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10 Legendary Writers on San Francisco

Updated: Feb 20, 2024 09:06
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The evolution of San Francisco is a curious one, an LSD-laced trip towards that ever-elusive thing named Progress. Innovation. Utopia. 

Here are 10 writers on San Francisco over the decades, volunteering both gripe and glorification.

Rudyard Kipling

“San Francisco has only one drawback: ‘Tis hard to leave.”

Tongo Eisen-Martin 

all the bullets in ten precincts know where to go

there’s no heaven (nor any other good ideas in the sky)

politics means: people did it and people do it.

understand that when in San Francisco

and other places that were never really there…

-Excerpt from “The Course of Meal,” Heaven Is All Goodbyes

Tongo Eisen-Martin, San Francisco’s current Poet Laureate, in 2021. (Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

Mark Twain 

“I have always been rather better treated in San Francisco than I actually deserved.”

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

The changing light at San Francisco
	   is none of your East Coast light
	             none of your
	                       pearly light of Paris
The light of San Francisco
	                  is a sea light
	                                an island light
And the light of fog
	            blanketing the hills
	     drifting in at night
	             through the Golden Gate
	                      to lie on the city at dawn...

                                                      -Excerpt from The Changing Light

Joan Didion

“San Francisco was where the social hemorrhaging was showing up. San Francisco was where the missing children were gathering and calling themselves ‘hippies.’ When I first went to San Francisco in that cold late spring of 1967 I did not even know what I wanted to find out, and so I just stayed around awhile, and made a few friends.” 

Slouching Towards Bethlehem

Jack Kerouac

“Everybody looks everywhere, it’s a jazz-joint and beat generation madtrick, you see someone, “Hi,” then you look away elsewhere, for something someone else, it’s all insane, then you look back, you look away, around, everything is coming in from everywhere in the sound of the jazz.”

-“The San Francisco Scene”

Oscar Wilde

“It’s an odd thing, but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco. It must be a delightful city and possess all the attractions of the next world.”

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Jarett Kobek 

“One of the curious aspects of the Twenty-First Century was the great delusion amongst many people, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area, that freedom of speech and freedom of expression were best exercised on technological platforms owned by corporations dedicated to making as much money as possible.”

-I Hate the Internet

Hunter S. Thompson

“In San Francisco – life goes on. Hope rises and dreams flicker and die. Love plans for tomorrow and loneliness thinks of yesterday. Life is beautiful and living is pain. The sound of music floats down a dark street. A young girl looks out a window and wishes she were married. A drunk sleeps under a bridge. It is tomorrow.”

-The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967

Hunter S. Thompson at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas in 1971. (Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

Anna Wiener 

“When I arrived back in San Francisco, with a fresh haircut and two fraying duffel bags, I felt intrepid and pioneering. I did not know that thousands of people had already headed west for a crack at the new American dream, that they had been doing so for years. I was, by many standards, late.”

-Uncanny Valley

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Lydia Sviatoslavsky

Lydia Sviatoslavsky

Lydia Sviatoslavsky covers culture and curiosities for Bay City News and Broke-Ass Stuart. She publishes artist interviews and experimental writing at You can find her on Instagram at @rot_thought.