The Octopus is a literary salon,* re-interpreted in the 21st Century to engage and entertain readers, writers, musicians, artists of all ages in Uptown Oakland, California. The Octopus Literary Salon includes a most excellent café with delicious food, beer & wine, a small-scale specialty used and new bookstore (we sell used records too!), and a space for public readings and discussions as well as other literary spontaneity and, of course music performance. We even have a costume closet. Come by and play some records, the piano, eat a sandwich and chat with some nice people.
*We think of a salon as "a gathering of people led by an inspiring host, held for amusement and to increase the knowledge of participants through conversation." The salons of the 1800s cited the Roman poet Horace’s aims of poetry, “either to please or to educate.” Today, the salon continues to be interpreted as a meeting place for readers and writers. Combine salon notions with the traditions of a public house or “pub” and we’ve arrived at our own real time “local,” The Octopus Literary Salon.
Our name is inspired by the fascinating sea creature, muse, and symbol used in literature and myth, compelling and multi-faceted. The octopus is highly intelligent, and renowned for its playfulness and shape shifting. The Giant Pacific Octopus is a native animal to the San Francisco bay area so befits a traditional pub name.
Are there any literary salon models that inspired you to start the Octopus Literary Salon?
The Octopus grew out of living room readings and musical performances. The vision for programming is structured, but dynamic, with an emphasis on local voice. The model is inspired by the European pub, where families and friends of all ages gather to talk about ideas and perform music (as well as eat and drink).
Can you tell any anecdotes or stories that made you want to turn your living room salons into something bigger?
Ever read a short, funny play out loud with a few friends? It’s a blast! Ever write your own play/poem/essay and read it to a room of people? How about making a toast or memorizing a speech? In the right context, it can be exhilarating, a lot of fun, and bring a new level of meaning to your evening out. The Octopus welcomes you to try it! Our first official salon event on July 12, Songs and Stories of the Sea, was a roaring success with over 60 people in attendance and $654 raised (after expenses) for the startup campaign. In addition, the mailing list has quadrupled in size after only 4 days, and a flood of volunteer offers have been coming in. Please check out our previous salons page for pictures from previous events and information about upcoming salon pop ups.
What is it about Uptown Oakland that makes it a good place for the Octopus Literary Salon?
Uptown Oakland is critical for the business model. It has the highest daytime population in the city (M-F) in the most concentrated area downtown. Morning and lunchtime coffee/tea/cafe sales will generate critical revenue in addition to the evening program sales.
The top 10 Oakland pop-ups of 2013
December 29, 2013
Oakland Social: The Octopus hugs local social life with eight open arms
September 27, 2013
A Literary Salon for the 21st Century
The East Bay Express
July 10, 2013
Greg Ashley, Will Sprott, Yea-Ming play benefit for Oakland’s Octopus Literary Salon on 7/12/13
The Bay Bridged
July 3, 2013