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Peter Richardson:So welcome to our panel on literary communities. I'm Peter Richardson. Its my pleasure to moderate the discussion today. As David said, I'm an editor at the University of California Press. I also lecture in the Humanities Department at San Francisco State University and occasionally service a book review at truthdig.com and the last decade or so I've been writing about Carey McWilliams, Ramparts magazine and most recently about the Grateful Dead whose story turns out actually intersects with two of the literary communities that well be talking about today. We have three stellar panelists to help us understand Bay Area literary communities and a little bit of their history and were very fortunate to have Tobias Wolff, whose books include as most of you know, two memoirs, This Boys Life and In The Pharaohs Army; two novels, The Barracks Thief and Old School; four collections of short stories. He's received the PEN/Faulkner Award, The Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the PEN/Malamud and Rea Award for Excellence in the Short Story, and the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He's the Ward BWard W. and Priscilla B. Woods Professor of English at Stanford University where he's taught since 1977 and where he also studied on a Wallace Stegner Fellowship after serving in the army, working for the Washington Post and teaching high school. We also have Paul Yamazaki, the principle buyer at City Lights Bookstore, where he has been a bookseller since 1970. Thats 43 years on the job and an institution thats celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and has come up many times already in today and yesterday. Pauls knowledge and experience have landed among the board of several literary and community arts organizations and he's also worked for the National Endowment of the Arts, California Arts Council, American Booksellers Association and many other organizations. We also have Laura Cogan, editor of the literary journal, ZYZZYVA, which is approaching now its 100th issue. ZYZZYVA was founded in 1985 by Howard Junker. Laura took over as editor in 2010 arriving with managing editor and former San Francisco Chronicle Book Editor, Oscar Villalon, when we heard from yesterday. Laura actually was managing editor when she succeeded Howard Junker. Before that, she earned a graduate degree at New York University, studies at Morgan Academy, not too far away from where were sitting now and started reading ZYZZYVA at aged 8, point to which I want to return later. So for the next 60 minutes or so, we want to consider the notion of community broadly and pay special attention to its very gated history in the Bay Area. So my question is this, in what ways and to what degree and with what success have Bay Area writers made their own party and how well has that do it yourself approach served us? Wallace Stegner founded the Stanford Writing Program in 1946 I believe. It was only the second one in the country. He had studied that the first one at a place called the University of Iowa, which I think is still in the business. Tobias, walk us through your understanding of the writing programs early history if you would and maybe you could tell us what the program stood for and what it meant to you and when you enrolled in it. Tobias Wolff:It was a, I think a pretty informal gathering. Stegner have been teaching at Harvard during the war and then moved out to Stanford at the end of it with this commission to set up basically a society of fellows. It wasnt at that point a degree program, and managed to reconcile this program with the English Department, which had, as English departments still do, some qualms about nurturing a creative writing program, this [???][0:04:20.5] and many of the writers who came to Stanford under Stegners mentorship at that point. It was quite a small group, were returning veterans and gradually as more money were found and they were able to endow fellowships. It expanded and then became an MA Program in creative writing. So I hadnt been really in that kind of atmosphere myself of, you know, exposing your work to that kind of critique, rigorous critique and some of it was not worth much. A lot of it was very valuable. One of the things that I've discovered in this process was that maybe the greatest value of being a writer, a young writer in a workshop is learning to ignore what other people say and to take responsibility for your own work even ifI mean, can you imagine what the reaction of the ordinary workshop would be to say Kafkas Metamorphosis? You know, one could go on. It would take an unusually sophisticated group of readers to see the, you know, the value in that kind of work and generally speaking, as I say, I did benefit from the experience but I also took warning from it as well and that was a good education for me in how to accept, say, print criticism, which is basically not to pay too much attention to it because one writer might, one reviewer might like something and another reviewer might not like that very thing, both of them giving good reasons for their ideas. So it did firmly see the responsibility for ones work and ones self and that was a great value. I left Stanford. I taught for a couple of years after my fellowship expired. I was in [???][0:06:47.7] for many years and came back in 97 as a professor in the English Department in the program and it was like a completely different program and I have really loved to teaching in it because of thisits very collegial, its very mature and there's not that kind of reckoning of ones status in the workshop against that of others. If somebody with a good fellowship brought a bad story in, then you can imagine how somebody with not so good fellowship felt about it and that doesnt happen anymore. And I think the record of the program has been proof of the brilliance of that move of Johns to make it the kind of program it is now. Peter Richardson:The kind of specific question but Ill hope you'll stick with it for a second. Youve been asked in the past about the presence of automobiles in your work and youve called them wonderful theatres and you know, in choosing materials for my class on California culture at San Francisco State, I found that quite subconsciously cars and trucks and motorcycles and mobility in general figure pretty large and I'm thinking of the truck and the graves of wrath, which is like a member of the family and certainly assemble of that familys burdens and I wonder if that automotive you think has figures in your thinking about literature that youve written that sat in the west. Tobias Wolff:Well, not just said in the west. I mean, I grew up with my mother who was a wanderer and so yeah, Faulkner has his Yoknapatawpha County and I have my Nash Rambler. I mean, thatsbut there's no question at all that the very vastness of this country and especially the west puts a lot of this in automobiles a lot of the time. And there's something that happens when you're driving, you're both looking ahead, you're not looking exactly at each other and you begin to talk and you canespecially when you're younger, I think really start opening up and so its a very interment and ifand a kind of space that makes confiding more natural than facing each other across a coffee table of something because you seem to be doing something else and going somewhere else. And so yeah it is, I think it isI think a great theatre. I remember it wasnt really all that long ago, it wasnt when people actually used to talk to each other on airplanes. Do you remember that? And now of course were kind of like that lady in Airplane, the movie who, when the guy next to her starts talking to her and takes a pistol out of her hand and, you know. But yeah, anyway itsthe automobile is a natural kind of place for us to open ourselves up and so its going to find itself into fiction. Peter Richardson:Lets turn now to Paul, who I hope can tell us a little bit more about a very different kind of literary community that spring up around City Light. Paul, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin opened the store in 1953. Can you paint us a little picture of what was happening in San Francisco Letters at that time and I'm especially interested in the way that the store was a response to or an extension of the literary scene that Lawrence found himself in at that time. Paul Yamazaki:I think we have to go back a few years to the media post-war period and, you know, we were fortunate to have Richard Moore here today. But the end of the second World War released a lot of energy, much of it came down to San Francisco in to the Bay Area and so like, you know, we saw the film with Gary Snyder and also one of his colleagues Philip Wayland, who was one of those people who came here. Richard was part ofRichard Moore was part of that, Roy Keppler was part of that and Kenneth Rexroth who was kind of essential to all of us was creating his own period of like, kind of his salons but one of the names that hasnt been mentioned that much, all of thats referred to is Madeline Gleason. Madeline was really one of the primary organizers of a series of poetry readings that culminated in 1947 with, which co-curated with Duncan. I think it was called Adventures in Modern Poetry. But among that group of poets were like, you know, Madeline read, Robert Duncan read, Jack Spicer read, and so there'sand Kenneth Rexroth and several others. But itsthere was this kind of continued dialogue among writers to kind of, you know, help them understand what they were doing, you know, help them to kind of create, kind of a culture of conviviality and then itsand so they centered in North Beach, they centered in different places. And so Lawrence coming back in the early 50s from likehe studies at the Sherborne, you know, and got his degree there and then came back to San Francisco to teach initially and he didn't find the academic world, kind of conducive to what heand the other that he didn't find conducive was at that point, independent bookstores were mostly upper middle class ventures and they didn't, werent very welcoming to kind of this scruffy bohemian artists and writers. And so Lawrence wanted to create a bookstore where the important thing was not the interchange of commerce but the interchange of ideas of reading. So like, you know, since 1953, he called City Lights kind of a literary meeting place and I think we continue in that tradition. But Lawrence always expresses how important those conversations and those Friday night gatherings over Kenneth Rexroth was to him, but we had this kind of reallySan Francisco was really rich and kind of the communications among, not just writers but you know, all the artist that were up and students that were up at the San Francisco Art Institute. So it was those various communities and then Lawrence would also say each of the other really important element for City Lights was like kind ofthe garbage collectors that time that were mostly Italian descent and veryand he said if there's predominant through line in their politics is they were anarchists. And so all those various conversations kind of created the atmosphere that kind of Lawrence, Peter Martin and all the other writers do. So opening City Lights kind of was immediate kind of gathering place. So like, Lawrence characterizes those first years thatone of the reasons why we stay open late is they couldnt close the doors. So it just naturally evolved into a late-night activity, and it helped that we had some great bars in the neighborhood and we still do. Peter Richardson:So Allan Ginsberg read Howl for the first time at the 6th gallery famous moment and beat history in San Francisco history. The 6th gallery was co-founded by Jack Spicer and Wally Hedrick, four others who worked at thewhat was the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute. So the publication of that poem landed Lawrence in court on charges of sanity and he prevailed there. And as Bob Hass said yesterday San Francisco became a literary center in large part because its prosecutors tried to throw Lawrence in jail. So what did that poem in that case mean for the citys literary scene. I mean, certainly the prosecutions didnt stop. Lenny Bruce found himself going through the same routine not too many years later but how did that affect the literary scene or was that a significant effect? Paul Yamazaki:It was very significant. I mean, I think it interest dues to the rest of the United States this new kind of poets at that time this wasLife magazine was very important kind of disseminator of a popular culture and a lot of middleclass homes looked to life to get their culture cues, and they have this relatively new obscure poet and, you know, both Lawrence and Allan and Shig Murao, whos the partner and the manager of City Lights Bookstore and you know, this person was actually arrested when the police came in to bust us. It was a double-page spread you opened up in the middle of Life magazine. So all of the sudden to large parts of the United States, you had just this poets sitting in the courtroom with a packed courtroom with writers and teachers, you know. So it changed the whole dynamic of, you know, both Allans career, Lawrences career in City Lights. Peter Richardson:So youve said that we can draw a line. I think you may have said this privately, but that we can draw a line from that San Francisco renaissance and the beats to the forms of literary activity that were seeing in and around the city today and how do you understand and trace those connections? Maybe you can pick up the story when you started at City Lights in 1970. Paul Yamazaki:Well, I think, you know, today, you know, that there's alwaysthis conversation that, you know, begins in the mid-40s has never stopped and it always, you know, there's been so many important contributors--