Friday, February 01, 2008


(NOTE: Galoshes, sou’westers, and golf umbrellas are de rigueur for the literati this season. Swaddled in rubber and neoprene, readers and writers and editors jump puddles in search of what’s out there in the world of books and what’s to come. Freelance editors and writers stay at home with their electric heaters on high to drive out the damp, and stick zinc and plastic buckets under ceiling leaks. The only consolation is that the precipitation could be snow, and who has time to shovel?)

“And working writers are about the only people I can talk to. They’re the only people that understand how serious having fun is and how much fun being serious is.”
—James Crumley, 1985 interview

Writers also talk about the problems of literacy, for their own base reasons (more readers means more readers buying their books) and concern about the health of literate culture. In order to be erudite on the subject, they have to read the studies where numbers take over for words.

Dr. John W. Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University, has released his study of America’s most literate cities for 2007, and the results are sort of surprising and sort of expected. The six indicators used to compile the list are newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, education levels, and Internet resources. Here is the top ten (out of 69 cities listed):

1. Minneapolis
2. Seattle
3. St. Paul
4. Denver
5. Washington, DC
6. St. Louis
7. San Francisco
8. Atlanta
9. Pittsburgh
10. Boston

Minneapolis is an easy call since there is not much to do, and the same with Seattle and its annual 340 days of rain, dull office jobs, high divorce rate, and wretched freeway system. St. Paul has the same problems as Minneapolis, Denver is a mile high and reading is easier on taxed lungs than long distance running, Washington, DC has an imperial government run by Apocalypse addicts, and St. Louis is in Missouri. San Francisco falters at number seven for no good reason. What is keeping these people from reading, Pilates, investment opportunities, mall shopping? Have civic pride, even though the local newspapers suck, and get turning pages.

Atlanta is Atlanta, Pittsburgh the same, and Boston has too many beans and not enough history. Compare the most literate cities with the top 10 bookselling cities and the ranking goes weird. The indicators used to compile this list are the number of retail bookstores for every 10,000 people, number of rare and used bookstores, and how many American Bookseller Association members.

1. Seattle
2. San Francisco
3. Minneapolis
4. Cincinnati
5. St. Louis
6. Portland, OR
7. Pittsburgh
8. St. Paul
9. Cleveland
10. Washington, DC

Seattle may be number two with readers but is number one with booksellers and San Francisco rises above its embarrassing seventh in the literate to take second place. Cincinnati, Portland, and Cleveland have great bookstores without the attendant great readers. Avid followers of the book whose home towns have missed both lists should ask, do we move for the company of like-minded people or for greater selection?


The $100 million defamation lawsuit that Judith Regan, former head of the defunct HarperCollins imprint Regan Books, filed in November has been settled, and without taking too much time or cash from HarperCollins parent company, News Corp. The joint statement issued on Friday, January 25, stated: “The parties are pleased that they have reached an equitable, confidential settlement, with no admission of liability by any party.” Her alleged anti-Semitism, being used as a media stalking horse for the debacle around OJ Simpson’s IF I DID IT, and threatening Rudolph Giuliani’s presidential aspirations are sheer piffle, a blip, and puffs of smoke.

Regan followed the statement with a gracious thank you to the people she worked with and promised to strike again in a new venture. Back to the NATIONAL ENQUIRER?


The kitten from the last post grew to a cat, changed its colors, and stomped the well-armed dog before a shot could be fired. Purchase multiple copies of THE DOG WALKED DOWN THE STREET: AN OUTSPOKEN GUIDE FOR WRITERS WHO WANT TO PUBLISH (Cypress House, $13.95) and a portion will go to the canine’s physiotherapy bills. Patronize your local independent bookseller today.


The Beat Museum is holding the Third Annual Neal Cassady Birthday Bash to benefit the Foundation for Creative Expression. Everyone who is anyone will be there, including a special appearance by Al Hinkle (Big Ed Dunkel from ON THE ROAD) and a silent auction of Beat memorabilia. Also on the block this year is the chance to bid for lunch with local heroes. These include: Sal Glynn, David Meltzer, Mark Bittner, Judy Irving, John Allen Cassady, Jami Cassady & Randy Ratto, Carl Nolte, Jack Hirschman, Robert Altman, ruth weiss, and David Amram. We know time, man.

February 9th and 10th
10 AM to 10 PM
540 Broadway (at Columbus)
San Francisco, CA 94133

NEXT: Scratching for Enlightenment

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Blogger Martha Alderson said...

Hi Sal,
I added your blog to my "Favorite Blogs" on my blog...

Who knew we'd be blogging? Did I even know what a blog was five years ago? How long have blogs been around, I wonder........

Anyway, in the thick of it now. Fun getting feedback, unlike a website. Hope you visit mine from time to time.

Would love to hear your take on things.....


10:07 PM  

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