Cool, Gray City of Love brings together an exuberant combination of personal insight, deeply researched history, in-depth reporting, and lyrical prose to create an unparalleled portrait of San Francisco. Each of its 49 chapters explores a specific site or intersection in the city, from the mighty Golden Gate Bridge to the raunchy Tenderloin to the soaring sea cliffs at Land's End.
This unique approach captures the exhilarating experience of walking through San Francisco's sublime terrain, while at the same time tying that experience to a history as rollicking and unpredictable as the city herself. From her absurd beginnings as the most distant and moth-eaten outpost of the world's most extensive empire, to her instantaneous fame during the Gold Rush, from her apocalyptic destruction by earthquake and fire to her perennial embrace of rebels, dreamers, hedonists and misfits of all stripes, the City by the Bay has always followed a trajectory as wildly independent as the untrammeled natural forces that created her.
This ambitious, eclectic, and beautifully written book draws on everything from on-the-ground reporting to obscure academic papers to the author's 40-year life in San Francisco to create a rich and insightful portrait of a magical corner of the world. Complete with hand-drawn maps ofthe 49locations, this handsome package will sit comfortably on the short shelf of enduring books about places, alongside E. B. White's Here is New York, Jose Saramago's Journey to Portugal, or Alfred Kazin's A Walker in the City.
In the introduction, Kamiya calls this work a love letter to the place in the world that means the world to me. It s an apt description, because these 49 vignettes are written in a confessional first-person tone that invokes a conversation between two old friends: Kamiya and the city he has called home for over 40 years. It doesn t come as much surprise that Kamiya, a former culture critic and book editor at the San Francisco Examiner and cofounder of Salon.com, writes insightfully about San Francisco s cultural and artistic heritage. He includes chapters about the AIDS crisis, the Beat Generation, dive bars, and theaters, sprinkling in references to the city s counter-culture revolution, literary legacy, and dot-com booms and busts. Though Kamiya puts his own spin on these tales, they seem all too familiar. It is the other stories that truly impress including the historical ones about the city s founding and its original Native American inhabitants. Also impressive is the author s uncanny grasp of the bay s natural history and the way that the landscape continues to shape the lives of current San Franciscans. In the end, Kamiya has written a fitting ode to an exceptional city.