martedì 31 maggio 2011

A wonderful book/2

While I confidently wait for my benefactor to show up, here's one of the books that have inspired my grant request. Like another wonderful book that I wrote about a few weeks ago, this one is also an atlas. This must mean something.

(Adapted from the book jacket): "Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas" (University of California Press), is Rebecca Solnit's brilliant reinvention of the traditional atlas. Aided by artists, writers, cartographers, and twenty-two gorgeous color maps, each of which illuminates the city and its surroundings as experienced by different inhabitants, Solnit takes us on a tour that will forever change the way we think about the San Francisco Bay Area. She explores the area thematically--connecting, for example, Eadweard Muybridge's foundation of motion-picture technology with Alfred Hitchcock's filming of Vertigo. Across an urban grid of just seven by seven miles, she finds seemingly unlimited landmarks and treasures--butterfly habitats, queer sites, murders, World War II shipyards, blues clubs, Zen Buddhist centers. She roams the political terrain, both progressive and conservative, and details the cultural geographies of the Mission District, the culture wars of the Fillmore, the South of Market world being devoured by redevelopment, and much, much more."

From a review by Lise Funderburg in the NYT: "One well-rendered map, 'Shipyards and Sounds,' juxtaposes World War II shipyards alongside African-American political and musical landmarks and speaks wonderfully to the causes and outcomes of the Great Migration. For another inspired pairing, 'Monarchs and Queens,' the poet Aaron Shurin writes an exquisite essay on emerging gender identity, coupled with a map of 'Butterfly Habitats and Queer Public Spaces' (...). In '400 Years and 500 Evictions,' the plotted landmarks of four residents, all centenarians or near-centenarians (including the artist Add Bonn, who has been around long enough to note that the Golden Gate Bridge 'ruined the view'), are powerful counterpoints to hundreds of dots representing evictions that took place from 2000 to 2005, erasing affordable housing and presumably lowering chances that the city will supply many more of the kind of living histories offered here.

From another review, by   "It's not often that an atlas can be described as experimental, or nostalgic, or poetic. Infinite City deserves all those adjectives; but then, despite its subtitle, this is not a book you would take with you on a San Francisco road trip. The maps in this tall, slender volume (...) are meant not as guides but as provocations. They are designed to make the reader think anew about the city of San Francisco—its history, natural habitat, economic function, political values—and, by extension, about the way we all imagine the places we live in. (...) Like poems, some of these maps are inspired by witty conceits and unlikely juxtapositions. 'Death and Beauty' plots the locations of the 99 murders that took place in San Francisco in 2008 and, on the same map, shows where to find stands of Monterey cypress—trees whose stable, silent lives,' Solnit writes, 'made them the right counterweight to violent death.' (...) The map 'Right Wing of the Dove: The Bay Area as Conservative/Military Brain Trust' plots military bases alongside conservative think tanks and the offices of Chevron and Walmart, secure in the assumption that all these things are equally detestable to the book's own contributors and readers. There is a parochialism, at times even a snobbishness, at work in Infinite City—which may be just another expression of its deep love of the place, and the past, it so ingeniously illustrates.

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