Tonight I read Slouching Towards Bethlehem. Joan Didion is brilliant. She writes about all my favorite places: San Francisco, New York, Hawaii, Los Angeles, and yet she writes about them with a complete lack of sentimentality. She seems to possess this unbridled interest in the act of recording that which is truly interesting, truly human. Tragic and entertaining and thoughtful and never patronizing. Straightforward.
And then I read "Notes from a Native Daughter." Didion grew up in the Sacramento Valley, and she manages to articulate the nostalgia, boredom, listlessness and history of the place that I've never really been able to perfectly capture myself:
"...that is what I want to tell you about: what it is like to come from a place like Sacramento. If I could make you understand that, I could make you understand California and perhaps something else besides, for Sacramento is California, and California is a place in which a boom mentality and a sense of Chekhovian loss meet in uneasy suspension; in which the mind is troubled by some buried but ineradicable suspicion that things had better work here, because here, beneath that immense bleached sky, is where we run out of continent."
And it struck me, that here in this most fertile of valleys, the communities themselves have grown in a manner disproportionate to the crops that thrive. Maybe that's why it sometimes takes me a few days to fall into hometown habits; because in Davis, even more so than Sacramento, the town wants to grow as much as it wants to drop leaves, or blossom flowers; that is to say, it wants to grow when it is time to grow, and not before.
It makes me feel good to know that a writer like Didion came from a place and a family not too far removed from my own. That maybe, at some point, I'll be able to put into words my own version of that murmuring culture that she captures so beautifully.