King of Shadows is a collection of twenty-one autobiographical essays chronicling the author's gay life and life as a poet in San Francisco since the 1960s. In the title essay, Shurin describes his coming into poetry and gay identity via a high-school production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Other essays tell of his deep relationships with poets Denise Levertov and Robert Duncan, and the influence of the sexual politics of the '70s. In "The Bars of Heaven and Hell," we are given a personal history of venturing into gay bars in pre-Stonewall San Francisco. Written in a lyrical, literary, yet highly personal style, Shurin's intelligent and insightful essays circle in and around issues of identity and sensibility, and how our interior and public lives are shaped by them.
Praise for King of Shadows:
"There are lots of reasons you want to read this book. Among them: because there are quite a lot of astonishingly apt and incisive and occasionally uproarious descriptions of the subtleties of everyday life; because many of the sentences are also as perfect as English allows; because it's a wonderfully wry and roundabout guide to gay and literary San Francisco; because you actually do need to know how a person is like a flower and a flower like a person; because it also dowses for and find unexpected pleasures that we particularly need at this moment in time." – Rebecca Solnit, author of A Field Guide to Getting Lost, River of Shadows, and Hope in the Dark.