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Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas    by Rebecca Solnit order for
Infinite City
by Rebecca Solnit
Order:  USA  Can
University of California, 2011 (2010)
Hardcover, Softcover
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

This nicely designed book offers a collection of essays and subject specific maps anyone who loves San Francisco will enjoy poring over.

The twenty-one maps in this volume showcase the city's culture, history and natural beauty. The author takes the reader on a tour that not only will open up new vistas of the city but also change the way the individual views the special region referred to as the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

There's a color map with accompanying text that charts the locations of not only present and past movie theatres in San Francisco but also seventeen of the locations where the Hitchcock film Vertigo was shot.

Other maps feature the 49 Jewels of San Francisco (special things to visit like the Wave Organ and the murals in Balmy Alley), many of the city's popular coffee shops, and what the South of Market neighborhood was like before redevelopment.

You'll be able to walk the Fillmore District to see where Bop City, Yoshi's, the Boom Boom Room, Marcus Books, and Diller's Strictly Kosher Restaurant were or are still situated.

For those interested in nature, there's a map that pinpoints different habitats of butterflies, and merchant marine historians might well appreciate another map that shows who the tenants of the piers along the city's waterfront were back in 1960.

A few of the maps the author includes extend beyond the city itself. One pinpoints both all the major World War II shipyards and the African-American political and musical landmarks in the entire Bay Area (from South San Francisco to Port Chicago in the East Bay).

Another esoteric combination map bring together nuclear waste disposal and EPA sites with palate pleasing locations like dairies, farmers' markets, and other appealing foodie destinations.

You'll have to look at each map closely, for many of them do combine some very unlikely items. A single map, for example, shows some of the locations of the city's Monterey Cypress groves along with the spots where all of San Francisco's murders in 2008 were committed. There's another quirky entry that combines Northern California's salmon river fish ladders with the region's zen centers.

This is, obviously, a rather different way of looking at San Francisco and although some of what you'll discover here is rather odd or eccentric, it is still interesting.

As Solnit explains, 'The atlas you have in your hands is a small, modest, and deeply arbitrary rendering of one citizen's sense of her place in conversation and collaboration with others.'

Granted this volume is quite different and rather unique, but these are words often used to describe San Francisco itself so, in that sense, it does reflect some of the things that make this city so special.

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