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San Francisco

February 2024
1min read

Knopf Guides

Alfred A. Knopf, 408 pages, $24.00 . CODE: RAN-20

Richard Saul Wurman’s indispensable San Francisco Access guide has just been joined by a stunning colleague. Although the new Knopf guide is not as strong on the restaurants that make up so prominent a part of the city’s life—or the coffee bars that currently hold the inhabitants in near-religious thrall—it is an ebullient production, ablaze with colorful maps, charts, diagrams, reproductions of paintings in the great Huntington collection, portraits of local sons and daughters, posters from the Haight’s psychedelic glory days, a cutaway revealing the inner workings of those ravishing little cheek-by-jowl Queen Anne houses that are unique to the town, as well as one that shows its other famous habitat, the Mont-St.-Michel of federal pens, Alcatraz. The guide was originally published in French, and although the translation occasionally shows through (a pagoda-topped telephone booth is described as a “callbox in the Chinese quarter”), there is a fine brief anthology of writers praising this most beguiling of cities. “But oh, San Francisco!” Dylan Thomas writes his wife, Caitlin. “It is and has everything. Here in Canada, five hours away by plane, you wouldn’t think that such a place as San Francisco could exist. The wonderful sunlight there, the hills, the great bridges, the Pacific at your shoes. Beautiful Chinatown. Every race in the world. The sardine fleets sailing out. The little cable-cars whizzing down the city hills. The lobsters, clams, & crabs. Oh, Cat, what food for you. Every kind of seafood there is. And all the people are open and friendly.”

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