Friday, October 7, 2011

Five best San Francisco novels

During the 70s and 80s, Armistead Maupin introduced the world to the diverse inhabitants of 28 Barbary Lane in his pioneering serial, Tales of the City. The serial went on to spawn a successful succession of books and television miniseries.

With Eve Gerber at The Browser, he named five "books which best capture [San Francisco]’s sense of possibility and noirish feel," including:
The Joy Luck Club
by Amy Tan

Finally, The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. Tell us about this novel.

The Joy Luck Club is a mahjong club composed of four Chinese-American women. The novel is structured around the four corners of the mahjong table. The device makes clear the distance between the old world of China and the new world that these women inhabit in San Francisco. The novel focuses on the memories and secrets that these women carry about their mothers and their daughters. It shows modern Chinese-Americans dealing with cultural differences across generations. Although it might sound like that terrible term “chick lit”, it’s completely compelling because Amy writes with remarkable wit.

What does it say about the role of immigrant communities in the larger life of San Francisco?

The city is nothing but immigrant communities, and the Chinese have been here as long as anybody. The Chinese built the railroads. We wouldn’t have been able to cross the continent if it weren’t for the Chinese community. They came here in search of gold as well as new lives. The Chinese name for San Francisco translates as “old gold mountain”. As Amy Tan enduringly shows, these people are San Franciscans...[read on]
Read about the other books Maupin tagged.

Also see Janet Rudolph's ten favorite San Francisco-backdropped crime novels.

Learn about Armistead Maupin's favorite poem and his hero from outside literature.

--Marshal Zeringue