WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH CALIFORNIA? by Jack Cashill

WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH CALIFORNIA?

Cultural Rumbles from the Golden State and Why the Rest of Us Should Be Shaking
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A ham-fisted effort to wound liberal sensibilities—or shoot fish in a barrel.

It’s not as if Ann Coulter took a slug of orange juice and a Ritalin and set her sights on the unfortunate Golden State. Cashill (Sucker Punch: The Hard Left Hook That Dazed Ali and Killed King's Dream, 2006, etc.) is more intelligent and sophisticated than that, though there are moments when readers will wonder whether he doesn’t really believe that all Californians are many-times divorced, meth-addled, welfare-cheating or trust-fund layabouts. Granted that California makes an easy target: Satirists from Bret Harte to Cyra McFadden on down have made nice livings pointing out as much. But is John Holmes, the late porn star, really an exemplar of the San Fernando Valley? And granted that Susan Atkins was one of the weirder of the supremely weird people who flocked around Charlie Manson, that the Crips have been performing their mayhem since that annus mansonius 1969 and that Scientologists are spectacularly strange in their own way. But are they really the norm in California? No. For every Tookie Williams there’s a Merle Haggard. Cashill takes at least formal inspiration from Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (2004)—save that he misses the point of Frank’s inquiry, which was why Kansas, with its liberal and even radical tradition, should have turned its back and gone right-wing. California has turned out some notable righties, of course, but its political and social traditions have always been so diverse as to defy categorization. Yet Cashill seems to believe that the wealthy of, say, Marin County should be voting for Bush rather than doing what he claims they do, which is to “wander among the ruins of their imagined paradise and persist in blaming some greedy ‘other’ for its demise,” while Hollywood types should be going to church like good Americans rather than filling their lives with “everything from est to self-actualization to the I Ching.” And so on.

A jeremiad more fitting to 1967 than 2007.

Pub Date: Oct. 2nd, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-4165-3102-9
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Threshold Editions/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2007