The Book Bloc: SF's Anarchist Bookfair
A celebration of the counter culture and community
March 22, 2006 1:52 PM
A carnival in San Francisco did away with games like popping balloons with darts or target-shooting with water-guns. Instead, people could pin a Molotov cocktail to a cop car, or bean a bureaucrat.
The mini-carnival was one of the few attractions of the 11th Annual San Francisco Anarchist Book Fair, which attracted around 1,500 people on March 18, at the Golden Gate Park, near the entrance of 9th Avenue and Lincoln. Inside the County Fair Building were at least 60 publishers, publications, organizations and bookstores that rented tables to display their merchandise at 10 a.m.
“I talk to people who thought anarchists were all punk rockers,” said Breezy (refused to give last name), a contributing writer for Anarchy magazine. “But I told them that they can be families, old people, young people, working, not working and from different classes.”
The Fair was sponsored by Bound Together Bookstore, which is located in the Upper Haight in San Francisco. This event marked the Bookstore's 36th anniversary, according to Tom Brooker, one of the event coordinators.
“The response (to the Book Fair) was so popular that it continued,” said Brooker, who said he noticed an increase in the event’s growth every year. The table rental fees and the annual raffle drawing produced enough revenue to host the fair every year, he added.
SF State student, Garin Hay, attended the Book Fair for the first time. He said that he heard about it through friends. Although Hay doesn’t consider himself an anarchist, he said he's been exposed to the culture.
Hay was attracted to the various patches and ‘zines held by vendors, but was mostly surprised at the large amount of people who took their children to the fair.
“All the kids here are really cool,” said Hay, a 20-year-old english literature major.
Although the Book Fair had always attracted many political radicals, Brooker said the fair was not meant to be an anarchist convention, but a successful outlet for small publications, publishers and bookstores to sell their products.
“For me, [anarchy] is a form of economics,” said Brooker. “It’s anti-authority and stresses the individual.”
The publisher and owner of REsearch publications said anarchy referred to the power of the individual.
“Anarchy is based on subversive principles…it (is) about doing it your self,” said Vale, who publishes books dealing mostly with punk rock music, and other counter cultures.
The publisher said he was a loyal attendant to the Fair because it allowed him to connect with people on a personal level, which was important for his company’s success.
John Sulak, co-author of "Modern Pagans," a book published by REsearch. Sulak’s book investigated practices of modern paganism, a religion Sulak referred to as “anarchist spirituality” because paganism doesn’t have a pope to tell worshipers what to do.
Sulak had participated in the Fair as long as Vale and noticed that this year’s fair had more free merchandise than previous fairs.
Mark Weiman, owner of Regent Press, and author of "The San Francisco Oracle" - a chronicle of the psychedelic culture of Haight and Ashbury - gave out wooden yo-yos in the shape of bagels.
Weiman rummaged through his apartments’ garbage and found hundreds of the bagel yo-yos, which were a failed venture of his neighbor. Weiman, like many other vendors at the book fair, offered complimentary thrown-away treasures, a practiced known as "dumpster diving."
Dumpster diving, according to Sulak and Weiman, is an anarchist practice because it subverts from commercialism.
“Anarchy is non-hierarchical…no one is going to tell me what to do…even if you pay me,” said Weiman.
Besides getting free stuff, many of the people attended because the Fair was the only time when they saw friends from different areas.
Publisher of See Sharp Press, Charles Bufe, drove from Tucson, Ariz., for the past 13 years. Bufe used the fair to sell his book, pins and bumper stickers, but also to feel a sense of community with others who share his political, social and economic beliefs.
“I don’t feel so god damned isolated,” said Bufe.
For more information, call Bound Together Bookstore at (415) 431-8355.
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