- Fizzy Thoughts: Weekly Geeks: a literary tour

Weekly Geeks: a literary tour

Saturday, May 16, 2009

For this week's Weekly Geeks we're taking a literary tour of our hometown. Or, in my case, my home county.

I live in Morro Bay, California, a small coastal town of about 10,000 (mostly retired) people. Morro Bay is in San Luis Obispo County, which is smack dab between San Francisco and Los Angeles...it's about a four hour drive each way. There's not a whole lot going on here in SLO County, although we do have a nuclear power plant, a fault line, a state psychiatric hospital and a state prison. Despite all that, it's actually a gorgeous place to live (and visit). See...

And if you dig deep enough, we also have a few literary connections.

Christopher Moore used to live up the coast in Big Sur. While Big Sur isn't in SLO County, he did borrow one of our towns for three of his books. The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove, Practical Demonkeeping and The Stupidest Angel are all set in the fictional town of Pine Cove, which bears a striking resemblance to Cambria, a small town about 20 miles north of Morro Bay. Cambria is also the home of Catherine Ryan Hyde, the Pay It Forward author...but since I haven't read her books, I'll move on.

Another author that uses a fictionalized version of my county is Earlene Fowler. Her Benni Harper quilt-themed mystery series is based in our biggest city, San Luis Obispo. Although she has renamed it San Celina, the town is definitely San Luis Obispo. And the northern ranching part of the county makes an appearance, too. I read the first few books in the series years ago, but then moved away from mysteries and lost track of what the author was up to. Imagine my surprise when I recently saw the cover of her latest book...with a picture of Morro Rock on the cover!

Other than the fact that the town and the sand spit seem to have disappeared, it's pretty recognizable as Morro Bay.

Jay Asher is another local author, and his debut novel 13 Reasons Why has received lots of notice. I have no proof, but I highly suspect a couple of the locations in his book are based on actual spots in San Luis, particularly the movie theater and the coffee shop (oh wait, according to his blog, Linnaea's is the inspiration for Monet's...I knew it!).

And recently I learned that Jack Kerouac lived in San Luis Obispo for awhile. In 1953 he came to SLO to work for the railroad. This article in our local free weekly paper describes how SLO pops up in some of his writings. From the first paragraph of The Dharma Bums:

"Hopping a freight out of Los Angeles at high noon one day in late September 1955 I got on a gondola and lay down with my duffel bag under my head and my knees crossed and contemplated the clouds as we rolled north to Santa Barbara. It was a local and I intended to sleep on the beach at Santa Barbara that night and catch either another local to San Luis Obispo the next morning or the firstclass freight all the way to San Francisco at seven p.m. Somewhere near Camarillo where Charlie Parker'd been mad and relaxed back to normal health, a thin old little bum climbed into my gondola as we headed into a siding to give a train right of way and looked surprised to see me there."

Okay, so it's a brief mention and not even descriptive...the article has better examples. But still...Jack Kerouac and SLO. I've lived here for 32 years, and spent 6 years at college in San Luis Obispo. I can't believe this was the first time I'd heard the two mentioned together!

And finally, the same New Times that I just linked to for the Jack Kerouac article is the creator of 55 Fiction. New Times, which is based in San Luis Obispo, has run a yearly contest since 1987. However, before you get too excited about me living in an area with such a cool weekly newspaper, I'll add that they usually manage to offend some part of the population on a weekly basis. This week it was me, with an extremely offensive editorial cartoon. So it's pretty much a love-hate relationship we've got going on.

I hope you've enjoyed this brief glimpse of San Luis Obispo County...if you've come across this area in any of your readings, let me know!

17 comment(s):

gautami tripathy said...

Both are great writers. Loved your post.

WG: Salman Rushdie

Nymeth said...

Thank you so much for the tour :D That's so cool that Kerouac lived there. I'll make sure to let you know if I come across San Luis Obispo in a book!

Beth F said...

Super post. Some great authors live and/or have lived in your area.

If I discount the academic books coming out of the university, then I doubt my area has much claim to fame, except for Jennifer Chiaverini's Elm Creek series. When she first started writing, she lived in my area and some of the spots (including the creek) are recognizable--or so I'm told because I have yet to read one of the books.

bermudaonion said...

SLO is gorgeous! Nicholas Sparks used to live in the town we live in.

Elizabeth said...

I love Morro Bay! I have relatives that live in CA, and every time I fly out to visit them, they take me there. I have about 1,000 pictures of me, in all stages of growing up, standing by the big rock. It's beautiful!

Ali said...

I knew about the Christopher Moore connection but forgot, so learned it all over again today. This was a really fun post for me to read since I periodically visit the area but am not as familiar with it as I'd like to be. I'm half convinced I'm going to run into Jay Asher next time I come down. Maybe we (you and I, not me and Jay--though he can come too if he wants) can meet up at Linnaea's when I come down this summer? That'd be a kick for me.

girasoli said...

Was there a scary movie made about Morro Bay? I don't know why that name sounds so familiar. Fun tour of your county. Interesting landmarks.

Florinda said...

I don't know if I knew the Christopher Moore/Morro Bay connection before, but we keep talking about taking a drive up that way...now we have even more of a reason!

I do know of one non-literary San Luis Obispo claim to fame (or infamy): "Weird Al" Yankovic attended Cal Poly there :-).

Melissa said...

Ah, to live someplace cool, and call someone like Jay Asher "local". Sigh. :) The pictures were gorgeous, too.

Mari said...

My absolute favorite coastal towns. :)
I grew up about 2 hours east of here but this was our families favorite vacation spot. Usually we stay in Cayucos but visit all the towns mentioned. I am jealous that you get to live hear all the time. :)

Kristen said...

Great post!

Maree said...

Great post - and what a gorgeous spot to live in.
Happy Weekly Geeks! :)

Louise said...

I loved your post. As you may remember, I visited SLO and Morro Bay two years ago in May 2007 when I "did" Highway One from SF. Loved it. And am hoping to come back another time and do it again.

I am now slowly getting back into blogging after having been away for too long, but my thesis is more or less finished and to celebrate that, I actually went to the library and picked up some thrillers to read, which has nothing to do with thesis-writing, university or anything :-) Anyway, it is a bit funny that I also picked up On The Road by Jack Kerouac. I've never read it, and thought, well, isn't it some sort of a classic one should read? So I also borrowed that one. And now you mention him as well.

I hope to find time to do this Weekly Geeks as I suddenly have many ideas :-)


Trin said...

How cool, to see the book cover and the picture of the sea and how recognizable it was.

Ladytink_534 said...

Wow what a great post! I just love these pictures :)

Wrighty said...

It sounds and looks like an amazing place to live! I love the book cover with Morro Rock. That is certainly distinctive. Thanks for the tour!

Joanne said...

The Christopher Moore connection is awesome! And I love the pictures you posted. Especially that giant volcanic rock thing on the coast. I love living near the ocean.

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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