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The End of San Francisco

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"Mattilda is a dazzling writer of uncommon truths, a challenging writer who refuses to conform to conventionality. Her agitation is an inspiration."—Justin Torres, author of We the Animals

“Author Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is the artistic love child of John Genet and David Wojnarowicz, deconstructing language swathed in unbridled sensuality, while flinging readers into a disrupted, chaotic life of queer anarchy.”-- Gay and Lesbian Review

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The End of San Francisco

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Overview


"Mattilda is a dazzling writer of uncommon truths, a challenging writer who refuses to conform to conventionality. Her agitation is an inspiration."—Justin Torres, author of We the Animals

“Author Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is the artistic love child of John Genet and David Wojnarowicz, deconstructing language swathed in unbridled sensuality, while flinging readers into a disrupted, chaotic life of queer anarchy.”-- Gay and Lesbian Review

The End of San Francisco breaks apart the conventions of memoir to reveal the passions and perils of a life that refuses to conform to the rules of straight or gay normalcy. A budding queer activist escapes to San Francisco, in search of a world more politically charged, sexually saturated, and ethically consistent—this is the person who evolves into Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, infamous radical queer troublemaker, organizer and agitator, community builder, and anti-assimilationist commentator. Here is the tender, provocative, and exuberant story of the formation of one of the contemporary queer movement's most savvy and outrageous writers and spokespersons.

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.

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is the editor of four anthologies, including Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots, That's Revolting, and Nobody Passes, and two novels.

"Bring on The End of San Francisco! And Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, whose new book has reinvented memoir without the predictable gloss of passive resolution. This book is undeniably brave and new, and the internal energy churning at its core is like nothing you've seen, heard or read before. I swear."—T Cooper, author of Real Man Adventures

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A blisteringly honest portrait of a young, fast and greatly misunderstood life. . . . An outspoken, gender-ambiguous author and activist reflects on her halcyon days as a wild child in San Francisco."--Kirkus Reviews

" . . . one of the most important memoirs of the decade . . . The End of San Francisco is one of the most vulnerable memoirs I've read." -- Ariel Gore, Psychology Today

"It is so difficult to assess The End of San Francisco because it is a work of such blazing originality that one cannot compare it to anything else and say 'this is more or less successful than that.' The experience of The End of San Francisco simply bears no comparison."--Charles Kruger, Litseen

"The End Of San Francisco, published by City Lights, is activist Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore's denunciation of assimilation. . . . This book is a useful reminder that the gay community is far from monolithic and that it is especially important to listen to the voices of resistance."--June Thomas, Slate

"Sycamore’s associative, non-linear narrative is filled with sparkling language that illuminates the importance of reaching for connection and alive-ness in the face of brutality and loss." -Wendy Elisheva Somerson, Tikkun

"The result is brilliant, a collection of unstructured vignettes about sex abuse, dying parents, feminism and veganism, Tracy Chapman and Le Tigre, dyke bars and gay tricks, AIDS and ACT UP that all weave together a life of hope in ’90s San Francisco and the disappointment that follows." - Diane Anderson-Minshall, The Advocate

"It would be easy to describe The End of San Francisco as a Joycean 'Portrait of the Artist as a Young Queer' (although the book's intense stream of consciousness is reminiscent of the later, more experimental, Joyce) . . . but this is misleading. This journey of a life that begins in the professional upper-middle class (both parents are therapists) and the Ivy League and moves to hustling, drugs, activism -- Sycamore was active in ACT UP and Queer Nation -- and queer bohemian grunge, is profoundly American. At heart, Sycamore is writing about the need to escape control through flight or obliteration." -- Michael Bronski, San Francisco Chronicle

"Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore's whip-raw memoir The End of San Francisco is all about . . . the need to discover who you are by defining yourself in a place. She avoids the cliches of other angry young memoirs by sharing her protagonist role with San Francisco."-- Paul Constant, The Stranger

"Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s long awaited memoir The End of San Francisco will rip you open, crack your rib-cage and pour glitter into your heart. It’s hard and captivating, a book that truly pulls you in and won’t let you go. Brutal and brilliant, the memoir weaves in and out of time, bringing readers into the intimate details of Sycamore’s adolescence and early activist days."--Sassafras Lowrey, Lambda Literary

"We hear so much about coming-of-age narratives that we seldom think about going-of-age--the shutting down and closure, the making sense of where we've been. Written with grace, reserve, and the honest tremblings that come when things matter, Mattilda shows us that The End of San Francisco is really the beginning of joy."--Daphne Gottlieb, author of 15 Ways to Stay Alive, among many other books

"The End of San Francisco could be the most insightful break-up memoir the city has ever received."--Ingrid Rojas Contreras, KQED San Francisco, Arts Blog

"Searing, funny, maudlin, elegiac, infuriating, and confessional, The End of San Francisco is a deliberately disordered collection of vignettes dealing mostly with Sycamore's span living in the city . . . a brilliant writer . . . " -- Marke B., SF Bay Guardian

"The End of San Francisco is the opposite of nostalgia. Nostalgia is fundamentally conservative, and its conservatism is often embedded in the form in which stories are told. The End of San Francisco seems to me radical, not just in content, but formally, in insisting on other ways of remembering and documenting."—Jessica Hoffman, Los Angeles Review of Books

"The 'infamous radical queer troublemaker, organizer and agitator, community builder, and anti-assimilation commentator' brings you the story of her escape to San Francisco. This is a wonderfully messy mix of memoir, social history, and elegy."--Alexis Coe, SF Weekly

" . . . a fin-de-siècle late '90s narrative that captures the city's underground demimondaine of artists, punks, activists, anarchists and addicts whose ranks will soon be, if not completely swept away by the tech boom's false promises, then severely thinned by gentrification." -- Tomas Mournian, Huffington Post

"The End of San Francisco recounts both joyful days and dark nights, and it's an important socio-historical account by someone who's been there and done all that." -- New York Journal of Books

"A trenchant observer, her denunciation of racism, classism and homophobia is fierce and she does not spare queer communities for their refusal to reject hetero-normativity -- marriage and children -- or capitalist consumption." -- Eleanor Bader, Truthout

"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."--Velvetpark

The End of San Francisco has potential to enlighten individuals within a generation that has been told that 'marriage equality' is the ultimate right to be won by the LGBTQ community. Some readers won’t like Sycamore for her social and political critiques, but she is an important figure who encourages a critical look at social action, and, for that, The End of San Francisco is an important book."--Capitol Hill Times

"This memoir oozes devastation and glamour, twirling around the Nineties like it's San Francisco, and San Francisco like it's the Nineties! Back when queers and anarchists fueled the political momentum in the Mission. But, honey, things are different now. The Nineties are over, and so is San Francisco. Maybe disillusionment and rejuvenation aren't so different when you're ready to go deeper still."—Dave at Elliott Bay Books

"This autobiography is a story of the way people fail each other, whether out of malice or exhaustion or just not knowing how to be there. It's a chronicle of the ways that we need each other, and the way that need can be turned around, inside-out, torn in all the wrong places but still the only blanket that you have. It's about critiquing out of love and loving despite critique, despite failure, until you can't do it anymore, until you genuinely feel as though an entire city has come to an end." -- Maximumrocknroll

"Sycamore identifies the complicated messiness of identities wrestling with belonging, activism and being instruments of gentrification. . . Her style--emotional and conversational--creates a rich, satisfying, evocative and deeply relatable world."--Broken Pencil

"It is so difficult to assess The End of San Francisco because it is a work of such blazing originality that one cannot compare it to anything else and say 'this is more or less successful than that.' The experience of The End of San Francisco simply bears no comparison."--Charles Kruger, Litseen

"Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore has a model for relationships that says: 'First you reveal everything, and then when you can't think of anything else to reveal you go deeper.' In The End of San Francisco , Sycamore lets the reader feel the bitter sweetness of that relationship model, the "push-pull of intimacy" that makes the process of excavating memories so painful but so cathartic, so difficult but so urgent."--Mariana Roa Oliva, Rain Taxi

"Author Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is the artistic love child of Jean Genet and David Wojnarowicz, deconstructing language swathed in unbridled sensuality, while flinging readers into a disrupted, chaotic life of queer anarchy. . . . Images cascade and collide with one another in an accomplished literary cadenza of salvation."---John R. Killacky, The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide

Praise for Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore’s previous work:

“Brutal, raw, cathartic and redemptive.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“Startlingly bold and provocative.”—Howard Zinn

“You may have thought you understood human nature before you read this book; after reading it you will be humbled by all you failed to grasp until now.”
—Edmund White

“You're not going to be reading anything similar elsewhere."
The Times of London

“Alternately moving and sprightly, contemplative and outraged.”
Publishers Weekly

Kirkus Reviews
An outspoken, gender-ambiguous author and activist reflects on her halcyon days as a wild child in San Francisco. The powerful opening chapter of Sycamore's (So Many Ways to Sleep Badly, 2008, etc.) deeply personal portrait finds the author (then "Matthew") alternately sobbing at her father's deathbed and demanding acknowledgment of the sexual abuse he'd visited upon his only son. It's a raw, sobering scene that sets the tone for this introspective chronicle charting Sycamore's zany gay youth zipping from one coast to the other in the heady 1990s. Sartorially eccentric with pink dyed hair, the author spent her restless youth commanding a "secret world" drugging and dancing in gay nightclubs and then cruising for men online and in sex clubs from San Francisco to Boston to New York City. She writes of becoming gleefully seduced by the gender fluidity of San Francisco's house music–powered club scene circa 1992 and participation in AIDS activism with ACT-UP. Her efforts to create a San Francisco counterculture with political activist movement Gay Shame only reiterated how much she'd outgrown the Bay Area. There are moments when Sycamore's youth captivates with unapologetic, stream-of-consciousness tangents about bygone club life or street hustling, while in other spots, she is poetic and tender, as in describing her own exasperation with gay attraction, wishing sexual desire would "become something else like lying in the grass and holding the sky." Delivered in a free-form, associative writing style, Sycamore's effort to exorcise the demons from her past is blunt, dynamic and original. A blisteringly honest portrait of a young, fast and greatly misunderstood life.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780872865723
  • Publisher: City Lights Books
  • Publication date: 3/19/2013
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 1,411,293
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is the gender-bending author of the highly praised novels, Pulling Taffy and So Many Ways to Sleep Badly, and the editor of four nonfiction anthologies, including Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?, Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity and That’s Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation. Sycamore writes regularly for a variety of publications, including Bitch, Utne Reader, AlterNet, Make/Shift, and Maximumrocknroll, and lives in Seattle, WA.
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