The fifth volume in Starr's grand and wide-ranging history of California (Endangered Dreams, 1995, etc.). Drawing on a wealth of sources, the author offers a panoramic account of the Golden State during the turning-point years before America's entry into WW II. While he first surveys communities (Big Sur, Carmel, Palm Springs, Pasadena, et al.) whose affluent lifestyles not only survived the Depression but also set the pace for the rest of the country, Starr moves on to profile the West Coast's academic enclaves (Berkeley, Palo Alto, Westwood) and great cities (Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco). Covered as well are those who contributed to California's rich cultural heritage in literature (Cain, Chandler, Hammett, and West, to name but a few), painting (notably, the federally subsidized muralists who recorded the past of ``the state with a Mexican accent''), and photography (Ansel Adams, Edward Weston). Not too surprisingly, Starr devotes considerable attention to Hollywood and how its studio system marshaled the artistic resources of a generation to help America (and the wider world) through hard times. In an engrossing chapter felicitously titled ``Ich Bin ein Sñdkalifornier,'' he recounts how the rise of the Third Reich induced scores of German actors, composers, writers, and other intellectuals to seek refuge from Nazi oppression in filmdom's capital, where they promptly and thoroughly Europeanized the motion-picture industry. Using this productive context as a departure point, the author closes with a somber assessment of the ways in which California's ÇmigrÇ communities dealt with a global outbreak of anti-Semitism and (with fellow exile Leon Feuchtwanger) pondered whether Jewish civilization could reconstitute itself. A penetrating addition to an altogether splendid series, which (thanks to the broad appeal of its subject matter and period) could prove a breakout book.
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