I heartily agree with 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). Alas, his stay was perhaps too brief to fully ponder the barriers to this.
Dickens made his living early as a journalist, tossing off brief character sketches as he went. There is less and less money for local journalism in San Francisco, so that avenue is closed. No journalists, no Dickens. Further — as colonialists discovered — the natives who create culture tend to love that prior culture. Poets remain a tough indigenous community in the Bay Area; prose has long been less prominent.
Worse, this prior culture integrated the Bay Area to the rest of California — in poetry (Robinson Jeffers, Gary Snyder), architecture (Julia Morgan), painting (Richard Diebenkorn), and film (The Maltese Falcon is one of Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco novels). Until Google et al, the Bay Area lacked a Laputa-like vehicle in which globalised residents could float above the wider landscape.
Nonetheless, Mr Ganesh could look at Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue (2012), which is at least vast. And he could peruse Armistead Maupin’s multi-volume serial novel Tales of the City, which performed the Dickensian task for the dawn of gay liberation in San Francisco.
Silver Spring, MD, US
Get alerts on Letter when a new story is published