Rebecca Solnit’s Infinite City


Just to let all discriminating book-buyers know: Rebecca Solnit’s new gorgeously-illustrated and highly-collaborative book, Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas is out now at all independent bookstores.

This atlas is a labor of love between Solnit and a legion of historians, writers, artists and cartographers, all of whom united to unearth San Francisco’s neglected and partial histories and to demarcate where the past, the present and the improbable overlap on our beloved 49 square miles.

The full-color maps within juxtapose murders, cypress trees, cafes, evictions, queer public spaces, butterfly habitats, obsolete industrial hubs, salmon migrations and sewer lines. Best of all, certain maps point to very real treasures that any intrepid explorer can uncover.  (Such as the beguiling pipe organ.)  Interspersed are first-hand accounts, field reports and historical anecdotes that bring the lines and legends to life.

As someone who cherishes nothing more than walking through several neighborhoods, either real or imagined, in the course of my day, and who believes the high cost of living here is paid for in the discovery of ghostly statues or hidden gardens or tiled stairs that lead nowhere, this atlas is indispensable.  Mostly because it is only a beginning and by necessity incomplete and open-ended.

Each of us is, in our own way, a citizen mapmaker, sharing with others our preferred short-cuts, cheap restaurants, exciting streets, and stellar vistas. Thus, the atlas will be continued and enriched. (Hopefully the maps we make can show us a way out of over-pricing and yuppie-fication!)

Although some of the larger Bay Area is covered Solnit’s atlas, I’ve always wanted to do a very detailed, historical atlas of Oakland, that red-headed stepchild of a city that is laden with so much wonder and richness.

Any possible collaborators out there?

I’m currently giving free walking tours that end at a water-front bar once patronized by Jack London.

Michael Berger is a barely-published writer and book-seller living in San Francisco. He is one of the founding Corsairs of the Iron Garters Bike Club and is currently pursuing a degree in applied pataphysics. He sometimes eats oatmeal for dinner. More from this author →