The Summer of Love in San Francisco was known for encouraging freedom of expression. You may be surprised to learn that at the same time, The City was also practicing censorship.
A 35-year-old poet named Lenore Kandel, a native New Yorker, wrote The Love Book. Included was a poem containing what she described as, “holy erotica.” The San Francisco Police Department seized copies of the book in 1966 and arrested, among others, Ron Muszalski from City Lights Bookstore in North Beach for “knowingly possessing obscene matter with the intent to sell.”
By the end of April of 1967, the trial commenced with testimony from many witnesses, including the poet herself. After ten hours of deliberation, the jury found the defendants guilty. The conclusion was that The Love Book was “obscene” and had “no redeeming social value.”
Fans of City Lights Bookstore, and 94-year-old founder Lawrence Ferlinghetti, are celebrating this freedom of expression institution’s 60th anniversary this year. For a quick overview of what City Lights represents, check out:
Before Kandel’s The Love Book trial, there was poet Allen Gingsberg’s “Howl” obscenity trial. Ferlinghetti modeled City Lights after the European-style combination of a publishing house and a bookstore business. So as publisher of “Howl,” Ferlinghetti was arrested and tried for obscenity. In 1957, Ferlinghetti won his case and “Howl” was determined to have “redeeming social importance.” As for the defendants in The Love Book case, the verdict was overturned in 1971.
For details of The Love Book trial check out:
Celebrations for the City Lights anniversary will take place throughout this year. For a list of special events, check out:
And if you think that censorship is gone, check out: Banned Books Week –
Happy summer reading,