Synopses & Reviews
This second volume in Kevin Starr's passionate and ambitious cultural history of the Golden State focuses on the turn-of-the-century years and the emergence of Southern California as a regional culture in its own right. "How hauntingly beautiful, how replete with lost possibilities, seems that Southern California of two and three generations ago, now that a dramatically diferent society has emerged in its place," writes Starr.
As he recreates the "lost California," Starr examines the rich variety of elements that figured in the growth of the Southern California way of life: the Spanish/Mexican roots, the fertile land, the Mediterranean-like climate, the special styles in architecture, the rise of Hollywood. He gives us a broad array of engaging (and often eccentric) characters: from Harrision Gray Otis to Helen Hunt Jackson to Cecil B. DeMille. Whether discussing the growth of winemaking or the burgeoning of reform movements, Starr keeps his central theme in sharp focus: how Californians defined their identity to themselves and to the nation.
"In this robust sequel to Americans and the California Dream
(1973), Starr traces how Southern Californians 'defined their region to themselves and to others in the 1850-1920 period'....[Starr] persuasively presents the cultural ingredients that have made Southern California a symbol of America's continuing with health, the good life, youth, sexual vitality, and entrepreneurial success."--Cultural Information Service
"An achievement deserving respect and certain to give lasting value."--California History
"[Starr] once more provides intellectual exploration at its best."--Pacific Historical Review
"Starr has written the best explanation yet of why the land south of Tehachapi is now the country's model and pace-setter."--Books of the Southwest
"A delightful and extremely thorough chronicle of a state that is almost a mythical kingdom. Nobody who is interested in any of the intellectual currents of American history, or of the roots of twentieth (perhaps even twenty-first) century thought can fail to enjoy this."--St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"Having already given us Americans and the California Dream, Kevin Starr bids fair to become the foremost chronicler of that often fabulous region, imposing upon the dramatic elements of California history a novelist's imagination and a cosmopolitan and sophisticated intelligence."--Philadelphia Inquirer
"An excellent book...vividly written, thoroughly researched, rich in details and alive with interesting, and sometimes incredible people."--Los Angeles Times
"Readable and intelligent."--The New Yorker
"An impressive book...The grasp is sure, the learning awesome. The prose...has a drive that carries cities and industries and people and decades headlong toward their manifest destiny."--The New York Times
With the exception of certain deliberate excursions to the north, this narrative is more than half concerned with the rise of Southern California in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The focus remains, as usual, the imaginative and symbolic aspects of experience as the imagination impinges upon social and psychological realities and in turn transforms the materials of experience into the building blocks of identity.