"A harrowing picture of what life was like for a homosexual man in San Francisco before the Castro became the Castro."—Truthout
A newly expanded edition of an enduring classic, Robert Duncan in San Francisco is both a portrait of the premier poet of the SF Renaissance and a fascinating account of gay life in late 1950s America. Following his graduation from Black Mountain College, Michael Rumaker made his way to the post-Howl, pre-Stonewall gay literary milieu of San Francisco, where he entered the circle of Robert Duncan. His account of that time gives an unvarnished look at Duncan's magnetic personality and occasional failings, while delivering vivid snapshots of other significant poets like Jack Spicer, John Wieners, and Joanne Kyger, against the backdrop of legendary North Beach haunts like The Place, Vesuvio, and City Lights Books. Contrasting Duncan's daringly frank homosexuality with his own then-closeted life, Rumaker conjures up with harrowing detail an era of police persecution of a largely clandestine gay community struggling to survive in the otherwise "open city" of San Francisco. First published in 1996, this expanded edition includes a selection of previously unpublished letters between Rumaker and Duncan, and an interview conducted for this edition, in which Rumaker provides further reflections on the poet and the period.
Praise for Robert Duncan in San Francisco:
"This is a wonderfully revealing account of a series of life-changing collisions between a young writer (Rumaker), an older writer(Duncan), a still older mentor for both (Charles Olson), a city (San Francisco), and an important era in American literature (the 1950s), when it was being turned upside down by the individuals and their friends. It's also a tender and intelligent account of a young man's coming to grips with being gay in the midst of this upheaval. Much more than memoir; it's history."—Russell Banks
"Robert Duncan in San Francisco offers a surprising portrait of a mentor in all his witty, wicked, luminous, and vulnerable complexity. Straddling the lines of memoir and cultural history, Michael Rumaker gives a rare and delightful view of Duncan at home in the gay community while also documenting the struggles of that community in 1950s America." —Lisa Jarnot, author of Robert Duncan, The Ambassador from Venus
"In this fine memoir of his 16 months in San Francisco, Rumaker learns many lessons about being at home with who he is, in what he calls 'Robert's city.'"—Joanne Kyger