Mattilda B. Sycamore's Trippy, Angsty "The End of San Francisco"
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Shirking the idea that time unfolds linearly and our lives are both affectively lived and narrated chronologically, Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore's The End of San Francisco gives us memoir as "an active process of remembering" to be experienced simultaneously by author and reader. As the book jacket concisely explains, "using an unrestrained associative style to move kaleidoscopically between past, present, and future, Sycamore conjures the untidy push and pull of memory, exposing the tensions between idealism and critical engagement, trauma and self-actualization, inspiration and loss. Part memoir, part social history, and part elegy, The End of San Francisco explores and explodes the dream of a radical queer community and the mythical city that was supposed to nurture it."
The narrative method, in other words, mirrors Sycamore's belief that the affective charge of memory—of moments of our individual history—has the potential to bubble up to our ontological surfaces indiscriminately, via recognizable or unrecognizable associations. In short, what we feel in and through our bodies at any given moment of the day is not the product of a linear narrative or our chronology. Experiences, feelings, are not regulated by time—and this is precisely what Sycamore attempts to translate into her narrative.
A self-declared "radical queer troublemaker, organizerr and agitator, community builder, and anti-assimilationist commentator," Sycamore's narrative method gathers around a primary theme: disenchantment. In particular, The End of San Francisco is about, as she conveyed in a recent interview, "the end of my hope for San Francisco as a refuge for queer visions outside of status quo normalcy." Indeed, the San Francisco of the early 1990s is undeniably different from the San Francisco of the 2010s.
In the early 90s, "a whole generation of queer," Sycamore writes, "came to San Francisco to try and cope. We were scarred and broken and brutalized but determined to create something else, something we could live with, something we could call home or healing or even just help...." But sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, and heady political arguments take their toll, and Sycamore retires from San Fran until the early aughts, only to return to a San Francisco filled with yuppies and hipsters.
At its core, The End of San Francisco is a narrative of emotions loosely tied together in constellations of events. It's a trippy read—in multiple senses of the word—but at the same time profoundly honest and raw. Unlike many queers today, Sycamore doesn't write or live with a chip on her shoulder...and that's really refreshing and just nice to experience as a reader.
Sycamore will be in Oregon next week to promote her new book: Monday, 1 April, at 730pm, she'll be at the Powell's at 1005 W. Burnside in Portland, and on the 4th she'll be at the University of Oregon (1585 E. 13th Ave) in the Ben Linder Room of the EMU at 6pm.
Publisher City Lights Publishers
Format Paperback // $11.95
Nb of pages 192 p.