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


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 the California 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 ...

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

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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 the California 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, the rise 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 Zen Buddhism 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 environmental movement. 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 dramatic transformation of America itself in these pivotal years following the Second World War.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"With the publication of Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963, Kevin Starr has completed his transformation from the state's greatest historian to its indispensable one.... His eight-volume series, published under the umbrella title Americans and the California Dream, constitutes as comprehensive a social, political, ethnographic, cultural and philosophical history as any state is ever likely to achieve. It was conceived in dazzling ambition and masterfully executed. The author's scholarship and erudition animate each volume without once falling into the trap of self-regard. It is, in sum, an achievement made even more remarkable by the fact that it is wonderfully readable."--Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times

"This final volume is of the same high quality as the previous ones: spirited in style... [a] wonderfully readable descriptive history...."--Publishers Weekly

"Monumental."--Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic

"Starr's masterly accounts of Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco."--The Economist

"Who besides Kevin Starr could cover the entire social, economic, political and artistic history of California during the era and somehow extrapolate it into an engaging, dazzling account of the emerging American Century."--Phyllis Filiberti Butler, San Francisco Chronicle

"Starr's magnum opus-eight volumes to date, and still not complete- will endure the test of years, not least for its heft and its dogged ambition. Students of California history-of the history of the American West generally-have no choice but to confront this impressive oeuvre penned over decades by the State Librarian of California Emeritus, now a professor at the University of Southern California."--Books & Culture

"Kevin Starr's Golden marvellously cohesive and concise, and Starr's engaging style makes it a pleasure to read." --Times Literary Supplement Online

"Without parallel. Each volume in the series demonstrates again that this is one of the commanding achievements of American letters, and of the state he celebrates." --Western American Literature

Publishers Weekly

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)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195153774
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 7/9/2009
  • Series: Americans and the California Dream Series
  • Pages: 576
  • Sales rank: 1,402,521
  • Product dimensions: 6.48 (w) x 9.44 (h) x 1.55 (d)

Meet the Author

Kevin Starr is University Professor and Professor of History, University of Southern California, and State Librarian of California Emeritus. His Americans and the California Dream series has earned him the National Medal for the Humanities, the Centennial Medal of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University, the Gold Medal of the Commonwealth Club of California, a Guggenheim fellowship, and election to the Society of American Historians.

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Table of Contents

Part One: Suburban Assumptions
1. San Fernando: Homes and Happiness in Residential Subdivisions
2. Designs for the Good Life: Modernism, Tiki, Ranch
Part Two: Urban Perspectives
3. Urban Expectations: San Diego Leverages Itself into Big City Status
4. Baghdad by the Bay: Herb Caen's San Francisco
5. The Cardinal, the Chief, Buff, and Walter O'Malley: Upgrading the City of Angels
6. Downsides and Dividends: Los Angeles as Super City
Part Three: Politics and Public Works
7. Common Ground and the Party of California: The Reluctant Retirement of Goodwin J. Knight
8. Cold War Campus: The University of California and Other Secret Places
9. Freeways to the Future: An Epic Construction on Behalf of the Automobile
10. Mare Nostrum: Achieving the California Water Project
Part Four: Art and Life
11. Provincials, Baghdader, and Beats: Literary San Francisco in the 1950s
12. Big Sur: The Search for Alternative Value
13. The Silent Generation: Coming of Age on the Coast of Dreams
14. Brubeck! Jazz Goes to College
Part Five: Growth and the Environment
15. Ahwahnee and the John Muir Trail: Variations on an Outdoor Theme
16. Largest State in the Nation: A Rebellion against Growth and the Destruction of the Environment
Part Six: Changing Times
17. Dissenting Opinions: California Enters the Nineteen Sixties
18. Cool, Not Cool: Epilogues and Transitions
Bibliographic Essay

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  • Posted August 29, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    The latest in a magisterial series

    Kevin Starr's "Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963" is the best yet in his "Americans and the California Dream" series. I admit to some bias, as a 3rd generation Californian who was born and raised during this time. Much of what he writes about has a connection to my childhood. But this book isn't about me, it is about a place and concept called the Golden State.

    "Abundance" is the key word. Post-war life, for all the alleged sterility and conformance, was probably the state's apogee. Progressive taxation (prior to the Prop 13 debacle) gave the government the resources to create a wealth that we are still drawing from, but quickly exhausting.

    How Starr can combine so many apparently disparate subjects, from architecture to music to politics to art to society to crime to philosophy, and tie it into a coherent whole to illuminate the concept of California is a wonder. So when is he going to get a Pulitzer Prize?

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