Head for the desert

It’s a hard life in a hard place and it carries with it a hard beauty. That’s the California desert, and it’s captured here in a new anthology from Heyday Brooks’ California Legacy series subtitled The Literature of California’s Deserts. The title comes from an included poem by William Justema, which includes this: “Our God is a sensuous God—Who / would not be, from a couch of sand?” Whether it’s a selection from Harry Lawton’s novel Willie Boy or Joan Didion’s Play It as It Lays, both of which capture the desperation of flight over arid lands, or Marc Reisner’s description of the construction of the Los Angeles aqueduct (from Cadillac Desert), this book ought to be required reading for those of us who live in a place where hardiness and foolhardiness go hand in hand, and where water has stolen the crown as the most precious substance from previous holders, gold and oil.