My favorite scene in Nathanael West’s Greek tragedy set in Hollywood, “The Day of the Locusts,” is the description of the protagonist’s painting, “The Burning of Los Angeles.”
For the faces of its members, he was using the innumerable sketches he had made of the people who come to California to die; the cultists of all sorts, economic as well as religious, the wave, airplane, funeral and preview watchers—all those poor devils who can only be stirred by the promise of miracles and then only to violence. A super “Dr. Know-All Pierce-All” had made the necessary promise and they were marching behind his banner in a great united front of screwballs and screwboxes to purify the land. No longer bored, they sang and danced joyously in the red light of the flames.
West was a brilliant writer and had a sharp tongue for social commentary. But no one is signing and dancing right now.
Los Angeles and surrounding communities are burning, from Santa Barbara to Corona, from Palos Verde to Santa Clarita. Two more fires began after I left the house this morning. The blazes have together burned hundreds of residences, with the Sylmar fire alone has leveled at least 500 homes. Westmont College, a small Christian school in Montecito, also suffered significant losses.
Gov. Schwarzenegger has long since declared a state of emergency. (I’ve been offline due to a problem with our publishing platform.) And it looks like the situation isn’t going to improve significantly until the humidity climbs a bit beginning Tuesday. Yes, it’s the ides of November and yet the temp was pushing 90 today—at the beach.
God help us.