Emily Witt writes:
Early in The Mars Room, a bus full of prisoners is being transported upstate from Los Angeles County on Interstate 5, which bisects California’s Central Valley. The bus passes by the stench of a cattle farm and follows a truck full of turkeys headed to slaughter. The valley is blighted, ‘a brutal, flat, machined landscape, with a strange lemonade light, thick with drifting topsoil and other pollutants from farm equipments and oil refineries’. It is California’s backside, a vast landscape of things people don’t like to think about: slaughterhouses, industrialised agriculture, and the institutions of America’s penal system.