No Place for a Puritan: The Literature of California's Deserts
Possibly some magnetic force field that beckons people to its promises of adventure, wealth, and sun blazed days, there is a pull toward California. Be it a fight for survival, a lost treasure, or ability to inspire, California and its sacred deserts are full of mysticism and brighter futures. On the other hand, California's offerings are in no way a given. The obstacles, being weather related or competitive in nature, are likely to break a person's soul. Being able to say you have survived it's land is almost like saying you have won the game; you took a chance with death and you have proven your worth. No other state has inspired so many forms of art. Iconic by design, this land is the perfect backdrop, and main character, for many written works.
The poetry, prose, and excerpts in No Place for a Puritan prove the obsession that humankind has for life on the edge in pursuit of some greater good while in the desert. The glimpses into desert life this anthology contains are of the truest embodiment of human existence; we live to struggle, and struggle to live.
Writers seem to find a freedom in the stillness that extreme quiet in the desert provides. W. Storrs Lee mentions the antagonist the desert provides in an excerpt of his 1963 novel, The Great California Deserts. How convenient and true is his statement. How ideal to set your characters in such a place where even vegetation can't pull though!
By including authors of long ago and authors of present standing, Nolan has encapsulated the trance that the desert can have on any point of time. An excerpt of Hunter S. Thompson's cult classic, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, brings to mind the drug-addled culture that the Californian desert hides.
The beautiful stories, recollections, and poems shared here are all too beautiful to name. The romanticism amongst trailer parks and treacherous landscape only encourages the reader to see it for oneself. Ruth Nolan has done a spectacular job gathering the pieces contained in this book to point out all of the deserts' offerings and takings to those who dare to encounter it. The desert still stands a mystery; centuries after humankind started writing about its splendors.
Another decadent plus to this anthology is that I've been reading it during one of the coldest spells in recent history. There is nothing better than the warmth fueled by the reminders of the sun and the land it graces on a continual basis. I miss the desert even more now.