I heard about the Book Club of California by way of my mother – she knows my interest in books and printing, and suggested we go check out an exhibit from the Book Club at the Cal Poly Library while I was down on a visit. The exhibit was great, and the Book Club sounded pretty cool, although maybe a different level than I am, more of a “Patron-of-The-Arts” type thing, if that makes any sense. I mean I know I’m not a living on a shoestring college student, and I do buy art, but I’m certainly not society. Or is establishment what I’m thinking of? But maybe those are just my maladjustments/misinterpretations.
So here’s from the Book Club themselves, on their website:
Welcome to the Book Club of California, a non-profit, membership-based organization founded in 1912. The Club supports book making, fine printing, design, typography, illustration, literature, and scholarship through a dynamic series of publications, public programs, and exhibitions related to the history and literature of California and the West.
Anyhoo, these years later I made it to the actual Club. It’s one of those fantastical rabbit hole sort of experiences, where you’d have no idea – at least I didn’t, really, what it would be like. The building gives you no clue, it’s a generic office-y type building on Sutter Street in San Francisco – I don’t know the neighborhoods well enough to say which one that is, but I’d gone through China Town on the way there, which was its own sort of dis-orientation – and there’s multiple floors with other tenants and you take the elevator up and there’s an altar-ish sort of door which I wasn’t quite sure if it was unlocked or OK to just open and walk in but I was there and they say they’re open to the public so I did – open the door that is and walk in. Into a jewelbox sort of atmosphere with ladies at the bar setting up for the evening’s hospitality – I was there to check out the exhibit and hear a presentation by calligrapher Thomas Ingmire and poet David Annwn and my first thought was these are not my people (maybe my great-grandmother’s) and felt like turning around and walking out but I didn’t and they didn’t kick me out either, in fact a very nice representative of the Club greeted me and I said I was there to look at the exhibit and yes, stay for the presentation, thank you.
As noted, the exhibit was great, and there were chairs set up for the presentation – not sure what that part of the space is usually like – but there were some comfy looking chairs scattered about, and an area by the bar with couches, and then a library room chock full of booky goodness. So Club, as in a place where one could go and hang out – although hang out didn’t seem quite the right phrase for the setting – for some people it’s the golf club, or some other activity, right? Why not books as the thing? Perhaps there are people that go there on a regular basis, I still don’t completely understand that part of it. The sponsoring presentations and printing books part made sense, and recent publications were displayed for perusal. There was a sign implying that one could browse in the library too, but I didn’t dive in to that – wasn’t completely comfortable, and I’m not sure that I’ll rush back, but it was interesting to see.