Books: Dire State

Joan Didion revisits her native California. Ouch!

The dotcom bust. Staggering budget deficits. A hellzapoppin' gubernatorial recall. What other misfortune could happen to California? Well, Joan Didion, who was born and raised there, could write an elegantly acerbic book arguing that the sustaining myths by which the state defines itself are false, self-deluding and corrupt. Where I Was From (Knopf; 226 pages) is that book, and Governor-elect Schwarzenegger, for one, can give thanks that it was written too soon to include him.

The fundamental California myth is that noble 19th century pioneers braved the Sierras in order to cultivate a golden promised land. Not quite, says Didion....

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