Getting a Free Lunch


I give City Lights a hard time, but that's what happens when you are the King of the Hill. People want to knock you down. No matter how much I buy into Jack Spicer's criticism of Ferlinghetti as a profiteer in the Culture Wars, I have to admit that the successful business model of City Lights made possible some great satellite publications. I am thinking of Claude Pelieu and Mary Beach's Beach Books imprint and Jan Herman's Nova Broadcast.

Pelieu, Beach and Herman all worked at City Lights and while working there took advantage of the City Lights resources for their own projects. Nova Broadcast would never have been what it was without the fact that City Lights was a good customer of a local printer. The printer operated a 24 hour shop in part due to the massive printing needs of City Lights. So if there was nothing on tap at 4am on a Sunday night, the printer pushed through Nova Broadcast projects as an added perk.

There is no way Jan could have financed his productions otherwise. The complexity and production quality of Nova Broadcast publications are a cut above the normal Mimeo Revolution fare. Thus, Journal of the Identical Lunch, San Francisco Earthquake and other items have been admitted into the canon of artist's books and magazines.

I am not going to lie I like Jan personally which may influence my strong feelings for his literary productions, but even if I did not know Jan there is something appealing in how he made his connections with City Lights pay off. It is like the commandeering of a photocopy machine for a punk zine at an office or the clandestine running of a little mag on the presses of a corporate printer. This re-directing of energies, this siphoning off of resources from the corporate teat is another part of the economics of the Mimeo Revolution that often gets overlooked.



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