We Get Mail: Summer (California) Reading from Heyday

The Bibliofella provides full employment to the UPS guy, Fed Ex and the world's greatest mail carrier, Cherry out of Silverado P.O.  Among the boxes delivered to Shangri-Bib are dozens of catalogs, fun to browse through, from big commercial publishers, tiny little presses like Copper Canyon and Akashic, university publishers including the excellent University of California Press.  Among the best of these catalogs, for both content and production this year is the Heyday 2012 Spring & Summer Catalog from the good folks at everybody's favorite Berkeley-based people's publishers. Do other popular literary bloggers "review" publisher catalogs? I think not. But then Mr. Bib is not your average book blogger, friends. 

No, Mr. Bib is the world's best aggregater of whatever experiences are going on, or going on in his brain, so that the arrival of the Heyday catalog and his imminent departure for some time in the Sierra, with a weekend in the Bay Area first (home of Heyday and so much lit culture) with visits to some favorite bookstores is bloggy kismet. There will be a trip--pilgrimage really--to City Lights, and my favorite San Francisco radical collectively-run bookstore, Modern Times. In Berkeley, an hour at least at Moe's of course, and at Pegasus Books, and the recently relocated Black Oaks Books. I will arrive with a list since there are so few Orange County used bookstores.

Ramsey Kanaan of PM Press
Ramsey Kanaan of PM Press

And maybe dropping in at the also excellent producers of catalogs, not to mention books, PM Press and AK Press.  Both located in Oakland, they have different first names, but are both socialist-anarchist-revolutionary distributors and publishers of books, comics, DVDs, CDs and more.  If you go in for that kind of thing...and who doesn't?!   

  All this browsing and buying and standing around looking at books will make a fella visiting the Bay Area hungry, so it'll be off to our annual celebratory dinner at the cafe upstairs at Chez Panisse, Alice Waters' joint. My son always orders the pizzetta with nettles and draws fabulist creatures or imaginary maps on the white paper tablecloth. Once we were there on Bastille Day, speaking of revolution, met by a quartet of musicians playing out in front. Dig it. And let's not forget Saturday morning at the downtown Berkeley Farmers' Market and a stroll over to admire the excellent Berkeley Public Library, and Sunday morning breakfast at Saul's.

If you can't come along, staying at home in OC with a downloadable copy of the Heyday catalog is a short visit to a part of our state you might want to be in. Heyday is a standout publisher about which I've raved before, and for good reason. It's a nonprofit, founded by the legendary cultural activist Malcolm Margolin.  
Indeed, the catalog tells a little story itself about his righteous work of boostering on behalf of the natural world, Native California, history, memoir, children's books, ethnic studies and field guides. I offered copies of the latest literary offering from Heyday during KPFK's spring fund drive, New California Writing 2012, edited by Gayle Wattawa. Needless to say, you need to get that (and you will, friend, if you pledged!). It's the second year of the new series, with a foreword by David Kipen (of Libros Schmibros) and works as both an introduction to new voices and a reliable survey of what established California authors like TC Boyle, Michael Pollan and Maxine Hong Kingston are up to. Wattawa edited an excellent anthology of writing from the Inland Empire a few years back called Inlandia.

But to get a real sense of what Heyday does, and does better than anybody, check out its "Top Dozen Bestsellers," which includes Malcolm's own The Ohlone Way, the groundbreaking story of the indigenous people of, yes, the Bay Area. Also the beautiful A State of Change, Laura Cunningham's remarkable artistic imagining of the pre-Conquest landscape.  And essays by Andrew Lam in East Eats West, about food and 
Who brought the wheat paste?
Who brought the wheat paste?
culture.  And Wherever There's a Fight: How Runaway Slaves, Suffragists,  Immigrants, Strikers and Poets Shaped Civil Liberties in California by Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi.  Brand new titles include a biography of ur-eco-activist David Brower, The Wildness Within, and one I am saving up my pennies for, All of Us or None: Social Justice Posters of the San Francisco Bay Area, edited by Lincoln Cushing

I'll be having, as you can see, a great weekend up here in Berkeley while you are reading this on a Sunday morning at home. So, visit the Heyday website and download their catalog (a great read), and take a trip to Northern California without, as they say, ever leaving your chair. 

New California Writing 2012, Gayle Wattawa, ed. Heyday, 336 pps., $20    

Andrew Tonkovich hosts the Wednesday night literary arts program Bibliocracy Radio, on KPFK 90.7 FM in Southern California.


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