Trail Posts: A Literary Exploration of California’s State Parks is a 2014 compilation of writing about the different properties in the State Park system. This book is available at amazon.com and at brick-and-mortar bookstores in the state; I bought my copy with my own funds at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, California. The anthology is 269 pages long and includes a section of color photographs of some of the state parks profiled in the text.
The anthology is organized geographically, starting in the north and moving down throughout the state. Different literary genres serve to introduce the reader to the varied literary works that have focused on different places in the state. Some of the writers, such as John Steinbeck, are well-known; others, such as the poet Robinson Jeffers and the novelist Isabel Allende, have names that are familiar to those with literary tastes in reading. Still others have fallen into relative obscurity except for the connection of the name with a particular location. Richard Henry Dana, for example, represented with an excerpt describing the Santa Barbara Presidio State Historic Park, is rarely read but is remembered as the namesake of Dana Point. Finally, there are those who are only remembered by those with a specific interest in California history.
This anthology is comprehensive, covering a wide variety of coastal and Central Valley parks. Many of the excerpts invite further reading; the novelist Susan Straight, for example, breathes new interest into the working-class towns that collectively form what is known as the Inland Empire, just east of Los Angeles. Readers acquainted with more famous works by Jack Kerouac, and Mark Twain will be inspired to read more extensively within the particular writer’s oeuvre, discovering a new angle on California history.
The selections in any anthology can be hit-or-miss for the reader, and this one is no exception. Some of the entries seem to be included for historical reasons only, making the reader wonder why there is so little of literary value connected with certain parts of the state. The excerpt from Jack London’s The Valley of the Moon springs to mind; this novel is perhaps not the best representation of the author. Other selections do a much better job of highlighting the writer; John Muir’s “The Bee-Pastures” is a wonderful description of what has become the area around Interstate 5, reminding the reader that every part of the state was once completely rural rather than part of the nation’s agricultural system.
This anthology is not intended as a description of or guide to the California State Park system, but as a companion, perhaps to be read while touring the various parks profiled within its pages. As an introduction to the writers of California, it is of mixed value; as an attempt to demonstrate the linkage of nature, history, and literature, it succeeds somewhat better. For those who spend time in the State Parks and want to learn more about the history and literature of the state, it is of value.
Margolin, Malcom, and Mariko Conner. Trail Posts: A Literary Exploration of California’ State Parks. Heyday Books, Berkeley, CA, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-59714-272-4.
FTC Requirement: I bought my own copy of this book.All of my reviews are my own honest opinion. I received no compensation from the publisher or editor for this book review.