Los Angeles has crumbled, and our new friends Cal and Frida have bolted. They now live in the wilderness in an unknown, unsure state of strange existence. This is the premise of Edun Lepucki’s debut novel "California."
Of course, visions of this kind of future -- dystopian, if you will -- are perfect for reading on the sun lounger from the beach in Greece, where a different... yet similar... way of life holds sway. A sort of semi-fallen apart state where things are in a state of disaster, but not quite. Although Lepucki will sicken with the inevitable flurry of Margaret Atwood comparisons coming her way, Atwood is the Queen of Dystopia and has held the reigns for a long time. Lepucki, however, holds up to such comparison, and brings something new to the equation -- a balancing of the equation, if anything.
Lepucki is an Iowa Writer’s Workshop graduate and a staff writer for The Millions. She has also done short fiction for McSweeney’s and Narrative magazine -- all whilst living in L.A. It is certainly as if the city of angles is having a moment -- from art to fashion to everything creative, and here comes a voice from its now cleared-up smog with a whole new idea about the world and our future.
What is most appealing about the book is that Lepucki doesn’t really scare us with creatures or ideas of bad things that could happen. She shows us a human relationship on a tightrope, that between the youngsters Cal and Frida. The unraveling that comes with living in this new reality involves a pregnancy and a need for survival when not all the chips are down. Do you need to fight for survival when the threat isn’t imminent? Do you know what you’re even fighting against, or for, when the threat isn’t exactly palpable? There are the evil Communities, but they don’t pose a clear and present menace.
Maybe the whole idea of dystopia has changed. Maybe it’s been overused and underplayed, and become so commonplace that depictions of a future in which everything really is a total mess that we have stopped appreciating how unpleasant life in a post-peak civilization would be. The Utopian idea has perhaps strengthened, and we might even believe that there is life after all the chaos. Perhaps ISIS came to remind us of this, or Turkey banning Twitter, or even some of the Republicans demanding us to ignore Climate Change. Maybe Lepucki is onto something --a middle ground of nowhereness that we have just lost ourselves to. And now we need to swim to shore.
Little, Brown and Company