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"Season of the Witch: Enchantment, Terror, and Deliverance in the City of Love"


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.


Discussion Questions:


1. What is important about the title? Is there a reference in the novel that explains the title?

2. Talbot leads us through a set of events that shook his adopted city from the late 1960’s to the early ’80s. We are given accounts, for example, of hippie-kid runaways on acid going psychotic and getting caught in a “harrowing public health labyrinth” right out of a medieval tale. Were there events/account in the novel that struck you?

3. Do you find the characters likable? Are the characters persons you would want to meet?

4. What is the central/primary purpose of the novel? Is the purpose important or meaningful?

5. Were you surprised by anything you read in this book? If so, what, and why?

6. How does this historical account of San Francisco compare to fictional accounts set during this time period?

7. What are the conflicts in Season of the Witch? What types of conflict (physical, moral, intellectual, or emotional) are in the novel?

8. What is the role of community in the novel?

9. Would you recommend this novel to a friend?


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  • A former member
    A former member

    Is there any chance another meetup will be held for this book? With so many people on the waitlist it seems reasonable to hold more than one meeting for the book. . . .

    January 16, 2013

  • Francie S.

    Hi - I didn't attend the meeting for Season of the Witch because I hadn't finished the book and there were so many on the waiting list, but I just wanted to say that now I'm into the book, I am enjoying it so much. Every time I read about someone and any organization he or she founded, I do my Google research and find out all about it. Does anyone know what the next book will be yet? I want to get started ;o)

    January 13, 2013

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