THE LEFT COAST OF PARADISE: California and the American Heart by Judith Moore

THE LEFT COAST OF PARADISE: California and the American Heart

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First-book author Moore here offers an uneven but heartfelt collection of life sketches from that slice of paradise that curves between San Diego and the San Francisco Bay. Interviewing her fellow transplants, this housewife-turned-""bedouin"" tries to find herself in her subtle kinship with the lonely and lovely dreamers of the Bay. Vowing that she is following a pattern set by her maternal grandmother (who followed her lover to California), Moore leaves husband and grown children in central Washington to live a life without a past in California. She sets out on a quest for self-knowledge through interviews with fellow Californians, starting inauspiciously with beach bunnies, hairdressers, and a Yuppie-ish pimp (hardly revelatory). Then: a more touching interview with a bag man on a Greyhound bus from L.A., the longish saga of a misunderstood elephant, an intriguing interview with a black mortician (showing the wisdom and humanity that the black community has about death). Following willy-nilly on the tale of a dwarf is a remembrance of the Marxist philosopher Marcuse during the turbulent protest days (he was so hounded by death-threats that his dedicated graduate students armed themselves and took turns guarding the lecture hall and his home). Moore subsequently launches into a lush, tactile remembrance of her lonely farm childhood and the stem grandmother who raised her (her own mother left her to follow her dream of a music education in New York). This is capped with a profile of a strong black woman--a blues-singer in Oakland--then the Berkeley performance of an opera written by a childhood mentor. Don't expect Didion's crackling neurasthenic insights. This collection is suffused with the gentle coming-to-terms of someone who decided late--and lastingly--to follow the California dream.

Pub Date: Sept. 23rd, 1987
Publisher: Soho--dist. by Farrar, Straus & Giroux