Speed Reads


Lawrence Ferlinghetti, City Lights founder and champion of the Beat Generation, dead at 101

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the "legend of American letters" who founded San Francisco's famed City Lights bookstore, died Monday at the age of 101. His daughter told The New York Times that his cause of death was interstitial lung disease.

Ferlinghetti left an indelible mark on modern American literature through his championing of the Beat Generation in the 1950s and early 1960s, including when he famously published Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" in 1956 — a decision that resulted in a widely-publicized obscenity trial, in which Ferlinghetti was ultimately acquitted.

In addition to creating a haven for bohemian writers with City Lights, Ferlinghetti also wrote dozens of books himself, including his 1958 poetry collection A Coney Island of the Mind — a work that was "written to be performed aloud with a jazz accompaniment," The Washington Post notes.

The literary world paid tribute to Ferlinghetti on Tuesday, when the news of his death was announced, with the Minneapolis-based Coffee House Press tweeting, "Bidding peace & farewell to Lawrence Ferlinghetti, a legend of American letters, bookselling, rabble rousing, wild dreaming; a beloved community member and trailblazer." Others shared similar sentiments of overwhelming gratitude, or snippets of his poetry:

Ferlinghetti was a champion of literature throughout his long life. "Poetry," as he once said, "is the shortest distance between two humans."