Thursday, April 07, 2005

CALIFORNIA: Some Quotations

I'm not the first person to try to understand this place. Here are comments from a few others who came, saw, and marvelled.

"CALLIFORNIA, a large country of the West Indies... It is uncertain whether it be a peninsula or an island."—Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1st Edition (1771)

(Thus the title of Elna S. Bakker's indispensable study of the state's natural history, An Island Called California.)

The depth of California is extraordinary: it is the high tower and the bottomless pit, Babel and Gehenna. The land itself said as much, giving the state the highest and lowest points among the continental states and placing them so close together that they could hardly escape notice.—Wilson Carey McWilliams

You don't have to enjoy being miserable anymore; you're in California now.—Matthew Fisher

Here is a climate that breeds vigour, with just sufficient geniality to prevent the expenditure of most of that vigour in fighting the elements. Here is a climate where a man can work three hundred and sixty-five days in the year without the slightest hint of enervation, and where for three hundred and sixty-five nights he must perforce sleep under blankets. What more can one say? ... Nevertheless I take my medicine by continuing to live in this climate. Also, it is the only medicine I ever take.—Jack London

Californians try everything once.—T.J. MacGregor

When asked to comment on the fires ravaging his state, Governor-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger said "These fires are fantastic. I promise the people of California that my term will be non-stop action and excitement—keep it coming, we're gonna have earthquakes and monsoons, we are gonna make California the number one action state in the country."—Tina Fey

About the only part of a California house you can't put your foot through is the door.—Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep

California is a queer place—in a way, it has turned its back on the world, and looks into the void Pacific. It is absolutely selfish, very empty, but not false, and at least, not full of false effort.... It's sort of crazy-sensible. Just the moment: hardly as far ahead as carpe diem.—D.H. Lawrence

In California everyone goes to a therapist, is a therapist, or is a therapist going to a therapist.—Truman Capote

Californians invented the concept of life-style. This alone warrants their doom.—Don DeLillo

Whatever starts in California unfortunately has a tendency to spread.—Jimmy Carter, a remark in cabinet meeting, 1977

There is a theory that almost anything that's fun is going to be ruined sooner or later by people from California. They tend to bring seriousness to subjects that don't deserve it, and they tend to get very good at things that weren't very important in the first place.—Calvin Trillin

California can and does furnish the best bad things that are obtainable in America.—Hinton R. Helper

The devil having been banished and virtue being triumphant, nothing terribly interesting can ever happen again.—George F. Kennan on California's resemblance to heaven.

I am beginning to think that everyone in California is here by mistake.—Woody Allen

He was wearing a hat and a necktie so he couldn't have been in California long.—Dorothy Hughes

Did California cause any of this? No, though it does seem to draw to it people with unusual inclinations.—Jessamyn West

California is often compared to a lodestone, or a magnet, or the moon drawing the tides. On occasion, California is fancifully described as an enchantress—Circe, or one of the Sirens or the Lorelei. Every utopian name imaginable has been applied at some time—Atlantis, Arcadia, Avalon, the Garden of Eden, El Dorado, the Elysian Fields, the Garden of the Golden Apples, the Happy Valley, the Isle of the Blest, the Land of Milk and Honey, the Land of Prester John, Mecca, the New Jerusalem, the Pleasure Dome of Kublai Khan, the Promised Land, the Terrestrial Paradise, and Treasure Island.—Dora Beale Polk

Essentially California developed outside the framework, the continuum, of the American frontier. The difference is that between a child raised in the home of his parents, with relatives and familiar surroundings, and the child taken from his home at an early age and brought up in a remote and different environment.—Carey McWilliams

What’s the answer to my state? There must be an answer to everything but for California I can reach no conclusion. Statisticians have tried. Even the Heaven on Earth Club has tried. But California continues to erupt.—Max Miller

1 comment:

Mary said...

"Know that to the right hand of the Indies was an island called California, very near to the region of the Terrestrial Paradise, which was populated by black women, without there being any men among them, that almost like the Amazons was their style of living. These were of vigorous bodies and strong and ardent hearts and of great strength; the island itself the strongest in steep rocks and great boulders that is found in the world; their arms were all of gold, and also the harnesses of the wild beasts on which, after having tamed them, they rode; that in all the island there was no other metal whatsoever. They dwelt in caves very well hewn; they had many ships in which they went out to other parts to make their forays, and the men they seized they took with them, giving them their deaths, as you will further hear. And some times when they had peace with their adversaries, they intermixed with all security one with another, and there were carnal unions from which many of them came out pregnant, and if they gave birth to a female they kept her, and if they gave birth to a male, then he was killed...
"On this island, called California, there are many griffons... and in the time that they had young, these women would... take them to their caves, and there raise them. And... they fattened them on those men and the boys that they had borne...
"Any male that entered the island was killed and eaten by them...
"There ruled on that island of California, a queen great of body, very beautiful for her race, at a flourishing age, desirous in her thoughts of achieving great things, valiant in strength, cunning in her brave heart, more than any other who had ruled that kingdom before her...Queen Calafia."
-- Garcia Ordonez de Montalvo: The Exploits of the Very Powerful Cavalier Esplandian, Son of the Excellent King Amadis of Gaul 1521 (work re-discovered by scholars in 1862)