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The Left Coast: California on the Edge    by Philip Fradkin & Alex Fradkin Amazon.com order for
Left Coast
by Philip Fradkin
Order:  USA  Can
University of California, 2011 (2011)
Softcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Environmental historian Philip Fradkin collaborates with his son, photographer Alex Fradkin, on this book. With the text supplied by Philip and the photos by Alex, this overview mixes history, geography, interviews and personal experiences to look at the coastal areas from a number of different perspectives.

The book's eight chapters are entitled The Wild Coast (Sinkyone Wilderness), The Agricultural Coast (western Marin County), The Residential Coast (Daly City, Pacifica, Half Moon Bay), The Tourist Coast (Monterey), The Recreational Coast (Santa Monica, Venice, Marina del Rey), The Industrial Coast (Port of Los Angeles), The Political Coast (Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve) and The Military Coast (San Diego).

In the book's prologue, Philip Fradkin explains that he believes, 'The words and images not only define the coast, but they also go a long way toward explaining California.' Perhaps!

I am not sure all readers will be completely in agreement with this assertion . Although I do not take issue with what Fradkin has to say, I have to wonder about the areas he selected to focus upon.

For example, I would suggest that either the Central Coast or the area from Santa Maria to Oxnard would be more representative of the agricultural coast than Marin County. Also, I think the coastline from Los Angeles to San Diego would be a better example of the residential coast.

But since the author explains he is revisiting areas he discussed in an earlier book (The Golden Coast) published 37 years ago, I guess we must accept his designations if we wish to accompany him on a trip down Memory Lane.

Fradkin also notes that his son's photos do not necessarily relate to the text. 'The photographs illustrate the different activities but range more widely than my descriptions to give the subject a greater geographic and interpretive reach,' he explains.

That being said, one has to wonder why a full page color photo of a red shopping cart sitting in front of a mural of an agricultural scene painted on the wall of a building in downtown Watsonville (a small agricultural town about eight to ten miles from the coast) appears in the Recreational Coast chapter of the book. Somehow this just doesn't seem to fit the section no matter how you look at it! If there is a statement being made here it escapes me totally.

A better approach to the photography included in this volume would be to ignore the chapter headings and just look at the photos and enjoy them for what they are a series of fairly decent pictures.

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