The Western Coast by Paula Fox

The Western Coast by Paula Fox

Annie—aimless Annie—forsaken Annie—Dreamboat Annie…

 Heading out this morning into the sun
Riding on the diamond waves, little darlin’ one
Warm wind caress her
Her lover it seems
Oh, Annie
Dreamboat Annie my little ship of dreams
Going down the city sidewalk alone in the crowd
No one knows the lonely one whose head’s in the clouds
Sad faces painted over with those magazine smiles
Heading out to somewhere won’t be back for a while…
Heart-Dreamboat Annie

 (Please forgive me, I had a momentary flashback to an old favorite 70’s song because Annie and her adventures started Ann Wilson’s voice softly singing in my mind. So I dug around on YouTube and found a vintage concert performance—here it is should you care to indulge: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQDJ45qJHBQ)

Annie is a child of fate—taking things as they come—an innocent prone to dreams, yet wary enough to stay out of trouble—and after an indulgence with self-pity, she’s plenty smart to call it quits when enough is enough—move on—to grow as she turns slowly to face a transcendent disappointment with the way things are, and an honest to goodness disgust with oneself in the world.

“Everybody teaches me,” she said ironically, “as if I were the world’s village idiot.” page 38

(I had to burst out laughing when I read that—holy shit funny, only because I’ve experienced/felt this myself.)

Annie flows, flits, and filters her way through the dense cast of characters, friends, husbands, lovers, relations, acquaintances of various races and creeds, and Communists—New York City to California to New York City again, plotting to leave for Europe—in the span of time, the Great Depression is winding down, WWII is beginning and then ending—yet Annie seems mostly oblivious to these larger events—she’s a microcosm of the big picture, and dwells within her parameters until something or someone forces her out of them—she moves on to the next thing, her head filled with dreams and fears.

…her father had said that when you get what you want, it turns to ashes. It was all in the anticipation. P.259

Nailed it, nailed it, nailed it—dreams and realities—reality sucks after achieving the dream, unless you’re mature enough to accept that this is how things are out there in this thing called life. It’s part of growing up…

“Everyone has an unhappy life. That’s no distinction.” (for context: Ben Greenhouse speaking)

“Some people seem happy.” (for context: Annie speaking)

“Well, they aren’t. They’re just trying to be superior to the general condition.”

“There are people who can’t even consider such a question—they suffer from not having enough food or shelter—”

“Stop!”

“I won’t. Look at the way you’re dressed! How can you speak of unhappiness when you have the choices you have!”

“You don’t know anything about my choices, and I’m aware of the suffering of the vast majority of mankind and I don’t want to hear about that ideal socialist state full of hairy little domestic groups, running around hacking each other to death in the name of progress. You’re looking for a way to explain things to yourself. You’ve picked the inevitable one at your age. Shaw said that anyone who wasn’t a socialist before thirty had no heart and anyone who was a socialist after thirty had no head.”

“I’d rather have a heart.”

“That’s a disgusting line to draw. As if we don’t have to live with both! That’s the curse of it all!”

A conversation between Annie and Ben Greenhouse—pages 186-187

Paula Fox is a writer that inspires me to write—reading each book is like rediscovering a favorite toy—or finding something precious. The Western Coast is chockfull of goodies just like Desperate Characters, The God of Nightmares, The Widow’s Children, and Poor George, (these are what I’ve read so far, I’m still building my collection.) Her vision is spot on; she’s fluent in intense grace, dark humor, tender agitation, meticulous brutality, and a keen sense of the absurd—it’s probably why I adore her work so much—good old gritty reality. Her books are a treasure chest full of words and wisdom—the kind of prickly wisdom that is so honest—because out there in the murky chaos life is unbearably ugly, yet in all of that, there is hope, love, and there is beauty along with a sweet smattering of puppies and kittens, and the once in a blue moon mini-donkey comes along to get us through it all. I’m so glad to have been given the opportunity to discover her, it took the intervention of someone like Jonathan Franzen to help get her out of print books back into the hands of readers, especially, aspiring young writers who are still sponges learning their craft. Honestly, there aren’t enough books by Paula Fox—damn.

“I was taken to California,” she said. “After awhile, I escaped.” –Last page, last sentence.

(Heading out to somewhere…won’t be back for awhile…)