Review: Bay Area Writers Celebrate and Ponder the ever-changing San Francisco life

Gary Kamiya, author of “Spirits of San Francisco: Voyages Through the Unknown City”, is the editor of a new anthology. Photo: Alfred Castino

Saying goodbye is never easy, but when it comes to San Francisco, the task can be downright heart-wrenching.

Perhaps inspired by a growing trend in stories eager to declare San Francisco a thing of the past, “The End of the Golden Gate: Writers on Loving and (Sometimes) Leaving San Francisco,” brings together some of the region’s most notable voices. to offer an insider’s account of why we go (but often stay) in a city that is beauty embodied but constantly in search of itself.

In his introduction, editor Gary Kamiya lays out an idea that is later embodied in a number of essays that follow. Writing about San Francisco as a city built on impossible promises, he points out that this feeling has continued to serve as a life force, time and time again, which in turn has drawn the Beats, populated the summer of love and ultimately led to the arrival of Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk.

“The gold rush has never stopped,” Kamiya writes. “The new Argonauts are just looking for a different El Dorado.”

In the case of comedian Margaret Cho, this golden dream is an opportunity to once again walk the sidewalks of a long-changed Haight Street with a dear and deceased friend. For Alyssa Abbott, daughter of poet Steve Abbott, an internal struggle over whether to give up her late father’s rent-controlled apartment becomes a catalyst for everything she has come to feel about San Francisco.

While there are a lot of regrets to be found here – and rightly so – it is also a book written out of love for the city.

Essays by novelist Daniel Handler, surfer / writer Bonnie Tsui, and Kamiya himself all find the writers make a complicated but certain peace with the place they inhabit. Elsewhere, San Francisco’s systemic diversity gaps provide evidence to feed Kimberly Reyes’ powerful play, “On Being Black in San Francisco,” while a story by the late Sarah Coglianese details just how familiar a place can become. strange due to illness and disability.

Some writers also approach their vision of the city through specific facets of its culture.

For novelist Andrew Altschul, San Francisco’s 1947 film noir “Dark Passage” is central to a thesis claiming that no matter when one arrives in San Francisco, the “golden age” has always come. to be gone. Meanwhile, the sordid and fascinating past of an 1198 Fulton Victorian mansion offers the perfect prism through which Fayette Hauser deftly discovers decades of detailed San Francisco history.

Taken as a whole, “The End of the Golden Gate” is a necessary and vivid rebuttal to any argument suggesting that San Francisco is heading six feet lower, while also revealing the many painful and often profound costs that come with being – and to remain – a resident of San Francisco.

“The End of the Golden Gate: Writers on Loving and (Sometimes) Leaving San Francisco”
Edited by Gary Kamiya
(Chronicle Books / Prism; 240 pages; $ 17.95)




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