California is renowned throughout the world for its luxury, wealth and natural beauty; images of sunny beaches and opulent hill side mansions, as well as the glitz and glamour of Hollywood are recognizable as Californian across the globe. Sun and stars are not however all this state has to offer and the rich diversity of people, climate and geography in California should not be occluded by the dominance of the Hollywood image machine.
California is by far the most populous American state and dominates the Western coast of America, stretching from the forests of the north to the barren Mojave Desert and the Sierra Nevada mountains to the East. Its literary output reflects that diversity and the beauty of the Californian wilderness.
California has, for example, been the inspiration for such authors as Mark Twain who depicted both the underbelly of the California of his day and its beautiful but harsh natural world in Roughing It. Several decades later John Fante’s Ask the Dust portrayed the California of the Depression years and the plight of a writer struggling to survive the hardships of that era.
California’s dark side is also evident in its noir detective fiction, which stretches from Raymond Chandler and Philip Marlowe, to Polanski’s Chinatown and L.A. Confidential. A lighter take on Californian life is evident in Sideways, a hilarious take on a Napa Valley wine tasting tour gone wrong.
Californian music was defined in the 1960s by The Beach Boys; their mix of harmonies and songs about girls, surfing and youth culture proving incredibly popular for decades to come and reinforcing an image of California as a luxurious paradise.