The sequence is as predictable as the season itself: The calendar reads “fall” but the thermometer registers 90-plus. The Santa Ana winds kick up. Wildfires zipper across the landscape. Once again Joan Didion whispers in the Southland’s collective ear.

“I have neither heard nor read that a Santa Ana is due, but I know it, and almost everyone I have seen today knows it too,” she writes in “Slouching Towards Bethlehem.” “We know it because we feel it. The baby frets. The maid sulks. … To live with the Santa Ana is to accept, consciously or unconsciously, a deeply mechanistic view of human behavior.”

Novelists, essayists and poets, photographers and painters have all evoked the region in its inscrutability and calamity, but Didion’s measured cadence is embedded

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