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Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror and…

Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror and Deliverance in the City of…

by David Talbot

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181998,302 (4.2)13



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Talbot’s well written and insightful book provides an entertaining and enlightening look at the recent history of the city of San Francisco. From the 1950s and 1960s, when the city began to shape its identity as a haven for iconoclasts and “alternative” types through the turbulence of the 1970s to the both admirable and regrettable developments of the end of the twentieth century, Talbot’s critical eye reports on the good, the bad, and the very ugly.

Although the author eschews the temptation to romanticize San Francisco’s multidimensional history, he acknowledges all the best that the city has to offer as he portrays the struggles and hardships that many readers might not be aware of—for example, the racial divide that vexed the city for much of the 1970s and the uneasy political partnerships that existed between venerable liberal figures like Mayor George Moscone, Harvey Milk, and the Peoples Temple, Jim Jones’ suicide cult, which once held an eerie degree of political power in the city.

Talbot devotes large sections of the book to the SLA and its abduction of Patty Hearst, San Francisco’s evolution as the gay capital of the US (if not the world), the strange ordeal of the Peoples Temple, Dan White’s assassination of Moscone and Milk, Dianne Feinstein’s political ascension, and other bits of history both profound (the Zebra murders) and uplifting (the 49ers’ triumph as NFL champions).

Overall, a compelling examination of the city of San Francisco, and a must-read for anyone who lives there or who has ever been curious about the city’s unique appeal. ( )
  jimrgill | Dec 29, 2017 |
We lived it and we’re still here. A fascinating history of a city torn by violence and plague that somehow comes out of it all stronger. San Francisco’s story from the late 1970s to the early 1980s, this book delves into the darker corners of our collective psyche. Though I was here for it, this book puts it all together and provides details I was unaware of prior to reading it. From the rise of a unique musical scene to the glimmerings of an insidious disease that would decimate the population, this is a chronicle that matters. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
A great overview of the events and people that shaped San Francisco in the 1960's and 1970's! Everyone and everything is in here, including Janis Joplin, The Dead, Moby Grape, Dan White, Harvey Milk, the Cockettes, the Zebra murders, and on and on and on. I felt like the book was very engaging, and it only lost my attention when it, in my opinion, overplayed the importance of the Forty Niners to the city's rebounding. But overall, a must read if you've left your heart in The City! ( )
  Stahl-Ricco | Jan 23, 2016 |
A great read, but a bittersweet one, to a current inhabitant of San Francisco who didn't arrive until the book's events were already in the past. From this vantage point, the city has gone through an entirely different transformation since the '90s, into a "survival of the richest" environment, which was facilitated by some of the same SF politicians to whom Talbot guardedly tips his hat: Dianne Feinstein, Willie Brown, and the former crusader and now ultimate hack, Ed Lee. It's the revenge of the suburbs too, as we have become a bedroom community for soulless Silicon Valley, and its boring, overworked drones who only want to sleep here. You can see it in the sterile glass box architecture on the rise everywhere, the ever-increasing number of cookie-cutter chain stores replacing locally owned businesses.

I came here for bohemia, but like Bogie heading to Casablanca for the waters, "I was misinformed." San Francisco, while still a breathtakingly beautiful place able to provide simple pleasures for an extremely high price, is pretty much over as far as its ability to revolutionize cultural norms is concerned. And civic compassion? I don't think so, as long as money talks as loud and as fast as it does now. But maybe we should all use the lessons of San Francisco's tortured history, grippingly recounted in this book, to create more a more humane world wherever we are, instead of looking for a mecca to provide it for us. ( )
  CSRodgers | Sep 30, 2015 |
Fascinating, well-written history of SF from about 1960-1980. ( )
  libq | Sep 24, 2013 |
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In a kaleidoscopic narrative, bestselling author David Talbot recounts the gripping story of San Francisco in the turbulent years between 1967 and 1982--and of the extraordinary men and women who led to the city's ultimate rebirth and triumph. Season of the Witch is the first book to fully capture the dark magic of San Francisco in this breathtaking period, when the city radically changed itself--and then revolutionized the world. The cool gray city of love was the epicenter of the 1960s cultural revolution. But by the early 1970s, San Francisco's ecstatic experiment came crashing down from its starry heights. The city was rocked by savage murder sprees, mysterious terror campaigns, political assassinations, street riots, and finally a terrifying sexual epidemic. No other city endured so many calamities in such a short time span.… (more)

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