Feared and romanticized throughout the ages, the desert has a hold on our imagination that is never more evident than in the literature it has inspired. From Mary Austin’s meditations in The Land of Little Rain to Joan Didion’s acerbic cast of characters in Play It As It Lays, the desert’s seemingly barren landscapes have provided rich ground for writers to explore.
These explorations have been collected for the first time in No Place for a Puritan. In this anthology are stories that thrill, frighten, sadden, and inspire: a man foolishly and arrogantly collecting live rattlesnakes; a lone woman striving to make a home in a remote desert canyon; a drug-addled journalist’s drive from Los Angeles to Las Vegas; a Japanese American family coping with incarceration during World War II; and one man’s developing friendship with General Patton in a military training camp. There are tales of spiritual and scientific discoveries and of the cities blossoming in the farthest corners of the California desert.
Including the works of local writers—Susan Straight, Gayle Brandeis, Juan Felipe Herrera, Ruth Nolan, and others—as well as household names such as John Steinbeck, Aldous Huxley, Hunter S. Thompson, Jon Krakauer, Rebecca Solnit, and Barry Lopez, No Place for a Puritan is a collection that disturbs and enchants.
Ruth Nolan, M.A., is a native of the Mojave Desert in the Apple Valley area and Associate Professor of English College of the Desert near Palm Springs, California. She is also a poet, writer, and book editor/publisher. For two summer seasons, 1986-87, she worked for the BLM as a helicopter hotshot and engine crew firefighter in the California Desert District, and has extensively hiked, traveled, and embraced the essence of her desert homeland.
She is editor of the new anthology, No Place for a Puritan: the literature of California’s deserts, published by Heyday Books. She was awarded a Joshua Tree National Park Affiliate Writers Residency for 2008-09, and recently collaborated on a film about the park with the UCR/California Museum of Photography. Her poetry has appeared in many literary publications, including Inlandia: a Literary Journey Through Southern California’s Inland Empire, Poemeleon, Askew, Pacific Review, Epicenter, Mosaic, Southern California Haiku Journal, and San Diego Poetry Annual. She co-edits Phantom Seed, a bi-annual literary magazine dedicated to the nuances of the California desert, and is advisor to the College of the Desert literary/visual arts magazine, Solstice. Her poetry collections include Wild Wash Road (1996) and Dry Waterfall (2008.) She lectures and speaks widely on desert literature and related topics, such as desert conservation and California Indian culture.
Ruth Nolan writes poetry and prose pieces about her life and journeys throughout the desert, and also posts her original desert photography on her blog, at ruthnolan.blogspot.com