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Gold Fame Citrus (2015)

by Claire Vaye Watkins

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6623834,406 (3.27)51
"The much-anticipated first novel from a Story Prize-winning "5 Under 35" fiction writer. In 2012, Claire Vaye Watkins's story collection, Battleborn, swept nearly every award for short fiction. Now this young writer, widely heralded as a once-in-a-generation talent, returns with a first novel that harnesses the sweeping vision and deep heart that made her debut so arresting to a love story set in a devastatingly imagined near future. Unrelenting drought has transfigured Southern California into a surreal, phantasmagoric landscape. With the Central Valley barren, underground aquifer drained, and Sierra snowpack entirely depleted, most "Mojavs," prevented by both armed vigilantes and an indifferent bureaucracy from freely crossing borders to lusher regions, have allowed themselves to be evacuated to internment camps. In Los Angeles' Laurel Canyon, two young Mojavs. Luz, once a poster child for the Bureau of Conservation and its enemies, and Ray, a veteran of the "forever war" turned surfer--squat in a starlet's abandoned mansion. Holdouts, they subsist on rationed cola and whatever they can loot, scavenge, and improvise. The couple's fragile love somehow blooms in this arid place, and for the moment, it seems enough. But when they cross paths with a mysterious child, the thirst for a better future begins. They head east, a route strewn with danger: sinkholes and patrolling authorities, bandits and the brutal, omnipresent sun. Ghosting after them are rumors of a visionary dowser a diviner for waterand his followers, who whispers say have formed a colony at the edge of a mysterious sea of dunes. Immensely moving, profoundly disquieting, and mind-blowingly original, Watkins's novel explores the myths we believe about others and tell about ourselves, the double-edged power of our most cherished relationships, and the shape of hope in a precarious future that may be our own"--… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
Watkins' debut is a dystopian novel set in a California where endless drought has caused a vast dune sea to engulf the Mojave and the Sierras, creating a society of climate refugees desperate for water and for escape.

Luz and Ray are two such displaced persons. Living in a mansion abandoned by a starlet, they decide to take her vintage Karmann Ghia and head for Seattle and safety. On the way, they steal a child, Ig, from a group of drifters.

Coming to grief in the dune sea, Luz is found by a group of survivalists living on the edge. Their leader, Levi, has big dreams in which Luz and Ig both play a part.

This is a pretty good book, albeit with a few confusing loose ends and, frankly, terrible sex scenes. It reminded me somewhat of The Road, Lord of the Flies, and even Dune at times. Watkins is a talent to watch. ( )
  gjky | Apr 9, 2023 |
Not sure what I thought this would be but its an interesting presentation of a west without water. I liked "Water Knife" better though. ( )
  ELockett | Sep 26, 2022 |
The first sentence had me. I love these sort of terrifying ultra plausible, inevitable eco-dystopias. Really, a collapse of the delicate systems of human beings wouldn't take much. And when will we know when we're actually IN IT? The scenario in Claire Vaye Watkin's imaginative book is drought causing sandvalanches at the site of the Amargosa Super Dune, swallowing America 500,000 years before it should, particularly in the already-almost-gone deserts of the American West. Luz is an ex-model squatting in the rich mansions of the "laurelless canyon" with her boyfriend. Because of Luz's status as a Mojav, a new sort of refugee from the waterless places, disregarded and condemned by those living in the "better" parts of America, Luz, her boyfriend and a stolen child find themselves in the Super Dune. Though now as I'm typing, I'm questioning if Luz is a Mojav, because I feel there wasn't enough of her back story. Either Luz is too vapid for this book, the desert slows everything down OR possibly some of these topics are tough for Claire Vaye Watkins to write about... I'm not sure if it was a combination of selfish main characters and the result of some of their choices, or the writer's own closeness to things like her family's familiarity with a cult or operating a writing workshop for teens called the Mojave School -- but something seemed to keep the general text at a remove from the reader, while I loved the level of detail in other parts of the novel. One example: the story is told in different ways, like a Super Dune bestiary including drawings. Though there is no set time that I could find (which is a smart thing to do for any eco-fiction), a fantastic description of future nightmarish TV shows probably set the time (yet since the publication of this book in 2015, TV is probably much closer to TV shows available now.) It's the little details that make Claire Vaye Watkins a writer I'm looking forward to reading more from.
Set this on the shelf next to:
The New Wilderness - Diane Cook
California - Edan Lepucki
A Friend of the Earth & Drop City & The Tortilla Curtain - T.C. Boyle
Trouble No Man - Brian Hart
Severance - Ling Ma
Annihilation - Jeff VanderMeer (if America was being taken over by a desert instead of what happens in 'Annihilation') ( )
  booklove2 | May 13, 2022 |
When a Novel Fails ...

Let the title be a warning to literary fiction fans who like their writers to make a dollop of sense and to dystopian novel fans who cherish sharp conflict and galvanic plotting: if the title makes little sense, don’t expect the avalanche of words following to clarify things.

Doubtless, Watkins can write evocative descriptions. Unfortunately, in her novel, these become the centerpiece of the entire literary venture. The plot boils down to no more than wandering aimlessly in a desert, an unwanted gift of from humankind’s reckless disregard of natural resources. Her characters, the wanders, mull much over, but instead of intriguing you and stimulating your own thoughts, they commit a cardinal sin of literature, for which, you will feel them justly condemned to the desert: they bore you to distraction.

And this is a shame, for there lurks within these pages a potentially interesting novel. Less time getting out of L.A., less time baking under the sun, less time waxing on and on about what things look and feel like, more time expanding upon the chaos caused by the drought, perhaps expansion of the mining section and a rant on authoritarianism, a more coherent crystallization of the mad prophet of the desert, and the addition of more consciousness to the desert, an anthropomorphism often hinted at but never realized, perhaps these might have made this a better novel, or at least a more enjoyable one. ( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
When a Novel Fails ...

Let the title be a warning to literary fiction fans who like their writers to make a dollop of sense and to dystopian novel fans who cherish sharp conflict and galvanic plotting: if the title makes little sense, don’t expect the avalanche of words following to clarify things.

Doubtless, Watkins can write evocative descriptions. Unfortunately, in her novel, these become the centerpiece of the entire literary venture. The plot boils down to no more than wandering aimlessly in a desert, an unwanted gift of from humankind’s reckless disregard of natural resources. Her characters, the wanders, mull much over, but instead of intriguing you and stimulating your own thoughts, they commit a cardinal sin of literature, for which, you will feel them justly condemned to the desert: they bore you to distraction.

And this is a shame, for there lurks within these pages a potentially interesting novel. Less time getting out of L.A., less time baking under the sun, less time waxing on and on about what things look and feel like, more time expanding upon the chaos caused by the drought, perhaps expansion of the mining section and a rant on authoritarianism, a more coherent crystallization of the mad prophet of the desert, and the addition of more consciousness to the desert, an anthropomorphism often hinted at but never realized, perhaps these might have made this a better novel, or at least a more enjoyable one. ( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
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There it is. Take it.

William Mullholland
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FOR D.A.P.
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Punting the prairie dog into the library was a mistake.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"The much-anticipated first novel from a Story Prize-winning "5 Under 35" fiction writer. In 2012, Claire Vaye Watkins's story collection, Battleborn, swept nearly every award for short fiction. Now this young writer, widely heralded as a once-in-a-generation talent, returns with a first novel that harnesses the sweeping vision and deep heart that made her debut so arresting to a love story set in a devastatingly imagined near future. Unrelenting drought has transfigured Southern California into a surreal, phantasmagoric landscape. With the Central Valley barren, underground aquifer drained, and Sierra snowpack entirely depleted, most "Mojavs," prevented by both armed vigilantes and an indifferent bureaucracy from freely crossing borders to lusher regions, have allowed themselves to be evacuated to internment camps. In Los Angeles' Laurel Canyon, two young Mojavs. Luz, once a poster child for the Bureau of Conservation and its enemies, and Ray, a veteran of the "forever war" turned surfer--squat in a starlet's abandoned mansion. Holdouts, they subsist on rationed cola and whatever they can loot, scavenge, and improvise. The couple's fragile love somehow blooms in this arid place, and for the moment, it seems enough. But when they cross paths with a mysterious child, the thirst for a better future begins. They head east, a route strewn with danger: sinkholes and patrolling authorities, bandits and the brutal, omnipresent sun. Ghosting after them are rumors of a visionary dowser a diviner for waterand his followers, who whispers say have formed a colony at the edge of a mysterious sea of dunes. Immensely moving, profoundly disquieting, and mind-blowingly original, Watkins's novel explores the myths we believe about others and tell about ourselves, the double-edged power of our most cherished relationships, and the shape of hope in a precarious future that may be our own"--

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Unrelenting drought has transfigured Southern California into a surreal, phantasmagoric landscape. With the Central Valley barren, underground aquifer drained, and Sierra snowpack entirely depleted, most “Mojavs,” prevented by both armed vigilantes and an indifferent bureaucracy from freely crossing borders to lusher regions, have allowed themselves to be evacuated to internment camps. In Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon, two young Mojavs—Luz, once a poster child for the Bureau of Conservation and its enemies, and Ray, a veteran of the “forever war” turned surfer—squat in a starlet’s abandoned mansion. Holdouts, they subsist on rationed cola and whatever they can loot, scavenge, and improvise.

The couple’s fragile love somehow blooms in this arid place, and for the moment, it seems enough. But when they cross paths with a mysterious child, the thirst for a better future begins. They head east, a route strewn with danger: sinkholes and patrolling authorities, bandits and the brutal, omnipresent sun. Ghosting after them are rumors of a visionary dowser—a diviner for water—and his followers, who whispers say have formed a colony at the edge of a mysterious sea of dunes.
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