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Posted April 18, 2002
By Paul Lappen, Dead Trees Review Based on a series of newspaper pieces written in the late 1970s, this book profiles some of the people who made Los Angeles¿ bohemian culture in the 20th century. Many people think that San Francisco, with the Beat Generation, was the ¿center¿ of bohemian living, but the City of Angels had quite a thriving culture of its own. It all grew out of the coffeehouse scene, where a constantly changing group of poets, literary gypsies, writers in exile (real or self-imposed) and others, would get together and weave pieces of the literary tapestry of Los Angeles. Rolfe profiles the famous, and not so famous, including Theodore Dreiser, Charles Bukowski, Henry Miller, John Steinbeck, Aldous Huxley and the Mann brothers (Thomas and Heinrich). There is also a piece on Upton Sinclair¿s 1934 campaign for Governor of California. Running on the Socialist Party ticket, he received 45 percent of the vote despite a major smear campaign against him. As part of a musical family (the virtuoso violinist Yehudi Menuhin was an uncle), Rolfe grew up in a household that offered a place to go for musicians and other artists-in-exile. This book was not written as some piece of dry literary history, it was written by someone who was there and lived through that era, and has spent much of his life writing about it. As a lifelong voracious reader, I very much appreciated Rolfe¿s putting a person and life to the names I have seen on book covers my whole life. Anyone with an interest in 20th century American literature will enjoy this book. I think I¿ll visit my local library and see how many of these authors are in the stacks. Meantime, this book is highly recommended.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.