Coast of Dreams: A History of Contemporary California by Kevin Starr - review by Ian Whitcomb

Ian Whitcomb

Darkness In Eden

Coast of Dreams: A History of Contemporary California


Allen Lane The Penguin Press 754pp £25

Full disclosure: I’m pally with Dr Kevin Starr. He invites me to swell dinners at plush businessmen’s clubs in downtown Los Angeles, where, to the accompaniment of my ukulele, I lead movers and shakers in singalongs. When he was California’s State Librarian he made me State Minstrel, which entailed my travelling around with wife and dog in a minivan, stopping off to perform, with Ukie, at rural libraries. This was a plum job – it would never have happened in England, my native land.

I’ve lived in Los Angeles as a resident alien since the 1960s, arriving as a British pop invader and staying on for the work, the acceptance, the chance to grab the brass ring once more before I die: for the elusive dream that some of us chase till we fall over the edge.

Starr has published six California Dream histories since the early 1970s. I have them all, and the further back they reach the more gemütlich I feel, until I’m at peace in a make-believe world of red-shirted gold miners neath purple hills or easy-going dons in sombreros swilling wine. Lured by

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