Viva Bob Sharrard!

May 24, 2023

In Memoriam

Robert Sharrard

May 24, 1953 — April 19, 2023

Bob was hired on as a bookseller at City Lights in 1977, and he stayed on for a 40-year career, ultimately becoming a Senior Editor and Rights Manager for City Lights Publishers. He retired in 2017 and lived in his longtime North Beach apartment until his passing earlier this year.

Some City Lights Memories

Bob loved to walk the streets of the city, observing people and places with a wry eye, he was a charming San Francisco flaneur. He always had amusing stories to share about the lives of writers (both living and dead), and about people he knew in the city and those met on his travels. Bob was astute about politics and international affairs, but his great love was literature. He read avidly and as an editor he brought a number of fine writers to City Lights Publishers — among them, Jaime Gil de Biedma, Mohammed Mrabet, Janice Eidus, Rebecca Brown, Nathaniel Mackey, James Purdy, and many more. — Nancy J. Peters

I remember working alongside Bob in the City Lights publishing offices when we were located just up the spiral stairs above the entrance to the bookshop. We would read manuscripts and smoke cigarettes at our adjacent desks until it was a reasonable time (4pm?) to move over to Vesuvio’s across the alley for a chat and the first drink of the day. He was so pleased to have another queer person on staff, and enjoyed regaling me with stories of his travels to gay enclaves around the world. Though we differed in our approach to work and life in most ways, we did see in one another a shared love for beauty and literature from underrepresented communities. — Amy Scholder

Bob Sharrard was an erudite autodidact who edited two of my favorite City Lights titles, Sarajevo Blues by Semezdin Mehmedinovic and Landscapes of War: From Sarajevo to Chechnya by Juan Goytisolo, translated from the Spanish by Peter Bush. He introduced us to some amazing writers from his travels to Cuba including Antonio José Ponte and Pedro de Jesús. And, early on in my tenure at City Lights when Tower Records was still open and it was payday, I would always look forward to Bob’s haul of new CD’s, which he’d play in the publishing office. He loved David Bowie, having hamburgers at Mo’s and the lunch specials at Brandy Ho’s, and Moe’s Bookstore in Berkeley. RIP. — Stacey Lewis

One of the things I remember most about Bob was his generosity. He was always quick to loan me the latest CD collection he had just gotten (which was often) or some hard-to-find book we had been talking about. Even after Bob retired, I would get the occasional email from him letting me know about some, usually obscure, collection of recordings being released or a link to a New York Times article, which was most often about surfing (something Bob knew I am passionate about). — Andy Bellows

Bob welcomed me to City Lights when I first started working at the bookstore back in 1987, taking time to walk me up to the Caffé Puccini for coffee, commiserating about mutual interests, and generally being his friendly, affable self. At that point he was still pulling regular shifts at the front counter, and Bob was a wry presence wreathed in smoke, jousting with Scott, Richie and Paul, colleagues he worked with for years. Bob was incredibly erudite, an insatiable consumer of books, movies, and music. He was an adventurer who loved to travel, and his devil-may-care attitude seemed to protect him wherever he went. I was always impressed by Bob’s generosity to the people he’d meet on his travels, and on his regular journeys throughout the City, too. Bob knew how to enjoy life and live well. He was a survivor, a savvy, funny, and complex man – incredibly self-revealing at times, but also intensely private. I won’t forget his laugh, and I’ll miss his easygoing grin. — Elaine Katzenberger

Bob was a wellspring of knowledge on literature in general and City Lights in particular. Among his many contributions, Bob brought important gay titles to City Lights readers. As I work remotely, I only met him in person in San Francisco a few times. On one such occasion, he took me to a Mission District drag bar, where he introduced me to his large circle of compadres who affectionately called him güerito. He was a free spirit, storyteller, explorer, rebel, editor, and cherished friend to many. — Greg Ruggiero

It seems like every time I visited Esta Noche (a long defunct, but famous drag bar in the Mission), Bob always appeared out of the woodwork. It was the same strange ritual, every time, of me introducing him to my to out-of-town friends. It almost became a bit of joke after a while. Yet, Bob would generously encourage them to explore other worthwhile haunts in the City. He was also forthcoming with the literary references and always impressed with his range of knowledge. Occasionally, I’d also bump into him in Fisherman’s Wharf, as there was a bar near North Point that he’d frequent. The appeal of this normally touristy dive was that there was hardly ever anyone there on weekdays. Drinks were affordable and the jazz they played was tasteful. I’d notice Bob sitting in a corner with a New York Times, maybe a book, and a cocktail. He so obviously enjoyed his solitude. We only spoke to each other once whilst visiting there. I remember it as a wide-ranging talk traversing African Literature, the European Avant-Garde, tactics for picking up men, things to be aware of while traveling, what makes a comfortable shoe, and his thoughts about the passage of time. He was nuanced in his thinking and taste in music. I cannot count how many CD’s he lent me, often insisting I “hang onto a bit longer.” They remain part of my collection to this day. A mensch. — Peter Maravelis


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