2011 Northern California Book Awards - Creative Nonfiction - Winner
NCBR review of Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas by
University of California Press
Rebecca Solnit introduces her map of Cinema City with reminiscences of old movie houses, juxtaposed with a thumbnail sketch of the story that put Solnit herself on the map, the invention of moving pictures by Muybridge. Inspired by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, Infinite City layers maps like the grids of parallel universes to create insights and connections about the city and its culture. Beginning with tribal place names and moving to toxins and pioneering women in the green ecology movement, the book quickly enters the mind-bending terrain of crime scenes mapped along side cypress geography or tenant evictions beside the itineraries of homeowners. Here Fillmore street functions 'like a core sample," marking Melville's dinner with Fremont in 1860 and inviting us to imagine "the jazz stars and fancy dressers, all the abolitionists and angels,…the sharp-toothed idealists and the soul-stirrers" of the street's history. Another map shows Seals Stadium, an old Ford Motor factory, and the piers where steam-powered scows docked with hay from around the bay, with fresh vegetables and fruits for canning by Italian women and shipping to the world, or for carting in wagons through the streets as drivers hawked their wares. Still another map lays out the three major landscapes involved in a cup of coffee, revealing the ways we consume products "created by forces far beyond the horizon." Here is San Francisco as it once was and as it is now, as coffee port, movie set, crime scene, tribal burial ground, home for transients, park and wildlife refuge, military industrial complex, and laboratory of self-invention.
About the NCBR: NCBR/Northern California Book Reviewers, a volunteer group of book reviewers, book review editors, and others who read passionately and write about reading, have met regularly since 1981 to celebrate books by presenting annual book awards to northern California authors. See the 2011 NCBA page under PF Programs for the complete list of finalists and winners.