “Books are Trees Made Immortal,” “Stash Your Cell Phone and Be Here Now,” and of course, my favorite, “Sit Down and Read a Book!”

Know of any other bookstores with decent blogs? Anywhere else you went for inspiration?

I tend toward the book-lover blogs, and also publishers and/or publishing industry stuff. One blog I do read every day is Moby Lives, which is published by a wonderful indie press out of NYC called Melville House, though what we’re doing with our own blog is pretty different.

Would you say there’s a blog motto?

I think the blog’s title is our motto, actually. For the minutes you spend reading the latest post, I’m hoping it does feel like you can leave your troubles behind and enter into a world of the marvelous somehow. If it’s solitude you want, then it’s just you and the writing, but if it’s a sense of community, you can sense that here too, and as you come back often it should begin to feel like you’re at a wonderful party with some very close and dear friends, and enough interesting folks you don’t know to make it exciting, too.

Although we’re sincerely excited about extending ourselves out to folks in this way, and I’m personally very proud of the kind of information and ideas and different styles of writing we’re offering already, I always want to bring it back to the fact that City Lights Booksellers and Publishers is very much a real-world endeavor, and remind folks that the bookstore is an absolutely wonderful place to be.


Marion Anthonisen

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