locations with unstable converging forces


Some years ago, I began spending time in the rural Southern town where my father had been raised, and I often found myself wishing for a decoder ring. Squirrels had longer tails, wisteria bloomed off schedule, and with all the diphthongs and dropped syllables, I had no idea what people were saying. The local language sprouted from the literal and cultural landscape that informed it — its racial history and disappearing farms, the coexistence of deer festivals and meth busts, the households where people wore Carhartts without irony and put “Queer Eye” on TiVo. How to understand all this? An atlas would have helped. Not any atlas, mind you, but one as inventive and affectionate as Rebecca Solnit’s Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas (University of California; cloth, $49.95; paper, $24.95), a collection of 22 maps and accompanying essays paying homage to the city where the author lives. “Infinite City” started as a commissioned project for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which turned to Solnit as it geared up for its 75th anniversary this year.

more from Lise Funderburg at the NYT here.