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California

Photo by Ryan Bradley.

The Air Keeps It Interesting

1. In the darkness it was nothing but a thin low thrum, moving to a higher pitch as it neared. The Goodyear Blimp was somewhere out there. I stared into the sky off Venice Beach, California, trying to locate the thing. A woman in a polo shirt (Goo [...]

Illustrations by Jen Renninger

Total Loss

Fire does not abide by reason. In its destructive trail, there are empty bank accounts, unreturned voice mails, FedExed checks, hours upon hours of smooth-jazz hold music, fine print written in inscrutable jargon, and the summary Laurie learned to say for expediency’s sake: “My house exploded in a catastrophic fire. Can you please help me?”

Fevered Shapes

I wallowed in a needle-spawned world,
addicted to dope and the crazy life,
and yet there I was—in Berkeley
for my first poetry reading.

Wallace Stegner to VQR Editor, 1938

Wallace Stegner to VQR Editor, 1938

When he sent this letter to VQR Editor Lambert Davis, Wallace Stegner was in his late twenties and just starting to establish himself in national publications. From 1938 to 1943, he published three short stories and three book reviews in VQR. In 194 [...]

Wayne Thiebuad, San Francisco West Side Ridge, 2001. Oil on canvas, 36 x 36”.  (ART ©WAYNE THIEBAUD / LICENSED BY VAGA, NEW YORK, NY. COURTESY OF SMITHSONIAN AMERICAN ART MUSEUM, WASHINGTON DC / ART RESOURCE, NY)

Fifteen Takes on California

California as land’s end, world’s end: It collapses underneath the weight of such a reading, as it must. It reveals the limits of our history—demographic history, social history, history of technology, our sense of this place as final landscape, last territory on the continent, where we face ourselves because there is nowhere to turn.

Dislocation on Pacific Coast Highway

We had been going much too fast to make a perfect scan, yet the camera, in attempting to stitch together the vertical slices, had made a very interestingly distorted hash of the scene, one which somehow captured the architecture, the street traffic, and also the uneasy mood of the photographer.

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