California and the artificiality of trying to live in a harsh environment

Jonathan Segal, English 171, Sages and Satirists, Brown University, 2002

One could argue that the state of Califonia casts a shadow over the entire collection of essays. In the American consciousness, California evokes several images:

In the essay "Holy Water," Didion outlines how a system of aquaducts and reserviors provides water across the entire state, making life in the middle of the desert possible. A particularly glaring example of the far-reaching effects of the system is on pp. 62 and 63, tracing a tropical storm's effects on a movie shooting schedule.

Didion says "This is a Calfornia Parable, but a true one."

  1. What does she mean by a California Parable? What about this anecdote is so "California?"
  2. How many levels of artifice are there in these two paragraphs? How far removed from reality is the end result of the story?
  3. What does this paragraph imply about Californian's relationship to the state of nature?

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Last modified 7 February 2002