I share Janan Ganesh’s desire for a vast, Dickensian novel of Google-era San Francisco (“ Where is San Francisco’s Bonfire of the Vanities? ”, Life & Arts, December 22), but I’m not certain I agree with Clay Ramsay’s interpretation of the cultural barriers to the great San Francisco novel ( Letters, December 29).
There may be less money now for the local journalism Mr Ramsay believes is key to the development of a San Francisco Dickens, but there isn’t a doubt in my mind that The San Francisco Chronicle could find the money to sign the likes of the late great Herb Caen, a Chronicle columnist for roughly 50 years (and let’s not forget that Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City began as a serial in The Chronicle).
Many fine fiction (and non-fiction) writers — from Bret Harte to Lisa Brennan-Jobs — have written about the Northern California experience. My favourite writer on (more or less) contemporary life in San Francisco (and environs) was the late Alice Adams, whose stories I first read in The New Yorker, which published about 25 of them. Though she came from the American south, studied in Cambridge, lived for a bit in New York, and travelled widely, she settled in San Francisco and many of her short stories (about five volumes of them) and 10 or so novels are set in the Bay Area in the 1980s and 1990s. While I can’t imagine her giving a Dickens treatment to Google-era San Francisco, I can easily imagine her having plenty to say about it in her own intelligent, subtle way. For another Dickens, maybe we just have to keep waiting.
New York, NY, US
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