No Place for a Puritan:
The Literature of California’s Deserts
Edited by Ruth Nolan
Feared and romanticized throughout the ages, the desert has a hold on our imagination that is never more evident than in the literature it has inspired. From Mary Austin’s meditations in The Land of Little Rain to Joan Didion’s acerbic cast of characters in Play It As It Lays, the desert’s seemingly barren landscapes have provided rich ground for writers to explore.
These explorations have been collected for the first time in No Place for a Puritan. In this anthology are stories that thrill, frighten, sadden, and inspire: a man foolishly and arrogantly collecting live rattlesnakes; a lone woman striving to make a home in a remote desert canyon; a drug-addled journalist’s drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas; a Japanese American family coping with incarceration during World War II; and one man’s developing friendship with General Patton in a military training camp. There are tales of spiritual and scientific discoveries and of the cities blossoming in the farthest corners of the California desert.
Including the works of local writers—Susan Straight, Gayle Brandeis, Juan Felipe Herrera, Ruth Nolan, and others—as well as household names such as John Steinbeck, Aldous Huxley, Hunter S. Thompson, Jon Krakauer, Rebecca Solnit, and Barry Lopez, No Place for a Puritan is a collection that disturbs and enchants.