CALIFORNIA FAULT by Thurston Clarke


Searching for the Spirit of a State Along the San Andreas
Email this review


 In this thoroughly entertaining travel narrative, Clarke (Pearl Harbor Ghosts: A Journey to Hawaii Then and Now, 1991, etc.) takes the measure of the San Andreas fault, that 750-mile scar running head to foot through California, and finds residing along the crack a sideshow's worth of oddballs, shysters, and ugly memories. The fault comes ashore in rugged, remote Shelter Cove, where Clarke picks it up. One of those real-estate diddles classic to coastal developments, the cove is the source for an endless river of cranks, misfits, eccentrics, and garden variety weirdos running down the fault line: folks with headaches that predict earthquakes (perhaps the magnetite in their inner ears picks up electromagnetic signals from grinding tectonic plates); the insane Hoods gang members who commit meanness in Saratoga; garlic thieves in Gilroy; vicious counterculturalists in Bolinas; a pathetic, bloated flasher with a car full of Wendy's wrappers. More gratifying is the Anderson Valley Advertiser, ``the funniest, nastiest, most high- minded and vulgar, entertaining, and addictive small-town weekly newspaper in the nation,'' and its editor Bruce Anderson. Then again, Clarke never shrinks from serious business: He chronicles the devastation of the Wiyot Indians around Eureka and experiences the brutal clearcuts of Humboldt and Mendocino counties, where the land has come to resemble the ``fur of a sick cat'' (unhappily, since redwoods can be used as seismic timetables--Clarke is forever on the quake beat). Knit through the journey, pretty much stealing the show, are Clarke's tack-sharp landscape sketches, for the San Andreas is a genius at ``creating razorback ridges, folded green hills, soaring sea cliffs, pink mountains rising from desert, and jumbled wine-friendly valleys.'' A nearly edible travelogue--smooth as mousse, full of savory tidbits, and memorable.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-345-38566-7
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1996


NonfictionJFK'S LAST HUNDRED DAYS by Thurston Clarke
by Thurston Clarke
NonfictionTHE LAST CAMPAIGN by Thurston Clarke
by Thurston Clarke
NonfictionASK NOT by Thurston Clarke
by Thurston Clarke


IndieHIGHWAY 99 by Stephen H.  Provost
by Stephen H. Provost
IndieSutro's Glass Palace by John A. Martini
by John A. Martini