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Golden Dreams: California in an Age of…
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Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963 (Americans and… (edição: 2011)

de Kevin Starr (Autor)

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1181186,084 (3.93)1
A narrative tour de force that combines wide-ranging scholarship with captivating prose, Kevin Starr's acclaimed multi-volume Americans and the California Dream is an unparalleled work of cultural history. In this volume, Starr covers the crucial postwar period - 1950 to 1963 - when theCalifornia we know today first burst into prominence.Starr brilliantly illuminates the dominant economic, social, and cultural forces in California in these pivotal years. In a powerful blend of telling events, colorful personalities, and insightful analyses, Starr examines such issues as the overnight creation of the postwar California suburb, therise of Los Angeles as Super City, the reluctant emergence of San Diego as one of the largest cities in the nation, and the decline of political centrism. He explores the Silent Generation and the emergent Boomer youth cult, the Beats and the Hollywood "Rat Pack," the pervasive influence of ZenBuddhism and other Asian traditions in art and design, the rise of the University of California and the emergence of California itself as a utopia of higher education, the cooling of West Coast jazz, freeway and water projects of heroic magnitude, outdoor life and the beginnings of the environmentalmovement. More broadly, he shows how California not only became the most populous state in the Union, but in fact evolved into a mega-state en route to becoming the global commonwealth it is today.Golden Dreams continues an epic series that has been widely recognized for its signal contribution to the history of American culture in California. It is a book that transcends its stated subject to offer a wealth of insight into the growth of the Sun Belt and the West and indeed the dramatictransformation of America itself in these pivotal years following the Second World War.… (mais)
Membro:Callandra
Título:Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963 (Americans and the California Dream)
Autores:Kevin Starr (Autor)
Informação:Oxford University Press (2011), Edition: Illustrated, 576 pages
Coleções:audible.com books
Avaliação:
Etiquetas:audible.com, history, California, San Francisco, 20th century, US, culture

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Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963 (Americans and the California Dream) de Kevin Starr

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Mid-century California is one of the one of the most important times and places in American history. This all the more so because it wasn't marked by war or economic crisis, but seemingly continuous growth and progress on a scale not only unprecedented but unrepeatable - over the 1950-1963 timeframe the book concentrates on, the state expanded by nearly two-thirds, which meant a net of an astonishing half-million people per year. I was originally drawn to this book because I live in Texas, and here there's an annoying narrative of Texas on the upswing contrasted with California's seeming decline, a partisan argument about governmental philosophies masked as impartial demographic statistics. Not knowing much about California other than that it's huge and that it's the inevitable comparison point for anything Texas does, I was curious what lessons, if any, could be drawn from California's own ascendancy to center stage of the national debate a few decades ago.

It turns out that there's quite a bit to learn. Starr has done a tremendous job synthesizing vast amounts of research on California's transformation into the most American part of America, a position it's never really relinquished. He talks about the booming of the major cities and the blossoming of the minor towns. He analyzes trends in music and its composers, movies and their stars, architecture and its designers, and literary movements and their authors. He notes the vast demographic trends and the ubiquitous cultural innovations. He chronicles the politics of water usage and the struggles over freeway construction. He connects the growth of the super-cities with the solitary wildernesses they encroached on. He profiles the civic leaders and the restive outcasts, the cops and the criminals, the ordinary citizens and the pioneering artists, the religious figures and the radical environmentalists, the trailblazing progressives and the reactionary conservatives. As the legendary lazy grade school book report has it, California emerges as "a land of many contrasts".

Those contrasts are inevitable in a state so large, which left plenty of room for misfits and outcasts. I found the sections discussing Brubeck and the jazz scene, or Robinson Jeffers and the loose assortment of poets scattered around Big Sur, or David Brower and the environmentalist movement riveting. Maybe there is no such thing as a true cultural consensus, or maybe any social process that generates a consensus will automatically generate a backlash. While millions were busy filling up the San Fernando Valley, a few found refuge far from development, or made their own accommodations with the often-messy process of settling down. Texas has its outposts of freethinkers and hippies, but it's difficult to say if we're located at similar points on our respective growth curves.

As much as the state's contrasts, though, I was interested in his portrayal of its consensuses, particularly California's invention of the American middle class and its accompanying postwar cultural and economic characteristics. While obviously Californians as a whole have never agreed on everything, and many individual items like the suburb or the automobile were invented elsewhere, it's not much of an oversimplification to observe that it was in that state that the "American way of life" reached its most complete definition: the decent house with a nice yard, good schools, family-friendly entertainment, the option to have a flashy car, and so on. Starr unearths all kinds of little details about that lifestyle that I'd never thought about before. One example is his discussion of bowling, which as a mass recreational activity was essentially invented in Southern California. That not only explains all the bowling in The Big Lebowski, a quintessentially Southern Californian film, but also sheds new light on pioneering works like Robert Putnam's treatise on social capital Bowling Alone. The tiki craze, for another example, which I vaguely remembered from South Pacific, was a lot more iconic than I had thought.

Of course, the question of what made California so good at embodying American-ness could come down to any one of its many upsides - the weather, the scenery, the variety - but it seems like the main key to its success was pretty simple: cheap land, leading to cheap houses, which not only let normal people raise their families comfortably and affordably, but also built demand for jobs. I reached the end of the book and I came back to my original comparison between California and Texas. To what extent are the denizens of 1950s California a good comparison group for 2010s Texans? Well, there are as many points of analogy as you want there to be - both states grew rapidly because they offered something attractive to people at the time. Texas even at its peak never boomed to the same extent that California did, but we live in different times. To paraphrase Goldwater, Texas offers "an echo, not a choice".

I will say that reading this book reinforced vague notions I'm still pondering about how many bitter contemporary arguments over tax structures and regulatory stances might be distant sideshows in terms of what makes a state successful or not. Make it easy enough to start a family and you're halfway there (counterexamples like nearly free Rust Belt houses notwithstanding), regardless of what other economic development policies a state government tinkers with. I do think that California's philosophy towards infrastructure, both physical like the epochal water and transportation projects, or human infrastructure like its world-class university system, is far more inspiring than Texas' desultory half-privatized muddles. Maybe someday we'll have our own shift in priorities - California's transformation from the homeland of Nixon and Reagan to a Democratic stronghold might come sooner in Texas than we think.

Until then, Starr's work is phenomenal in and of itself, and while I probably won't chase down all seven other volumes he's produced in this series, I've benefited tremendously from his work, just as the US has benefited from the success of its (still) most populous and most emblematic state. ( )
  aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
Starr writes lucid and stylish prose, and the sheer size and power of this true-life tale open the eyes wide. The density of fact, the very weight of names and titles and dates, although beautifully managed, leave the reader stunned. That seldom detracts from this masterpiece, which tells of another imaginative masterpiece that just happens to be our most populous and richest state.
 
Starr is a lumper, not a splitter, and in this 500-plus-page history of 14 years, he lovingly and exhaustively chronicles such topics as the byzantine political, fund-raising, and public-relations effort to build Los Angeles’s Music Center...; the evolution of the surfing, rock-climbing, and hot-rod subcultures; Zen Buddhism’s pervasive influence on California art and design; the California Water Plan of 1957...; and, in deadly detail, the career of Dave Brubeck. But neither this installment nor the series as a whole succumbs to muddle, because Starr consistently returns to his leitmotif: the California dream.
adicionado por Shortride | editarThe Atlantic, Benjamin Schwartz (Jul 1, 2009)
 

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A narrative tour de force that combines wide-ranging scholarship with captivating prose, Kevin Starr's acclaimed multi-volume Americans and the California Dream is an unparalleled work of cultural history. In this volume, Starr covers the crucial postwar period - 1950 to 1963 - when theCalifornia we know today first burst into prominence.Starr brilliantly illuminates the dominant economic, social, and cultural forces in California in these pivotal years. In a powerful blend of telling events, colorful personalities, and insightful analyses, Starr examines such issues as the overnight creation of the postwar California suburb, therise of Los Angeles as Super City, the reluctant emergence of San Diego as one of the largest cities in the nation, and the decline of political centrism. He explores the Silent Generation and the emergent Boomer youth cult, the Beats and the Hollywood "Rat Pack," the pervasive influence of ZenBuddhism and other Asian traditions in art and design, the rise of the University of California and the emergence of California itself as a utopia of higher education, the cooling of West Coast jazz, freeway and water projects of heroic magnitude, outdoor life and the beginnings of the environmentalmovement. More broadly, he shows how California not only became the most populous state in the Union, but in fact evolved into a mega-state en route to becoming the global commonwealth it is today.Golden Dreams continues an epic series that has been widely recognized for its signal contribution to the history of American culture in California. It is a book that transcends its stated subject to offer a wealth of insight into the growth of the Sun Belt and the West and indeed the dramatictransformation of America itself in these pivotal years following the Second World War.

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