California is the setting for famous fiction works, whose lyrical landscape is proscenium, and often a star. And state city rivals Los Angeles and San Francisco squeeze each other to pay attention, whether you’re simmering words or tired of literary bubbles.
As California flips through books written in various contexts, some really big volumes deserve to be considered part of our golden state norm. Let’s start with a tragic drama and see if we can boil this canon into 12 works. (Note: There is no definitive spoiler here, just a little taste.)
Andre Dubus III’s “House of Sand and Fog” is a book that makes you scream aloud. wait! Don’t do that! The story is set in a fictional Corona, California. This is a replacement for the real sandy beach and foggy Pacifica, which is the true model of the town. It begins with a real estate mistake between a recovering drug addict and an Iranian immigrant, swirling in a serpentine hole of misunderstandings, excessive pride, misguided bravery, and emotional error. As the tension escalates breathtakingly, Dubus gives you a reason to care for all your characters. Be careful: their serious mistakes encourage you.
San Francisco’s densely intertwined Chinatown is the setting for Amy Tan’s classic The Joy Luck Club. Through its complex and well-integrated structure, the book exercises eight perspectives: four mothers, four daughters telling their stories, and their American perspectives and traditions of their native Chinese. Distinguish by mixing with the mother’s. There is humor, sadness, and surprise in discovering how well we know or don’t know our parents, and how well they know us.
Maxine Hong Kingston’s “Woman Warrior: Girls’ Generation Memoirs in Ghosts”, when published in 1976, broke new ground in autobiographical literature. This story is a myth I heard from parents of Chinese immigrants and a growing story of how she grew up in Stockton.
Despite palm trees and endless summer promises, much literature about and from Los Angeles shows that the world has gone south. Set in Los Angeles and Hollywood in the 1930s, Raymond Chandler’s “The Big Sleep” offers many bouquets. They are all dirty and broken. People are bought and sold, trust is poor, and there is a lot of sneakyness. There is also the unfriendly detective Marlowe, played by the unfriendly Humphrey Bogart in the 1946 movie, but despite his rough edges, he has a code of ethics. There are a lot of crazy and probably unexplained twists.
Although John Fante’s “Ask the Dust” is set a few years behind “The Big Sleep,” there are some similarities in portraying the destroyed dreamers. The main character, Arturo, came to Los Angeles from Colorado and became a writer. Let’s say his girlfriend is Camilla, a Mexican waitress, and their relationship is not ideal. There is dirt and malaise during the depression era, and the earthquake disaster in California. After all, the dreamers in the book are left with only their dreams.
Hollywood is also the setting for Nathanael West’s masterpiece “Locust Day.” The protagonist is another transplant that aims to pave the way for him in the film industry. There, he falls with a miscellaneous crew from elsewhere (among them is a clunky companion named Homer Simpson). At the end of the story, expect a covert attempt at relationships, disturbed desires, broken dreams, and crazy mob scenes. Published in 1939, the film still feels relevant to the vibrant language that limits the contradictions of California’s promises, while paying more attention to the toxicity of the film industry and the darker reality of SoCal.
Don’t miss Walter Mosley’s impressive work. His first published book, The Woman in a Blue Dress, introduces Easy Rollins and the unjust and layered world of Los Angeles in 1948. The novel, written decades after the work of Chandler and West, is full of hard-boiled. Of the social commentary that still resonates.
In the bay area, it’s not all about avocado toast. Dave Eggers’ The Circle is a fascinating slice of dystopia, a bit like a frog in a slowly boiling pot. Idealism and friendship in technological innovation to change the world turns into a ruthless revocation of individual rights and responsibilities. The reader’s idea, “Well, that couldn’t happen.” Then, “Wait, it’s already happening!” Creeping. The Eggers did a great job of showing that the protagonist descends from bright optimism as follows … well, you’ll have to read it.
Cross San Francisco Bay to Oakland and head to Tommy Orange’s complex There Theres. Here you can see the intricately woven fabrics of the city’s Native Americans. Among them are amazing, initially unknown relationships that converge at the end of the story, resulting in a heavy, dark finale. Big Auckland Seel. Orange does a great job of separating and distinguishing the individual perspectives and ideas of the various casts, bringing memory, history, generational burden, pain and interdependence.
Nevada City, New Almaden Mining Camp, and a little Santa Cruz are the setting for Wallace Stegner’s play within a story. “Angle of Repose” begins with the main character, Lyman Ward, and describes the history of grandparents. Grandparents came west in pursuit of an elusive California dream. Lyman’s own marriage collapsed as it did for his grandparents, and Lyman’s expedition of both collapses directs the story. Maybe you just can’t go west enough to actually escape.
But who wants to leave a sour note? Instead, it celebrates the humor and humanity of John Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row,” which was set when Monterey was a sleepy place. Modeled after Steinbeck’s real-life marine biologist, Docrickets, Mack and other characters have a huge party to celebrate Doc, with a stupid, sometimes moody friendship and his goodness ending in a crazy sad end. I will. But the second party — it’s Handinger.
You can’t leave without mentioning Joan Didion. One of the “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” essays, “Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream,” defines a unique Southern California landscape. Los Angeles’ alienated edgy novel “Play It As It Lays” gives a great example of her vivid prose.
And that would be 13. This should be called the dozens of bakery classics.
A book to find out if you call yourself a Southern Californian
It’s always looking for trouble and runs all sorts of lists that hit the “best” even remotely. So what is this? Instead, think of this as a reminder about some of the many great books set in SoCal by local authors that you may not have read yet …
Janet Fitch’s Meg Hit “White Oleunder” closely links tragedy and beauty and portrays Los Angeles in an unforgettable way. Kate Braverman’s collection of short stories, “Squandering the Blue,” will be thrilling with its lyrical words and harsh truths. Carolyn Sea is another mistress of darkness and stunning prose. “Golden Days” is her must-read.
Wendy Ortiz describes the complex dynamics of sexual abuse in an archaeological excavation. Her memoirs vividly portray the San Fernando Valley in the 1980s and early 90s, but a completely different track, Sandra Zingro’s “Year of Van Nice,” is a dirty road house and D It will make you laugh about the aspirations of the celebrities on the list. Meanwhile, DJ Waldie’s “Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir” prose makes Lakewood epic and unforgettable.
Michael Datcher’s “Raising Fences: A Black Man’s Love Story” is a record of the struggle from the streets of southern Los Angeles, a testament to success and the potential for personal victory. Reina Grande’s first memoir, The Distance Between Us, provides an unforgettable portrait of the Mexican immigrant experience, and The Barbarian Nurseries, a bitter social commentary performed in the well-kept suburbs and immigrants of Orange County. It is a promotion novel of Hectort Bar that combines.East LA community
Long before the wave of addiction / recovery announcements came, there was Jerry Stahl’s “Permanent Midnight.” This is an unforgettable record of heartache and collapse at the edge of Hollywood. Along those lines, Eve Babicz’s “Late Day, Fast Company: World, Meat, and LA” is a must-read reminder of a vibrant, drugged day and movie star night. But no one, like Bruce Wagner, who begins with “force majeure,” illuminates the wickedness of Hollywood’s narcissism.
As for the poet, a new collection of Wanda Coleman’s best work, The Evil Enchantment, will speed you up with her unforgettable, unforgettable voice.
And if it doesn’t include the drunken bard of San Pedro, what’s the list about SoCal? The posthumous collection “Most importantly, how well you walk in the fire” provides some of the best examples of the rustic punches of Charles Bukowski’s poetry. – Samantha
These 13 books make up California’s literary norms –
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