A fitting way to close the banned books celebration: with a reading from Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet and founder of City Lights Booksellers and Publishers, is the author of poetry, translations, fiction, theatre, art criticism, and film narration, best known for Pictures of the Gone World and A Coney Island of the Mind, which has been translated into nine languages, among numerous other books. His newest book Time of Useful Consciousness comes out this month.
This is Lawrence’s copy of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which he bought in Paris in 1950 (he documented this purchase in the front of the book). Written by James Joyce, this novel is said to be somewhat autobiographical, delving into the inner workings of the mind of a young man as he thinks twice about the way he was raised: Catholic and Irish. It was difficult to publish this book because of Joyce’s questioning of the Catholic faith.
You may know the story well, but in the Fall of 1956, Lawrence and City Lights Bookstore Manager Shigeyoshi Murao were arrested for the sale and publication of Allen Ginsberg’s HOWL. At the obscenity trial that followed, Ferlinghetti and City Lights were vindicated as the judge in the case ruled the book not obscene.
Watch an amazing archival video of Lawrence setting up the window display at the bookstore during that time. Happy banned books, everyone!