First full-length biography of poet/publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti, whose A Coney Island of the Mind--at a million copies worldwide--has made him the largest-selling living American poet. Ferlinghetti's wit, sexual lyricism, nostalgia, and ease of reading have prompted fellow poet Robert Creeley to say of him: ""Lawrence is like a terrific park. He really gives you a place to sit down."" From his base in San Francisco and his City Lights bookstore and publishing house, he has become a politically minded world traveler and enjoys tremendous acceptance everywhere for his immensely successful public readings. Although he is the central publisher of the Beat poets, and gave Allen Ginsberg a homebase for ""Howl"" and his following works, he is himself, Silesky demonstrates, simply an outsider, a loner looking on, and has resisted being cast as a Beat. What's more, his work in the past decade or more has deepened in voice and mastery and attracted the most favorable criticism of his career. As Silesky shows, Ferlinghetti had a Dickensian childhood as an orphan, went on to earn a Ph.D., became a naval officer and participated in the D-day landing, then the liberation of Paris, then saw Pacific duty, was stationed in Japan and six weeks after the second atomic bomb destroyed Nagasaki visited the unbelievably shocking ruins of that city. This background helped give him a solid character, and he has remained a trim, tall, well-dressed, and healthy man, light-filled and liked by all, a fair-minded businessman who keeps his hands off the nitty-gritty of his bookstore and publishing house, and has now become obsessed with painting. Well-done social history of a literary movement, and a strong introduction to a poet whose gifts are sure to charm the reader.