If you werenâ€™t living in Santa Cruz in the pre-Amazon era, itâ€™s probably hard to appreciate how wonderfully mundane it seemed back then to have a thriving literary scene. We didnâ€™t just take independent bookstores for granted, we took taking independent bookstores for granted for granted.
Not anymore, of course. Now most cities donâ€™t have an independent bookstoreâ€”even the one with a million people right over the hill. And Santa Cruz County has certainly lost our share of great bookstores, like Capitola Book CafÃ© and Bookworks, to name the most recent casualties. But lucky for us, there are still indie bookstores in Santa Cruzâ€”and the grande dame of them all, Bookshop Santa Cruz, has not just survived, but risen to be considered a model for others at a national level.
The truth is that Wallace Baineâ€™s new book marking the 50th anniversary of Bookshop Santa Cruz would have been a good idea even if this era of indie-lit crisis had never arisenâ€”and thatâ€™s a testament to the mark that the store has made on Santa Cruz culture. And while it uses the history of the bookstore as a narrative backbone, A Light in the Midst of Darkness is perhaps even more important for the way it winds into other corners of Santa Cruzâ€™s literary historyâ€”for instance, Baineâ€™s wonderful writing about James Houston and Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, a short section of the book that is excerpted in this weekâ€™s issue. Meanwhile, Wendy Mayer-Lochtefeld explores the bookâ€™s bigger themes in her interview with the author. Â Â
Baine will be talking about A Light in the Midst of Darkness at 2 p.m. this Saturday at Wellstone Center in the Redwoodsâ€”the publishing arm of which, Wellstone Books, published it. Heâ€™ll be in conversation with Wellstoneâ€™s publisher Steve Kettmann, myself, and two key figures in Bookshop Santa Cruzâ€™s history, Neal Coonerty and Casey Coonerty. I hope youâ€™ll join us!
STEVE PALOPOLI | EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
Letters to the Editor
No Laughing Matter
I was eager to read â€œThe Vecchione Projectâ€ (GT, 10/26), and I hung onto every word until the last paragraph, which stated, “Vecchione admits that she gets â€˜really nervous beforehand, and then I become incredibly happy. It must mean Iâ€™m mentally ill,â€™ she says with a chuckle.â€ While most of us who suffer from bipolar disorder (which has potentially lethal high and low moods) love humor, as a womenâ€™s mental health advocate and mother with bipolar disorder, I found this remark offensive. The talented authors Christina Waters and Patrice Vecchione know that words have enormous power. In a time when one out of four adults live with a mood disorder and suicides are higher than ever, itâ€™s important to remember that at its core, mental illness is no laughing matter.
Dyane Harwood | Founder, Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA), Santa Cruz County Chapter
Popular Vote is The Only Way
Re: Letters, 11/23: Steve Edwards only got it partially correct. Yes, the Electoral College was a nod to small states, but its main purpose was to appease the slave owning states. They had lots of land, but not a lot of free white men. (Twelve of our first 18 presidents were slave owners. George Washington owned more than 300.) So a compromise was reached to count each slave as 3/5 of a person! (I have not been able to ascertain whether this only included adult males.) Â
Moreover, basing a stateâ€™s Electoral College votes is absurd, when many people do not, or cannot, vote. Children canâ€™t vote. Prisoners cannot vote. Several religious sects do not believe in voting. Why should they be counted to give a state more voting power? All the votes in the country should be considered equal; the popular vote is the only way to do this. We are supposed to be the United States, after all. Â Â Â
Nancy DeJarlais | Capitola
Tribute to Lowery
Robert Lowery was his name. Blues was his game. He talked the talk and he walked the walk. A bluesman for life. Authentic and sincere. His gut-level guitar playing wrenched new life from traditional blues classics.
He was an accomplished artist of the first degree. A blues artist. The guitar fingerboard was his palette. Six steel strings and a metal slide would serve as brushes. The notes, mostly blue, were his choice of colors. Heâ€™d start to play and sing and instantly proceed to paint a true portrait of what the blues can feel like.
His music will live on through a rich repertoire of recordings. Man had the blues in the beginning, and he still has the blues today. Listen to the blues.
Rick Messina | Santa Cruz