The Seven States of California: A Natural and Human History

Philip L. Fradkin, Author, Philip L. Fradkin, Photographer Henry Holt & Company $30 (474p) ISBN 978-0-8050-1947-6
In this ambitious and highly readable attempt to explain California, Fradkin (An American Nuclear Tragedy) reveals how the state's landscape has helped shape its destiny. Hanging his narrative on geological features of seven regions of the state (e.g., a series of dry lakes, a mountain, a lava bed, an earthquake fault), he puts heavy emphasis on California's violent past and present: the destruction of the Modoc Indians, anti-Chinese pogroms, the incarceration of Japanese Americans in WWII, the death of James Dean (``a California life, a California death, a California life after death''), a serial killer in Marin County, drive-by shootings so common they are no longer news. Into these and numerous other topics Fradkin weaves personal impressions of this richly textured land and its restless population acquired during his 35 years residing in the state. The vision throughout is distinctly negative. As to California's future, Fradkin sees it as ``a dark, chaotic time,'' a statement typical of this masterly but withering interpretation of the Golden State. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/29/1995
Release date: 06/01/1995
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