California chronicles: A review of New California Writing: 2011

  • Getty, Tom McHugh
 

New California Writing: 2011
Gayle Wattawa, ed.
320 pages, softcover: $20.
Heyday, 2011.

Most anthologies possess a ready-made but sometimes narrow audience. Readers come to these single-subject, multi-authored books with an already established connection and desire to know more. What, then, does a book focused on California offer to those who live outside the Golden State? Plenty, as editor Gayle Wattawa readily demonstrates through the fiction, nonfiction and poetry gathered in New California Writing: 2011.

California may boast a cultural, ecological and economic diversity unique in this country, but as Malcolm Margolin points out in his introduction, borrowing Wallace Stegner's oft-quoted observation: California is like America, only more so. And today, like the rest of the nation, California is in the midst of difficult times -- something that, according to Margolin, makes for exceptional writing. "In an era such as this," he argues, "the self-justifying clichés and smug certainties that characterize periods of prosperity ring hollow" and thought-provoking, funny and courageous literature emerges. New California Writing's authors, including both lesser-known voices and heavyweights such as Rebecca Solnit, Mike Davis, Jennifer Egan and Michael Chabon, embody this spirit of inquiry.

Because of its long-held Edenic status, California's fall appears all the more symbolic in these writings. "Bigger and better than anyplace that anybody had ever seen before," writes Fred Setterberg. "We were building houses, highways, hospitals, new universities up and down the state and the best public school systems in the country." Today, that utopia has been eclipsed by unchecked development, discrimination, dysfunctional families and a broken social covenant, exemplified, as Gray Brechin writes in "The Guttering Promise of Public Education," by decaying public schools, parks, hospitals and forests.

Yet the courageous literature Margolin describes in his introduction is best illustrated in the stories of surfers, punks, borax miners, immigrants, unconventional families, and hard-bitten and yuppie farmers alike. Here, the planting of a mulberry tree connects neighbors, and the common bluebelly lizard is nothing but astonishing. As D.J. Waldie asks in the book's last piece: "We all live on land we've wounded, land we've improved to our dissatisfaction. Yet we must be here or be nowhere and have nothing with which to make our lives together. How should one act knowing that making a home requires this?"

High Country News Classifieds
  • COMING TO TUCSON?
    Popular vacation house, furnished, 2 bed/1 bath, yard, dog-friendly. Lee at [email protected] or 520-791-9246.
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Crested Butte Land Trust seeks a development director to lead its fundraising efforts. Remote and unspoiled, Crested Butte is located in one of the Rockies...
  • PRICE REDUCED $94,300 - LOT SOUTH OF MONTROSE
    5-Acre Home Site, Great Views with Spectacular Sunsets From a South Facing Home Site. Excellent for Passive Solar Design. Covenants, No HOA. Keller Williams Co....
  • CHARMING HOME/FARM NEAR CLIFF, NM
    3 bed/2 bath, detached strawbale building. 11.7 acres, barn, corrals, fenced. Wells, solar panels, greenhouses. Paved access. 575-535-2568.
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    WildEarth Guardians seeks two public interest-focused staff attorneys with a minimum of 5 years experience to join our legal team. Experience with at least some...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF NEW MEXICO WILDLIFE FEDERATION
    The New Mexico Wildlife Federation is seeking an Executive Director, a visionary leader who is passionate about public lands, dedicated to executing an innovative strategic...
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE SPECIALIST I
    HIGH COUNTRY NEWS Customer Service Specialist I General Statement of Duties: Works closely with the customer service manager performing high-volume routine computer database work. Also...
  • ARAVAIPA LAND STEWARD
    The Aravaipa Land Steward coordinates preserve stewardship work and general operations including maintenance and general preserve management. Implements preserve management plans, which may include species...
  • VP OF DEVELOPMENT
    seeks a talented and dynamic development professional, with a passion for protecting our natural environment, to lead our development and fundraising team.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    The Native American Fish and Wildlife Society seeks an Executive Director in Denver, CO to serve as the Chief Administrator of the national Native American...
  • DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANT
    High Country News seeks a development assistant to assist with fundraising campaigns. HCN is an award-winning, national news magazine. Strong candidates will have experience administering...
  • LAND ACQUISTIONS SPECIALIST - RENEWABLE ENERGY
    Energiekontor US seeks experienced local candidate, must reside in western South Dakota. Send resume and cover letter to: [email protected]
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Seeking passionate full-time Executive to lead the oldest non-profit organization in Idaho. Must have knowledge of environmental issues, excellent organizational, verbal presentation and written skills,...
  • CONSERVATION DIRECTOR
    Carbondale based public lands advocate, Wilderness Workshop, seeks a Conservation Director to help direct and shape the future of public land conservation on the West...
  • TROUT UNLIMITED BIGHORN RIVER BASIN PROJECT MANAGER
    The Bighorn River Basin Project Manager identifies and implements projects to improve streamflows, restore stream and riparian habitat, improve fish passage and rehabilitate or replace...
  • INTERNET-BASED BUSINESS FOR SALE
    Dream of owning your own business, being your own boss, working from home ... this is the one. 928-380-6570, www.testshop.com. More info at https://bit.ly/2Kgi340.
  • TRIPLEX .8 ACRE KANAB, UT
    Create a base in the center of Southern Utah's Grand Circle of National Parks. Multiple residential property with three established rental units and zoning latitude...
  • LIGHTWEIGHT FLY ROD CASES
    4 standard or custom lengths. Rugged protection for backpacking. Affordable pricing.
  • FIVE-ACRE VIEW LOT WITH WELL
    5 acres, well. Abuts Carson NF; hike fish ski; deer turkey elk.
  • GILA NATIONAL FOREST
    9+ acre inholding. Passive solar strawbale off the grid and next to the Continental Divide Trail in ponderosa pine/doug fir forest at 7400.