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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.
David Talbot takes us deep into the riveting story of his city’s ascent, decline, and heroic recovery. He draws intimate portraits of San Francisco’s legendary demons and saviors: Charles Manson, Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army, Jerry Garcia, Janis Joplin, Bill Graham, Herb Caen, the Cockettes, Harvey Milk, Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple, Joe Montana and the Super Bowl 49ers. He reveals how the city emerged from the trials of this period with a new brand of “San Francisco values”, including gay marriage, medical marijuana, immigration sanctuary, universal health care, recycling, renewable energy, consumer safety, and a living wage mandate. Considered radical when they were first introduced, these ideas have become the bedrock of decent society in many parts of the country, and exemplify the ways that the city now inspires us toward a live-and-let-live tolerance, a shared sense of humanity, and an openness to change.
As a new generation of activists and dreamers seeks its own path to a more enlightened future, Season of the Witch - with its epic tale of the wild and bloody birth of San Francisco values - offers both inspiration and cautionary wisdom.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Douglas on 07-29-13
A Great Book...
to read before this one is Robert Graysmith's Black Fire, which details San Francisco's history up to around the point Season Of The Witch takes over, giving one a complete and comprehensive view of the city and its fiery, tumultuous, literary, and always idiosyncratic history. Talbot's book is an ambitious work, and another critic might complain that it runs in a lot of different directions. But I liked the structure (or occasional lack thereof), as it gives the feeling of San Francisco, a city going everywhere at once and never sure where anything is ever going to end up. My own experience of the city was in 1999 when I spent three of the most interesting days of my life interacting with the homeless and haunted, "making eye contact" in places where it was highly suggested that one not do so. San Francisco is a rich and rewarding experience from the top on down, and Talbot's compelling account of the city's history and development gives one the feel of the personality of one of the most fascinating places on earth.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
By The Companion on 05-21-12
Gripping, important history - well told
I *ate* this up - which is not to say it was an easy book to get through. The Bay Area in the 1970s is fascinating, but spooky and disturbing - very violent. Talbot did a great job, very well written book. I loved the accounts of the Diggers and Good Earth Collective, and enjoyed the tales of Hibiscus and the Cockettes. He did a great job with the AIDS crisis.
I couldn't buy the whole 49ers thing. I would have preferred the end to discuss the remaining environmental and public health legacies of the era. His account of Diane Feinstein seemed a bit whitewashed - but the truth is, I don't know.
It was a disturbing, but compulsory read. The People's Temple - the City's complicity with same, is important material.
Maybe the best part was Talbot's handling of the police department.
Great, scary book.
I was not crazy about the narration- which is something I'm picky about. It didn't detract from the story - but it certainly did not add much.
12 of 13 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Rachel on 08-05-16
Fascinating overview of an era
What did you like most about Season of the Witch?
A really engaging overview of the swirling cultural changes in the USA, looked at through the story of a city that became the epicentre of so much of that history. Particularly interesting to me was the look at how and why the hippy "summer of love" unravelled, and the wider cost to San Francisco's infrastructure that thousands of runaway teens flooding into an unprepared city had, particularly when drugs became the driving force of the movement.
Very listenable - I re-listened to it twice already.
By Christine on 07-21-16
informing and entertaining.
I loved everything about it. I wished there was more. I couldn't stop listening.thanks