The 1930s was a rich time in Laguna’s literary history, with John Steinbeck, Lawrence Clark Powell and Tennessee Williams taking up residence here for a few months or a few years as they honed their literary craft. Joining these American literary icons is Mary Frances Kennedy (M. F. K.) Fisher, best known for writing about food and culture with insight and wit that rivals her masculine counterparts.
Fisher grew up in Whittier, the daughter of a newspaperman. Family connections brought her to Laguna Beach for frequent childhood visits, and it was Laguna that inspired her first published piece. Called “Pacific Village,” it sold to Westways magazine in 1935 for $10, plus $25 for three accompanying sketches.
Perhaps most striking about Fisher’s description of the Pacific Village, which she disguises with the pseudonym “Olas,” is how relevant her observations are still. Consider this excerpt:
“Olas is a coast village, beautifully located. Artists and pseudo-artists flock to it…Some of them, artists, old settlers, young enthusiasts for life in the raw or with no hate and no golf clubs, want to keep it just as it is—or, even more desirable, as it used to be: quiet, so unknown that Saturday and Sunday were like Tuesday, beaches empty, rocks and cliffs free for uninterrupted sketching of any kind. Olas’ other lovers, just as sincerely, want to exploit to the bursting point its strong and attractive character. They want to develop it, to lure more people to it, so that all the houses may be full. Then more roads will be built into the silent hills, more houses sown on more lots, and more business will flourish on the bustling streets of what will soon change from village to town…”
Astutely, Fisher doesn’t take sides in the village vs. town battle, but rather writes that the two sides cohabit, each existing and fighting because of the other. “And while shouts and sneers and low groans gather like warring birds in the air, Olas lies still in the creases of the ocean-slipping hills, one bead strung with many like it on the long coast road. It is rather uncomfortable. It aches at times. Rheumatism or growing pains?” Indeed.