Wednesday, June 7, 2017

the last book I ever read (Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast, excerpt nine)

from Elizabeth Bishop: A Miracle for Breakfast by Megan Marshall:

After considering New York City and Puerto Rico, Elizabeth, Roxanne, and her eighteen-month-old son, nicknamed “Boogie,” set up housekeeping in San Francisco early in the new year, renting the second-floor apartment in a “pea green” double-bayed triple-decker at the edge of Russian Hill from a landlord named Mr. Pang. The building at 1559 Pacific Avenue was a “nowhere address,” in Roxanne’s argot, with a steam laundry on one side and an Italian family’s kitchen garden on the other. Across the street was a body painting shop—“CAR, that is,” Elizabeth specified in a letter to Cal; this was the winter after 1967’s “Summer of Love” brought 100,000 hippies to Haight-Ashbury for a months-long orgy of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.

Elizabeth and Roxanne might have been drawn to the city because of its place at the center of the burgeoning gay rights movement. San Francisco was where, in the mid-1950s, a small group of “homophile” women founded the Daughters of Bilitis, adopting the deliberately obscure name from a nineteenth-century French poet’s odes to a fictional lover of Sappho. The organization had gone national, and in 1966, the DOB’s publication, The Ladder, added a more assertive subtitle, A Lesbian Review, in tune with the restive times. But while Roxanne steered Elizabeth toward certain Bay Area radical causes, arranging for her to interview the Black Panther Kathleen Cleaver, Eldridge’s twenty-three-year-old wife, for a New York Review of Books article that never came to fruition, gay liberation was not one of them. To everyone they met, Roxanne was introduced as Elizabeth’s secretary.

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