August 17, 2006
A (Really Expensive) Room of One's Own
Daniel Brook ruminates on hyper-gentrification in The Next American City:
“How can you live in San Francisco and write a book?” is, to reluctantly borrow a phrase from Donald Rumsfeld, a 21st-century question. In the past, the City by the Bay was always considered a writer’s metropolis. A hundred years ago, it was Jack London territory. Mid-century brought Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Today, Michael Lewis, Amy Tan, and Michael Chabon call the Bay Area home. These established celebrity authors can afford to live in San Francisco, but an undiscovered Kerouac or a budding Ginsberg never could.
While San Francisco’s dot-com boom may be over, the high cost of living reﬂects a “new normal.” Post-bust rents remain 76 percent higher than the pre-boom rents. Writing a ﬁrst book here sounds preposterous because it is preposterous. That basic commodity Virginia Woolf identiﬁed as the prerequisite for the writing life — a room of one’s own — is now a four-ﬁgure monthly proposition.
Lots more in the magazine, too; check out Joel Kotkin on the triumph of the suburbs, etc.