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Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco’

Sacred Rites

June 10, 2014 | by


William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Crown of Flowers (detail), 1884.

The food takes awhile which gave us time to watch a waitress deliver a Dutch Baby and envelop us with its fragrant, perhaps sacred, steam. A tray of ruby grapefuit [sic] juice in large glasses made me think of luxurious jewels. Obviously we had traveled back to a past time. —A review of the Original Pancake House

When I was about twenty-six, a friend sent me a listing for a job at an online review site, which, at the time, had not yet gone public. It seemed to me a good idea to apply to lots of things, so I sent in a letter.

“We’re looking for someone hip and quirky for this job,” said the woman, Tyler, who interviewed me from San Francisco; she’d mentioned an improbably high salary and a host of benefits and perks. “You seem hip and quirky. But we need someone more integrated into the Web site’s community. I notice you have no reviews, no profile, and no ‘friends.’ We’ll need to see more of a commitment.”

I attacked my new assignment with determination. I set myself a quota of ten reviews a day and implored everyone I knew to join my network. In my capacity as manager of the lingerie store where I worked weekends, I commandeered the computer, knocking out reviews of the coffee at the bodega on the corner (“too subtle for the common palate”), the new artisanal pizzeria (“a horseman of the gentrification apocalypse”), and the local nail salon (“The nail technician was slovenly and surly; her coat was soiled; she started cutting my cuticles without asking”).

While I placed a premium on quantity, I began to take my task seriously: I was appalled by the cavalier manner in which fellow reviewers dismissed small businesses after a single visit or graded spots where they hadn’t bothered to wait for a table. I took special care in rebutting what I felt to be thoughtless and uninformed reviews. My tone became hectoring. Read More »

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Our New Year’s Resolution: Travel More

January 3, 2014 | by


Mallet compound locomotive of the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway (Frisco) via Wikimedia Commons.

We know: it’s hard to leave home. Your showerhead gets great water pressure; the guy at your bodega saves you the last copy of the Post; the coffee people remember your name. Why skip town? Indeed, we’re so irredeemably tethered to Manhattan that we haven’t bothered to have a foreign office in forty years. And we’re The Paris Review.

But it’s a new year, time to cast off our parochialism and see the world. Riches may lie in store. Legend tells, for instance, of a land called San Francisco, where paupers pan for gold, used bookstores line the streets, and the buses run on electricity. What is the state of letters in this paradise? Which fashions are in vogue among its citizenry? How’s the ceviche? We can’t say. But we know who can: McSweeney’s, a San Francisco institution since 1998.

This January only, you can get a dual subscription to The Paris Review and McSweeney’s for just $75—20 percent less than two individual subscriptions. In other words, you’ll have the comforts of home and a year of bicoastal exploration for less than it would cost us to get from Penn Station to Philadelphia, if that were something we were inclined to do.

Get transcontinental with McSweeney’s and the Review.



The Fog Chasers

December 2, 2013 | by


Lisa Congdon

Wildsam Field Guides just released its San Francisco edition, which includes interviews, illustrated maps, an almanac, and personal essays. Below, the poet August Kleinzahler writes about living in the city by the bay.

Cold steamy air blew in through the open windows, bringing with it half a dozen times a minute the Alcatraz foghorn’s dull moaning. A tinny alarm-clock insecurely mounted on a corner of Duke’s Celebrated Criminal Cases of America—face down on the table—held its hands at five minutes past two. —The Maltese Falcon

The neighbor with the bad dog fiddles with her helmet and adjusts her front bicycle light before pushing off downhill in the fog. It is late for a bicycle ride, after ten P.M. Her dog throws himself against the glass of the front window behind the curtain, nearly strangling himself with snarls and a torturous medley of barks. She is headed west, in the direction of the ocean or park. There are dangers to be found this time of night in both places. But she is a fog chaser, and deepening night is best with the wind up and the cold, damp smoke blowing in off the sea at twenty knots. I can spot them, fog chasers, after so many years here. You might even say I’m such a one myself from time to time, especially when I find myself feeling more than a little remote from “society.”

In the daylight hours, walking her vicious companion, occasionally bending over to pick up its stool with a small, white, plastic baggie, one can see it in her eyes—the eyes of a fog chaser—haunted, darting about as if pursued by some threatening inner phantasm. She will rarely, if ever, engage the eyes of any stranger walking past, even as her creature takes a murderous lunge in his direction, gargling delirium at the end of his leash. But not mine—my eyes she will always look directly into, appraisingly and with a sneering displeasure. She knows that I know. Read More »


City Lights

October 7, 2013 | by


This interactive Bay Area Literary Map, courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle, is fantastic, and because we are greedy, we want one for every city in the world.



What We’re Loving: Foot Juggling, Dancing, and Coregasms

May 10, 2013 | by

swing-time-fred-astaire-ginger-rogers-1936“‘Quinoa cranberry pilaf,’ I wrote down. And then, ‘coregasm.’ Because that was the subsequent topic of discussion: women who have spontaneous orgasms during yoga. The barista was saying how wonderful it was that the issue was receiving attention, coregasms being something a lot of women experienced and were frightened to talk about. Those days were over.” Emily Witt on sex in San Francisco. —Lorin Stein

Last night, I turned to an old favorite, Bring on the Empty Horses, David Niven’s memoir of his years in Hollywood. Niven had a successful second act as a raconteur and author, and his wit and urbanity are well known. But what I’ve always liked is how kind and generous he is about fellow actors: without ever resorting to gossip, he manages to give us fully-realized portraits of icons like Clark Gable and Humphrey Bogart. My favorite is the chapter on Fred Astaire, who comes off as modest and down-to-earth. Both men were widowed young, and their close bond is palpable. Niven also relates, amusingly, that Astaire was shy about dancing socially, and apparently embarrassed his daughter Ava at a school father-daughter dance with his ineptitude. Today is Astaire’s birthday: I’m celebrating by watching this over and over. And if you want a living tribute, my colleague (who is bashful about writing staff picks himself) says that the New York City Ballet’s current revival of the Astaire-inspired Jerome Robbins piece, “I’m Old-Fashioned,” is terrific. —Sadie Stein

I frequently visit The Public Domain Review for its wealth of interesting and unusual out-of-copyright tidbits, and its recent video on the Kawana Trio, described as “Artistic Foot Jugglers,” is no disappointment. It was filmed by Hans A. Spanuth for his Original Vod-A-Vil Movies series; you can find a handful of his films online that are a hard to match, however limited, record of the vaudeville acts that were so popular at the turn of the century. —Justin Alvarez

I’ve read a couple of Kate Christensen’s novels, but right now I’m enjoying the food writing on her blog. I find that many food blogs are picture-heavy and prose-devoid, but Christensen’s posts feature no photos and the suggested recipes are eloquently imprecise (most-used measurements include glug, handful, and knob). I’m looking forward to Christensen’s upcoming Blue Plate Special, an autobiographical account of her life in food, out in July. —Brenna Scheving



Elements of Style, and Other News

March 14, 2013 | by


  • Classics, Strunk and White style.
  • “The year I turned ninety, I wanted to give myself the gift of a night of wild love with an adolescent virgin.” And other surreal opening lines.
  • Fans rally around San Francisco’s beloved (and endangered) Adobe Books.
  • “How many other books had I been fooling myself about?” When you think you’ve read books ... but you haven’t.
  • Get the knives out: any discussion of the best food memoirs is sure to be contentious.