As a Californian and a California writer, I found this both interesting and perplexing:
On the other hand, California is a place whose superficiality can be felt very deeply... In a sense, it is hard to take it seriously, as witnessed by Chandler first and by many writers afterwards, even Pynchon who's not from there. What I mean is that whatever depth these stories have, you can't get away from the superficiality of the milieu where they occur.
First, it's the style, not the locale, of Don's book that creates the effect I mentioned. Also, two of the movies I listed, VERTIGO and CHINATOWN, both take place in California, and I don't think the milieu in either is superficial. I've used California as backdrop twice for my books, and partially in a third, and I've never considered the place anything but quite real, solid, beautiful and human. I don't think Mike Connelly's LA is trivial, or Denise Hamilton's LA or even Ellroy's LA -- as much as he nails the Hollywood glitter-nightmare machine -- or Kirk Russell's northern California or Ross McDonald's southern California, not to mention Pete Dexter's LA in TRAIN, Jim Harrison's San Francisco in LEGENDS OF THE FALL or Eddie Muller's in THE DISTANCE or Jack London's Sonoma or Oakland or -- you get my point.
California's a complicated place. It's not just mindless zen camp followers, self-righteous foodies, limousine liberals and Hollywood hustlers.
Then again, Robert Stone's California in DOG SOLDIERS plays its very fierce and bloody story against the mindless insipidities that animated the late 60s early 70s, and if they were a little more overbearing here than elsewhere, they were hardly geographically restricted. Ditto Pynchon, as you rightly point out. But the psychological and moral witlessness they address are not merely Californian, they're American. They're just embraced with a bit more zip-and-zowie here. A lot of trends start here, then ripple east across the continent. It is a beautiful place, and that leans people toward an ethos of enjoyment, sometimes of the mindless variety. But people bleed and sweat and die here, too. And some people write about that.
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