Category: Uncategorized (Page 2 of 4)

Lawrence Ferlinghetti: The Champion for Banned Books

lawrence ferlinghetti city lights

Lawrence Ferlinghetti in front of City Lights

Three hundred and fifty independent bookstores across America celebrate their tenacity and appreciation for their customers on Saturday, May 2—including Mississippi Independent Bookstores. National Independent Bookstore was inspired by California’s first Independent Bookstore Day in 2014 which was celebrated by an impressive 93 California bookstores.

One of the most legendary bookstores in California is City Lights in San Francisco, opened in 1953 by poet and activist Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Peter Martin, a sociology student and publisher of a magazine called City Lights. Martin’s idea was to open a quality paperback bookshop. At that time, paperbacks were sold at newsstands and little thought was given to the impact a small, cheap book could make.

ferlinghetti ginsberg 6 at 6 gallery

A couple of years after their shop opened, Ferlinghetti heard the first public reading of “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg at the 6 Gallery. The poem opens:

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix.”

Ferlinghetti had started a series of books called City Lights Pocket Poets Series and he famously sent Ginsberg a telegram after hearing Ginsberg read “Howl”:

I greet you at the beginning of a great career. When do I get the manuscript?”

howl by allen ginsberg“Howl and Other Poems” became Number Four in Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Pocket Poets Series, but hundreds of copies of the book were seized by U.S. Customs officials and Ferlinghetti was charged with obscenity. The charges were later dropped when Judge Clayton W. Horn ruled that the poem had redeeming social importance.

Through Ferlinghetti’s bookstore, his own poetry, the publication of “Howl”–which set precedence for the freedom to publish controversial literary works of redeeming social importance, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, now 96-years-old, embodies everything an independent bookstore and its booksellers could ever wish to be.

landscapes of living and dying

Ferlinghetti wrote dozens of poetry books, including America’s most popular selling book of poetry, A Coney Island of the Mind. Over the years, the poet has signed paperbacks of his poetry for fans who have visited City Lights bookstore. For serious collectors, Ferlinghetti’s books issued as signed limited editions will have lasting value and beauty.


Isaac Asimov for Galactic President 202016              

I read Isaac Asimov’s most well known short story “Nightfall” recently, and it made me think like no other work of fiction ever has.  That, more than anything else, is what I love about his writing.  A planet that will face it’s first night in two thousand years tries to prepare itself to see stars in the sky.  Society has been built on the assumption that there will always be a sun- bright and warm above them.  Without knowing what they are, can people appreciate the beauty and depth that stars represent?  What foundations have we built our own culture on that aren’t as secure as we think they are? Published in the 1940’s, this is not a thinly veiled comment on environmentalism (despite my weak descriptions), but a reflection of our society; its needs, and its fears.


One recurring theme in Asimov’s writing is the thin but bitterly-fought differences between science and religion.  Holding a PhD in biochemistry he was acutely aware of the conflicts and overlapping claims science and religion often make.  In his Foundation series he takes the end of an epoch (the fall of an empire that stretches across a galaxy) to show just how much science and religion overlap.  Knowledge and belief are two different ways to interpret the things we see and feel.  In my mind, knowledge is based in facts and observable events.

Belief is much deeper, something in our bones that tells us about these facts and events around us.  The important distinction is how we use our ability to understand the world around us.  Science and religion can impact the world, but it is up to us to guide the hammer.

The Foundation series won the Nebula Award for best science fiction or fantasy series ever written, beating out the odds-on favorite: The Lord of the Rings. Asimov traces the history of the Foundation- a scientific oasis, a seed vault of all the accumulated knowledge of the 12,000 year reign of the Galactic Empire. One conversation leads to planets facing off in war decades later.  A single trade agreement could be the reason a planet is able to throw off an oppressive religion.  Asimov shows how our own modern civilization evolved, what roles science, religion, and economics all played. This is a story so well known to us we can only observe them honestly in an outside world.

I would highly recommend reading Isaac Asimov’s work.  These stories published decades ago are relevant today because of the questions that they ask. We must continue to ask them- for each generation must find their own answers.


“What is there in darkness to drive me mad?”

“Have you ever experienced darkness, young man?”



Written by Daniel 

Graphic novels, READ them.

If you’ve been to Lemuria within the last couple of months, then you know we’ve been developing our graphic novels section. Unlike gardening or history, this section doesn’t really have an someone to oversee it; it kind of belongs to all of us who enjoy reading this type of book. All of us take turns cleaning it, rifling through it when new books come in, and staring at it fondly from the front desk.

Jacket (1)The newest graphic novel worth mentioning is Scott McCloud’s The Sculptor. IT’S AMAZING. I’ve already decided it’s the best book of the year. And I’m sure I won’t be the only one. Andre, Kelly, and Hannah have already purchased their copies. (You should, as well.)

Ugh, this book is just so good. As in, stop what you’re doing, lie there, and think about what you’ve just read.

I tried to write this blog right after finishing the book, but couldn’t. This book makes you feel things, guys. My heart hurts, but in a good way (if that makes sense). Now, all of you read this book so I can have someone to talk to.


Written by Elizabeth 

Where All Light Tends to Go

Whatever you choose to call it- Grit Lit, Country Noir, Southern Gothic (on the wrong side of the tracks), I love it. I was thrilled to get my hands on the advance reading copy of Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy. I am also thrilled to be able to meet tonight an author who, in my opinion, will join the ranks of Daniel Woodrell, Larry Brown, Ron Rash and Tom Franklin.

Jacket6Jacob McNeely is resigned to the fact that he is stuck. He is not only stuck in the town he lives in but also the lifestyle that his family has led for generations. His family history is full of outlaws, bootleggers and currently the business of crystal methamphetamine; his father is a dealer and his mother is an addict.  The one good thing in his life is his life-long love, Maggie.  To Jacob, Maggie represents everything good in the world and he will do anything to keep her from being “stuck” in their home town.

He has worked for his father since he was young and knows the business inside and out.  One night, things go terribly wrong with a job his father sent him on and he begins to learn that things and people  aren’t always who and what they seem to be.  This a beautifully written book full of brutality and love; and I found myself cheering for Jacob to find his way.

This is a must read for 2015.


Written by Maggie

Welcome to the new age


tumblr_m7qckuGHkc1qfu0qw (1)You might have noticed that things look….well, completely different. Allow me to introduce you to the new Lemuria website and blog hybrid- where the two separate entities have finally become one beautiful marriage of books waiting to be given a good home, and our (sometimes crazy and scattered) thoughts about what we’re reading. Website, meet book lover. Book lover, meet new website. We will no longer be posting on the old blog (rest in peace), so reconfigure your RSS feed, reset your bookmarks tab, or do whatever you need to in order to stick with us as we continue blogging in this awesome new space. Allons-y!



The Children Act by Ian McEwan  

Jacket (5)A “matter of extreme emergency”: whether or not to allow a leukemic child of 17 and his parents to refuse life-saving blood transfusions is the dilemma for Fiona Maye, a Justice in Family Matters of the High Court. Heady stuff for any philosopher or writer, indeed. From the deft McEwan imagination comes our protagonist Fiona, a 59 year old intelligent, childless, still beautiful, married woman of the law who sensitively addresses the dilemma by interviewing both parents and Adam. The parents’ religion prohibits the use of blood products. Adam, rational, sensitive, and articulate, agrees with them. But the High Court can overrule Adam and his parents’ decision since Adam is not yet 18. It’s relatively easy to guess how Fiona will decide, especially for frequent readers of legal thrillers; but The Children Act is a tense story of moral conflicts that can teeter either way when life, death and religious freedom intersect. The aftermath of Fiona’s decision is where we get hooked into the narrative and befriend Fiona, who has presided over equally painful issues in her judgeship in the High Court.

This reader did balk at McEwan’s rendering of Fiona’s husband as man who would announce to his wife that he intends to have an affair but hasn’t done so yet, but the author succeeds with other strategic characters like Adam and his parents with much greater subtlety and discretion.

McEwen deals with quite a few issues in this book that, to this reader at least, require a thicker or longer narrative.  Raising children versus professional ambition, open marriage versus a stagnant monogamy, adolescent infatuation with a much older woman bordering on obsession in a story already driven by religious choice versus the state’s responsibility toward minors.  In spite of this, the book keeps us entertained, guessing and surprised because McEwan can turn ideas into literary magic just as he did in Atonement and Amsterdam, some years back.

The Children Act by Ian McEwan will be available to purchase in paperback on April 28, 2015.

Written by Pat

The Gatsby-Potter Connection (on picking up old books again, or for the first time)  

One of the joys of teaching high school English is that I get to spend time with some of my favorite books every year.  (A related joy is that I get to teach books I love and, since I’m the teacher, skip the crap I don’t love).  My 11th graders will soon be swinging through Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby, and I can’t wait.  There’s so much about the novel that I love: its tightly arranged structure, its use of image both as symbol and as tone-setter; its narrator and his voice.  Yes, the book has its shortcomings, both cultural and craft-wise, but I’m willing to overlook them for lines like this: “Blessed are the dead that the rain falls on”.

There’s been a recent uptick in Gatsby interest, spurred largely by the Baz Luhrman-directed movie version, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby.   But, mediocre movies notwithstanding, the book has been an American force since the mid 1950’s despite having lackluster sales and criticial reception when it was initially published nearly a decade prior.  Book critic Maureen Corrigan delves into what caused the Gatsby renaissance, and why the book has remained so firmly woven into the fabric of American novels, in her nonfiction selection So We Read On.  The book is multifaceted:  Corrigan describes her own personal relationship with the book, but she gives biography of Fitzgerald as well, placing both him and his writing in the context of his life and the larger cultural shifts of early 20th century America.  She also gives keen readings of the books themes and larger ideas, some of which she admits to not having noticed until much later in life.  Like Gatsby, Corrigan’s book is easy to read.  She doesn’t beat the reader with overly scholarly jargon, yet her excitement for Gatsby bubbles off the page.  I will be able to teach this novel better having read So We Read On, but anyone (not just educators) can read and enjoy it.

If you haven’t read Gatsby since high school, but want to revisit it, come by the store and pick up So We Read On.  If you were supposed to read Gatsby in high school but didn’t, we have copies of it, too.  If you’re (un)lucky enough to buy either book while I’m working, be prepared to hear me carry on about it.  And, please, don’t feel any shame if you’ve not read Gatsby at all.  There’s nothing wrong with being “late” to a book, as evidenced by my beginning the Harry Potter series last week.

Yes.  I work at Lemuria, and I’m just now reading Harry Potter.  To my knowledge, I am literally the only employee of the store who hasn’t read it.  But, I’m getting there—and I’m enjoying it.  It’s fun to finally be a part of some of the conversations among the staff, who are (I’m sure you’ve noticed) rabid Potter fans.  And I get a kick out of their giddiness when they ask me where I am in the book.  Oh, just wait.  It’s about to get really good! they squeal, then visibly hold back spoilers.  I don’t feel excluded—rather, this spurs me on to read more, so I can fully participate in the nerdiness that abounds.

The same is true for Gatsby, or any “classic” book.  Getting acquainted (or reacquainted) with a book doesn’t need to happen at a particular time.  That’s the beauty of the written word—it’s not changing.  Books are patient things, waiting for us to pick them up when we’re ready.


Written by Jamie

The Romanov Sisters

It is my opinion that anyone who finds history books boring just isn’t reading about interesting people or events. Personally, I find the history of Russia to be diverse to the point it’s almost crazy. The country’s history has boasted Mongols, Ivan the Terrible, Peter the Great, and of course, the Romanovs. (And that’s all before the whole Communism thing.)

One thing that makes the Romanovs so compelling is how doomed they were. But it’s not like the Bolsheviks swept in one day and boom, no more Romanov. There was an entire Russian civil war brewing, a rumored magician named Rasputin worming his way through the royal family, and a little debacle called World War I.

Jacket (2)That being said, I would recommend The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport to a reader with a bit of knowledge of World War I and the role of the Romanov family in it. This is because this book is specifically focused on the daughters that were never able to wield power, and the the history is a bit more enjoyable when you know about the events surrounding the girls.

Most of us history nerds have studied World War I, Russia, and Nicholas and Alexandra Romanov. But are their daughters worth reading about? Without spoiling too many details, you probably haven’t heard everything. This is the story of four girls who were born into a rich, famous, and oh-so dangerous world. They were isolated for much of their lives, and were little fashion icons, but were required to be under armed guard for any outing, any party. The girls’ individual personalities are shown throughout the text. As I got to know them, I just felt sorry for them. I wish that they had not been Romanovs. I wish that they had been born to normal parents, and not had suffered the downfall of a royal lineage. What a fascinating, yet tragic world this book pulls you into. I recommend you curl up with it immediately, and I promise you will not be bored.


Written by Nicola 

The Archives of Conviction

2015 has started in a bit of a book lull for me.  I have started and stopped multiple books and found myself hard-pressed to commit to anything for more than 20 pages before finding an excuse to read something else.

It doesn’t help that part of my job role at the bookstore is to gather the books of yesteryear, compile a list of keeps and discards, and send the books we no longer want or need from whence they came.  I see books all the time that weren’t able to find a home and my heart sinks with each box we send away.  Sometimes it becomes too much and I take a book out of the pile and sit for a minute to give it the audience it deserves, if only for a short period of time.

Today, a day like so many days before this one, I sat with a book I have looked at and passed over hundreds of times before.

The True Gospel Preached Here by Bruce West

Jacket (14)University Press of Mississippi is often overlooked by younger audiences due to the subject matter they publish.  Of course, I include myself in that pool of younger audiences.  I can’t tell you exactly why I decided to open the book, and I’m sure the marketers over at UP would love to know as well, but I’m happy I did.  The True Gospel Preached Here is a book of photographs by Bruce West that tells a story of persistence and conviction.  It is the story of Reverend H.D. Dennis and his wife Margaret.  In other ways it also describes the dedication of the photographer and his 20 years of work to preserve and capture the work of a man called by God.

There is a beautiful parable to be found on the pages of this incredible book.  Rev. Dennis and his wife transformed an old grocery store into a monument for God and his people.

“God don’t have no white church and he don’t have no black church-only one church, Rev H.D. Dennis.”

The words are as exotic as the church itself.  They cut deep into the soul of what it means to be human.  There is universal truth in the words of a wise man, fixated on a singular cause.  Flipping through the pages of this archive filled me with a great deal of joy.  I was lost in the eyes of Rev Dennis and his wife.  I noticed myself being captured not by the elaborate fixtures built for God, but of the people that created them instead.

Every photograph in this book demands to be studied.  It demands your attention.  In a world with so many people trying to do the one thing they believe they want to do, it was nice to sit with the pages of a book that showed a man and woman doing what they felt was necessary.

Rev and Mrs. Dennis are no longer with us; sadly, they passed away before the book was published.  I’m not sure how much longer the book will be around, so stop by and sit with them for a minute.


Written by Andre

The Secret Wisdom of the Earth

Sometimes there are novels that stick with you for a while. That is how I feel about Christoper Scotton’s debut novel, The Secret Wisdom of the Earth. I know it is only February, but Secret Wisdom might be my favorite book of 2015, and I am not sure how it can be dethroned. It is a coming of age tale set in the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky. Innocence is lost, love is found, life is lost, and the earth remains the central character as it heals and renews, even in the midst of being raped and pillaged by strip mining.

Jacket (2)I cannot begin to describe the amount of feelings I had from reading this book. The story and all the characters captivated me from the beginning. As I was finishing the book, I actually started crying. I haven’t cried in a while, and I could tell because the tears would not stop. I attribute the tears to all the feelings that I was having from the entirety of the book. Feelings of joy, grief, excitement, sadness, anger, all coming out in uncontrollable, and unforeseen tears.

This book is a work of art. Not only did it evoke deep feelings, it evoked deep and vivid images of the mountains in Appalachia that have captivated me all of my life. I could see Paul as he advocated on behalf of the mountains. I could see Pops sitting in his chair on the porch drinking his sour mash. I could see Buzzy and Kevin flying through the air on their rope, being submerged by the mud of the earth, and coming out of the earth as kings of their own realm. I could see Jukes Hollow, its amazing pool formed at the base of a waterfall, and the graves that held so many of those who had called the hollow their home. There was not a time in reading the book that my imagination was not in full force.

This novel has stirred something deep within me that I cannot name or grasp; and that is okay. This book will sit with me for a while, and I with it. Not only is it an adventure and a mystery, it is a story that dives deep into the human condition. It is a book that made me ask deep and meaningful questions about the human role in the preservation of the earth and the places we call home.


Written by Justin 



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