Journalist and author Gary Kamiya’s latest book, “Cool, Gray City of Love” (Bloomsbury), brings together an exuberant combination of personal insight, deeply researched history, in-depth reporting, and lyrical prose to create an unparalleled portrait of San Francisco.
This unique approach captures the exhilarating experience of walking through San Francisco’s sublime terrain, while at the same time tying that experience to a history as rollicking and unpredictable as the city herself. From her absurd beginnings as the most distant and moth-eaten outpost of the world’s most extensive empire, to her instantaneous fame during the Gold Rush, from her apocalyptic destruction by earthquake and fire to her perennial embrace of rebels, dreamers, hedonists and misfits of all stripes, the City by the Bay has always followed a trajectory as wildly independent as the untrammeled natural forces that created her.
This ambitious, eclectic book — complete with hand-drawn maps of the 49 locations — draws on everything from on-the-ground reporting to obscure academic papers to the author’s 40-year life in San Francisco to create a rich and insightful portrait of a magical corner of the world.
Michael Krasny, host of KQED-FM’s “Forum,” said “Cool, Gray City of Love” is the best writing about the city since the late San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen. In his review for The Chronicle, Herbert Gold wrote, “San Francisco, America’s great metropolitan village, this ‘window open to the world,’ elegant and absurd, has its defining lyrical panorama for a generation or longer.”
Kamiya was born in Oakland in 1953 and grew up in Berkeley. After dropping out of Yale, he earned his BA and MA in English lit from UC Berkeley, where he won the Mark Schorer Citation. He drove a taxi in San Francisco for seven years while completing college and working as a freelance writer.
After co-founding a short-lived city magazine called Frisko, he got his first real job at the age of 37 as an editor of The San Francisco Examiner’s Sunday magazine, Image. After five years at The Examiner, where he was a culture critic and book editor, he left to co-found the groundbreaking website Salon.com, where he was executive editor for 12 years. He is currently a columnist for Salon.
His first book, “Shadow Knights: The Secret War Against Hitler,” was a critically acclaimed history. He is married to the novelist Kate Moses. They have two children.