A Dark California

Essays on Dystopian Depictions in Popular Culture


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About the Book

Focusing on portrayals of California in popular culture, this collection of new essays traces a central theme of darkness through literature (Toby Barlow, Angela Carter, Joan Didion, Thomas Pynchon, and Claire Vaye Watkins), video games (L.A. Noire), music (Death Grips, Lana Del Rey, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers), TV (True Detective and American Horror Story), and film  (Starry Eyes, Southland Tales and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night). Providing insight into the significance of Californian icons, the contributors explore the interplay between positive stereotypes connected to the myth of the Golden State and ambivalent responses to the myth based on social and political power, the consequences of consumerism, transformations of the landscape and the dominance of hyperreality.

About the Author(s)

Katarzyna Nowak-McNeice is a Conex-Marie Curie Research Fellow at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, Spain. She has published essays on California literature, Post-colonial theory and opera studies.

Agata Zarzycka is an assistant professor at the Institute of English Studies, University of Wroclaw, Poland. She has published essays on speculative fiction, transmediality and video games.

Bibliographic Details

Edited by Katarzyna Nowak-McNeice and Agata Zarzycka
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 215
Bibliographic Info: notes, bibliographies, index
Copyright Date: 2017
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6783-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2959-9
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii

Introduction (Katarzyna ­Nowak-McNeice and Agata Zarzycka) 1

Part I: California Under Construction

The Center Is Not Holding: Joan Didion and the California 

Dreamer (Kathleen M. Vandenberg and Christopher K. Coffman)  15

Desert Women: Constructions of Female Identity and Motherhood in Angela Carter and Claire Vaye Watkins’s Feminist Dystopias (Donna Mitchell)  25

Playing Good Cop … or Bad Cop? Exploring Hyperreal Urban Spaces in L.A. Noire (Michael Fuchs)  37

“Feed the hole”: Alienation, ­Neo-Marxism and the Real in Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales (Elizabeth Lowry)  50

Tension of Exclusion: On Death Grips and the Californian Ideology

(Benjamin Halligan) 62

Part II: Californian Monsters

“Wolf howls and the roar of police sirens”: Fractured Identities, Lycanthropy and the Streets of Los Angeles in Toby Barlow’s Sharp Teeth (Carys Crossen) 75

Stuck Here Forever: Los Angeles as Purgatory in American Horror Story (Rose Butler)  88

Dreams Require Sacrifice: Fame, Fortune and ­Body-Horror

in Starry Eyes (Craig Ian Mann and Liam Hathaway) 101

Anywhere-Nowhere, California: The Real, the Imaginary and the Lonely Vampire in the Golden State (Simon Bacon)  115

True California: Vinci as Landscape of Terror (Marcin Cichocki) 127

Part III: Welcome to Dystopia

Thomas Pynchon’s Hybrid California(s): In Search of Spatial/Social Justice in Inherent Vice (Diana Benea)  139

“Come to California”: The Star as a Tragic Figure of American Apocalypse in Lana Del Rey’s Honeymoon (2015) (Steve Drum) 153

Cop Shows, Sitcoms and Oral Histories in Thomas Pynchon’s Vineland (Tomas Pollard ) 162

These Kind of Dreams: Dystopian Depictions of California in the Music Video “Californication” (Daniel Klug) 174

Conclusion: Californias Everywhere (Katarzyna ­Nowak-McNeice and Agata Zarzycka)  184

About the Contributors 193

Index 197