“[…]examines that San Francisco, a physically compact place that contains multitudes, through a series of elegantly rendered maps and cleverly researched and well-wrought essays conceived by more than a dozen writers, cartographers and artists. Passing through these newly mapped territories, we begin to see that "place," as Solnit emphasizes, is an imprecise word, and even the idea of an atlas is beyond subjective[…]from Lynell George, LATimes.com.
What makes a place? Infinite City, Rebecca Solnit's brilliant reinvention of the traditional atlas, searches out the answer by examining the many layers of meaning in one place, the San Francisco Bay Area. 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 place. 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. Breathtakingly original, this atlas of the imagination invites us to search out the layers of San Francisco that carry meaning for us--or to discover our own infinite city, be it Cleveland, Toulouse, or Shanghai. CONTRIBUTORS: Cartographers: Ben Pease and Shizue Seigel Designer: Lia Tjandra Artists: Sandow Birk, Mona Caron, Jaime Cortez, Hugh D'Andrade, Robert Dawson, Paz de la Calzada, Jim Herrington, Ira Nowinski, Alison Pebworth, Michael Rauner, Gent Sturgeon, Sunaura Taylor Writers and researchers: Summer Brenner, Adriana Camarena, Chris Carlsson, Lisa Conrad, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, Paul La Farge, Genine Lentine, Stella Lochman, Aaron Shurin, Heather Smith, Richard Walker Additional cartography: Darin Jensen; Robin Grossinger and Ruth Askevold, San Francisco Estuary Institute
Here are the questions discussed on February 6, 2013:
- How did the maps affect your reading of this book? How did it change your usual reading style?
- Which essay resonated for you the most? Why?
- How was ambiguity handled? Give an example.
- Did you have some different interpretations of any of the subjects covered in the essays? What is your interpretation?
- What was the most astonishing thing you learned about San Francisco?
- Tell me about what you think the strengths in the essays were?
- What is your San Francisco story?
- How did you interpret the juxtapositions of subjects, sleight of hand or depth? Explain.