The Western Coast

Written by Paula Fox
Review by Marcia K. Matthews

The Western Coast is a picaresque narrative in which place is the theme. In this gritty urban reality, everyone is flawed. Seventeen-year-old Annie moves from New York to California where she meets a series of eccentric characters, lives in a series of shabby apartments, and works a series of mindless jobs. She’s an innocent surrounded by unsavory types, Alice in Sleazeland.

Acting on a lead from her Communist friend, she finds an apartment and meets Jake. Dialogue on the fly evokes the verité style. Jake sets up anticipation that Annie will meet his buddy Carson, but like so many threads in this novel, this one leads nowhere. At the “freak house” Annie meets screenwriters who eviscerate their acquaintances with comments like, “Why should he have gotten away with his delusions any more than the rest of us do?” Our hopes for amusement are lower than the basement where Annie works.

There is some good writing, such as Annie’s daydream of the Catalan welder, a simple youth who becomes the object of Annie’s fantasy. A tone of controlled insanity is maintained throughout. In plot, goal and conflict, the story is lacking, meandering with too many details. We zoom in to a painfully intimate closeness while Annie is buffeted by the events of WWII on the home front.