Carolyn See, the Los Angeles-raised writer, teacher and critic who wrote often of her city, died Wednesday of cancer in Santa Monica, her daughter Lisa See announced.
See "wrote of the Southland with a native’s intimacy," says the nice Los Angeles Times obituary by former staffer Mary Rourke. "Her fourth novel, 'Golden Days' (1986), brought her the greatest attention. A dark comedy set in Topanga Canyon, where See lived for many years, the story builds around misfits, free spirits and the starry-eyed graduates of self-help workshops. The novel sealed her identity as a writer."
“Carolyn was the defining voice for a certain kind of California experience in the mid-’70s and 1980s," author, critic and lawyer Jonathan Kirsch says in the obit. “Others looked at California as a cliché, a broken dream, a joke. Carolyn looked at the same California and saw redemption.” in a 1993 piece, Kirsch called See "the poet laureate of Topanga Canyon."
Also from the LA Times obituary:
In “Golden Days,” the narrator, Edith, rails against the powerful men in Washington who seem bent on war and the ruin of her utopia. Then, a lone “crazy” drops a nuclear bomb somewhere in Central America. Edith and her friends see nuclear fallout as the start of a better world to come. They watch for new growth on the hillsides and they survive while others in See's story do not....
See’s most recent novel was 2007’s “There Will Never Be Another You.” She moved fluidly between fiction, criticism and nonfiction.
Her 1995 memoir, “Dreaming, Hard Luck and Good Times in America,” was among of her most popular books. Her parents' drinking binges, her mother's nasty snipes and her own wild streak are detailed with humor and understanding.
“Carolyn could be brutally honest, never more so than about family,” author Judith Freeman, a longtime friend, said in 2008.
Her third novel, “Rhine Maidens,” (1981) established See as a distinctive voice from the West Coast. The story builds on the strained relationship between a mother and daughter that seems inspired by See's own experience with her mother.
See grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from Marshall High School, Cal State LA and UCLA, where she earned a Ph.D. and taught creative writing in the English department for many years. See also created a $100,000 endowment at UCLA, for the study of Southern California literature. Her father had been a reporter for the original LA Daily News and later wrote pornographic pulp fiction.
Some tweets from the SoCal books community.
My mom, Carolyn See, passed away yesterday. Here's her obituary from the L.A. Times https://t.co/44a2qJuKY2— Lisa See (@Lisa_See) July 14, 2016
Had hoped this wasn't true. Teacher, mentor, friend: Carolyn See, award-winning Southern California writerdies at 82 https://t.co/A4JAxsKFJ6— Lynell George (@lynellgeorge) July 14, 2016
Terribly sad at the death of my friend Carolyn See. No one made me laugh the way she did. https://t.co/iPhqmJJI38— Kenneth Turan (@KennethTuran) July 14, 2016
Thank you, Carolyn See, for helping us make our literary lives. Love to you. https://t.co/dLNoysZUjh— Tara Ison (@TaraIsonWriter) July 15, 2016
I only knew Carolyn See a little, but those few interactions made me a fan for life. RIP. https://t.co/OpAItJmBmH https://t.co/LnvgskbCmG— Maret Orliss (@maretorliss) July 14, 2016
So sad to hear of the death of Carolyn See. A legendary writer and a woman of legendary kindness. Here's a treasure: pic.twitter.com/9qfk6IKJTW— Tod Goldberg (@todgoldberg) July 14, 2016