The Frontier of Leisure: Southern California and the Shaping of Modern America

Lawrence Culver, Oxford Univ., $29.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-19-538263-1
In his first full-length effort, beach tans, bungalows, and the California dream drive historian Culver's smart and insightful exploration of the region's lasting association with tourism and recreation. While Culver views the promotion of leisure in Southern California as the coincidental result of a national phenomenon, he argues that this new attitude towards recreation played a big part in the country's development during the 20th century. The region as a realm of Anglo-American leisure was created by Charles Fletcher Lummis, a writer and California "booster," in the 1870s, Culver contends. And the newly-established Los Angeles appealed initially to the unwell but drew hordes of tourists and home-seekers by the 1920s, solidifying the region's identity as an exotic, libertine escape from East-coast labor, a myth that was aggressively promoted by chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, among others. Culver also notes frequent historical attempts to limit recreation in Southern California to affluent whites and the resulting racial tension, but is primarily interested in the effect the area's leisure culture had on the country, influencing not only the construction of suburbs and homes, but the way that Americans think about nature, modernity, and play. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 11/22/2010
Release date: 09/01/2010
Genre: Nonfiction
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