Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950–1963

Kevin Starr, Author . Oxford Univ. $34.95 (564p) ISBN 978-0-19-515377-4

This volume concludes Starr's unprecedented seven-volume history of a single American state. While out of chronological order (Starr covered the period 1990–2003 in Coast of Dreams ) and often ranging far beyond the book's stated dates, this final volume is of the same high quality as the previous ones: spirited in style, comprehensive and long. Starr covers a broad range of subjects: demography, water, freeways, politics, culture, the state's major cities, race relations. As in all other volumes, he hangs his story on sketches of many of California's often larger-than-life individuals, among them Buffy Chandler, Cardinal McIntyre, Pat Brown, Dave Brubeck, Clark Kerr, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Herb Caen. But too often biography substitutes for analysis. Letting others speak for him, Starr rarely lets an authorial voice shine through or a critical stance intrude. The result is wonderfully readable descriptive history, but not a history that leaves readers with a fresh take on the Golden State as a whole. That's a pity, for no one knows more about California than Starr. We could have used at least his concluding thoughts on the state's past and future. 30 b&w photos. (July)

Reviewed on: 05/11/2009
Release date: 07/01/2009
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 564 pages - 978-0-19-983249-1
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