California by Edan Lepucki

Another strong book. This one’s set in a near to very near future, a very slouching apocalypse. In the background terrible things are happening (hinted at or alluded to throughout the book), and terrible things happened before. The heart of the book, though, is about small communities and withdrawal.

The two POV characters begin in the wilderness of a largely depopulated future. They begin well aligned, two against the world, struggling in primitive conditions and savoring the small victories. The world of the beginning is no Eden… except against the corrupted world revealed in flashbacks and (especially) going forward as they explore.

The ambiguity of the decline (which, especially at first, is presented as mostly a people give up and opt out future) keeps you invested in figuring out how the world went wrong. The obvious pieces, which show up in the politics of both the past and future, is a grasping withdrawal from the commons of the wealthy. A lot of the book pivots about memories of movements to fight back against that withdrawal and the complexities underlying even small villages.

I keep dancing around revealing the plot threads, though these are almost entirely just to keep track of what I’ve read. Long story short, this is a slow built complex feeling world. For such small communities, there’s a lot of tricky relations and histories to work through…

Frieda and Calvin really work as authentic characters in a world that feels realistic–a future like “another couple of years down the wrong path…” The ebb and flow of the couple’s relationship and trust also rung true. Honestly well done, though bleak.

California Governance

This post talks about organizing a Constitutional Convention for our near ungovernable state. It’s interesting, and an even more dramatic proposal than my posts last year imagined (1, 2). [Reforming the legislature by dramatically amending it via ballot initiative.]

I agree it’s an appealing thought. I also suspect that as soon as they came together it would spiral out of control, with capture by existing interests and the forces of moderation preventing a substantial fix.

Since I scribbled down my original idea, I keep noticing editorials and articles talking about ungovernable California. Our current budget crisis isn’t unique– it happens during most recessions– but it is huge and stubbornly resistant to compromise. I wonder if smaller, less completely ideologically aligned districts would be a successful first step in correcting it.

California Legislature: Time for a bugfix?

Article 4 of the California Constitution is where the legislative branch is established.

I have been musing about the structural shortcomings of our state constitution for a long time. Every year, there is the “missed budget deadline” series of articles, because structurally the constitution sets the state up for gridlock.

Continue reading “California Legislature: Time for a bugfix?”