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Where Light Takes Its Color from the Sea: A California Notebook based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Why had I not heard of Houston? He¿s a native Californian, I¿m a native Californian. He writes, I read¿ But I did eventually hear about him and this charming book of essays and short fiction. He writes about California mostly but it would be unfair to call him a regional writer. Yes, he does, or did ¿ he¿s dead now, died in April 2009, stomach cancer I believe - have his finger on the pulse of the place, as is evident in his descriptions of the state¿s history, Spanish missions, eucalyptus trees, fault lines, development, population growth, tourism, traffic¿ and especially artists: ¿This Nordic head half-turns to look at me, but the rest of the artist, squatting on a tattered canvas camp chair, is immobile ¿ long legs bent, back straight, broad shoulders steady, toes spread and paint-spattered. Only the head moves, and the magic arm. The arm moves, it seems, of its own volition. A color finds its complement so quickly that the arm, the hand itself must surely make the decision. The hand wields the brush with a magic rhythm, holds it like a drummer holds his stick, and the quick mixing, the skip from gob of azure to blob of ochre, the momentary blending stir is the painter¿s paradiddle before the brush leaps again for the canvas ¿ its touch then, the climax of each roll.¿ But he¿s too expansive and universal to be stamped ¿regional.¿ His writing is clear-headed, steady and sometimes melodious. He¿s scotch and soda in a world of somethingsilly-tinis. He was a nice respite from all the post-modern writers I¿ve been reading lately; a welcome breath of fresh, Pacific-tinged air.
This is the first book written by Houston I have read. I was attracted to it by the fact that he studied under Stegner and included a chapter entitled Remembering Wallace Stegner. In any event, Houston is a Santa Cruz- based writwer of both fiction and nonfiction. This book divides into two parts. The first two-thirds collect a series of essays written over the years loosely grouped into place, family and writing. The last third collects some of his short fiction. His essays on place show the obvious influence of Stegner; however, I think I enjoy his selections on family the most. His short fiction is good; however, the form is very demanding and his writing is somewhat uneven. Overall the book is surprisingly cohesive given the span of time and disparate subjects. I am tempted to try his longer fiction. As a writer I would characterize him as a "journeyman" which in my book does not mean to disparage him with faint praise.