Frank Kermode

Even if you enjoy Southern California as much as Reyner Banham you may still, like him, draw the line at those discreetly fenced-in and fortified cities in which the better-off sometimes choose to live, and at whose gates the visitor must check with the guardians before being allowed to enter. I recently spent a few days in one of these suburban paradises. It occupies a large tract of the Palos Verdes peninsula, its hills dotted with single-storey houses, tennis courts, swimming pools, corrals, and criss-crossed by trails created by the settlers for the use of their equestrian families. The endless rains of last winter have washed out many of the trails, and streams flow across them, scaring horses which have never seen running water. Large pieces of property have dropped off and blocked the roads. The nearby beaches have been shrunk by storms. It all seems a bit hard on people who have accepted the high risk of earthquakes but never dreamed of such destructive weather.

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