On the Lower Frequencies: a Secret History of the City by Erick Lyle

I love love loved this book. It’s a collection of pieces that had appeared in various zines in the late 90s and early 00s. Lyle writes about living in San Francisco through through gentrification, the following dot com bust. He was a punk activist through the rise of the Bush administration, and part of the protesting the war on terror.

It’s such a place specific book. Lyle clearly loves San Francisco, and a part of it that most visitors don’t get to see — one that tourists are specifically warned away from. But that’s Lyle’s neighborhood, and his affection for exasperation with his neighbors comes across clearly.

One of the big themes is the use of space. Lyle is living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, but he’s squatting or crashing with friends or finding other homes along the margins. Lyle talks a lot about homelessness, and America’s failure to provide for homeless people, and how homeless communities and the support structure around them have found ways to look after themselves. San Francisco is a city where space is expensive, and Lyle uses sorts of tricks to find space to make art and music and community.

This book made me want to do more things, which is amazing, I hate doing things. It made me feel like people can actually change things, or at least they should be trying. This is a book that I’m still thinking about, and I think it’s going to stick with me for a long time. It looks at the world in a different way that I find very exciting. Highly recommended.


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