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Strange Maps

Lit Map of Frisco

A quote-ography of the City by the Bay

Whoever after due and proper warning shall be heard to utter the abominable word “Frisco,” which has no linguistic or other warrant, shall be deemed guilty of a High Misdemeanor, and shall pay into the Imperial Treasury as penalty the sum of twenty-five dollars. – Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, 1872

While the self-proclaimed Norton I, a.k.a. Joshua A. Norton (1819-1880), may have contributed more to San Francisco’s reputation for eccentricity than to its literary allure, the latter does owe a thing or two to the former.

The Beat Generation, perhaps the best-known bunch of literati to be associated with Frisc… I mean, San Francisco (*), were nothing if not eccentric – their liberal attitude towards sex, drugs and jazz helped gear-shift American culture from the conformist Fifties into the anything-goes Sixties.

The works and influence of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti et alii transformed San Francisco into one of the focal points of the countercultural movement that swept the western world in the Sixties and Seventies. But the literary endowment of the city transcends that flowers-in-your-hair phase, as shown by this map.

Based on a similar map of St Petersburg by Vera Evstafieva and Andrew Biliter, this one places city-relevant quotes on a San Francisco map, where possible on the district the quote relates to. San Francisco Bay, cable cars, the Mission, the Tenderloin District and Chinatown are all name-checked in this map, which quotes following authors:

  • Alice Adams (Second Chances – 1988)
  • Isabel Allende (Daughter of Fortune – 1999)
  • Maya Angelou (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – 1969)
  • Gertrude Atherton (The House of Lee – 1940)
  • Albert Benard de Russailh (Last Adventure – 1851)
  • Ambrose Bierce (The Death of Halpin Frayser – 1891)
  • Herb Caen (Herb Caen’s San Francisco – 1957)
  • Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – 1968)
  • Dave Eggers (A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius – 2000)
  • Lawrence Ferlinghetti (Dog – 1958)
  • Allen Ginsberg (Sunflower Sutra – 1956)
  • Andrew Sean Greer (The Confessions of Max Tivoli – 2004)
  • Dashiell Hammett (The Maltese Falcon – 1930)
  • Robert Hass (Bookbuying in the Tenderloin – 1967)
  • Bob Kaufman (No More Jazz at Alcatraz)
  • Maxine Hong Kingston (China Men – 1980)
  • Jack Kerouac (On the Road – 1957)
  • Gus Lee (China Boy – 1991)
  • Armistead Maupin (Tales of the City – 1978)
  • Czeslaw Milosz (Visions From San Francisco Bay – 1975)
  • Alejandro Murguia (The Medicine of Memory – 2002)
  • Frank Norris (McTeague – 1899)
  • Thomas Pynchon (The Crying of Lot 49 – 1968)
  • Ishmael Reed (Earthquake Blues – 1988)
  • William Saroyan (The Living and the Dead – 1936)
  • John Steinbeck (Travels with Charley – 1961)
  • George Sterling (The Cool, Grey City of Love – 1920)
  • Robert Louis Stevenson (Arriving in San Francisco – 1879)
  • Amy Tan (The Joy Luck Club – 1989)
  • Michelle Tea (Valencia – 2000)
  • Hunter S. Thompson (The Great Shark Hunt – 1964)
  • Mark Twain (Early Rising, As Regards Excursions to the Cliff House – 1864)
  • Sean Wilsley (On the Glory of It All – 2005)
  • Funny thing about these quotes by San Francisco-linked writers: ‘Frisco’ pops up twice…

    Many thanks to John McMurtrie of the San Francisco Chronicle for sending in this map, which accompanied an article in the Chronicle in mid-July (online version here on SFGate, the paper’s website).

    Strange Maps #411

    Got a strange map? Let me know at [email protected].

    (*) The abbreviation San Fran is apparently equally disliked by the city’s residents.


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