New writers approaching creative work are often told that “landscape should be a character,” or, even worse, “landscape is a character.” To the extent this means anything, it’s well-intentioned enough. Landscape should be vivid, is how the phrase breaks down, and it should be important to the plot. But I’ve long wondered whether saying “landscape should be a character” is to misunderstand the nature of both character and landscape. More… “Landscape is Action”

John Cotter’s first novel Under the Small Lights appeared in 2010 from Miami University Press. A founding editor at the review site Open Letters Monthly, John’s published critical work in Sculpture, Bookforum, and The The Poetry Foundation. Say hi at John [at] JohnCotter [dot] net.
Hockney's love letter to the California light.


Driving through the hills of northern San Diego County in the evening is lonely. The sun sets due west over the Pacific Ocean, red sinking into blue. There’s the scrub brush and the desert flora, dusty green against brown and beige. The streets are so wide, so empty. Streetlights throw down orange circles at regular intervals, electrified polka dots for nobody. The sound of tires against smooth concrete roads matches the tempo and degree of the light, soft and rounded over the canyons, content barely to exist at all.

David Hockney understood that light and that tempo. He came to Los Angeles for the light. He came also for the space, the open space just sitting there, waiting for the light to come upon it. It was the solution to a formal problem: Where do you go from… More…