The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993 Page: 155
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of these two industries in the suburbs of Los Angeles left this quintessential
Mediterranean town free to cultivate its Spanish ranchero heritage into a type
of Hispanic Erewhon, which Starr explores in ample detail.
Clearly, sensitive to architecture as cultural expression, the author is at his
best in tracing his material dream motif through the built environment, includ-
ing the visionary Bradbury Building in downtown Los Angeles and the villas
cresting the Montecito hills immediately south of Santa Barbara. He is equally
knowledgeable in sorting out the tangled skeins of the famed Owens Valley
water controversy amidst the continuing partisan rancor.
Starr is also successful as a narrative artist using unexpected images to ex-
plore inner connections. For example, in his chapter entitled, "From Oz to
Oildorado," he effectively places the well-known interpretation of Frank Baum's
Wizard of Oz as a political paradigm within a southern California context.
Unlike historians who give faint praise to women's contributions because the
existing canon contains little information about their achievements, Starr has
taken the initiative in gathering data. As a result, he provides richly embel-
lished accounts of antiquarian book and art dealer Alice Miltimore and her il-
lustrious client Estelle Doheny. Through the author's words, dimension is given
to food essayist M. F. K. Fisher, writer Sarah Bixby Smith, motion picture direc-
tor Nina Moise, and many more.
Starr contends that in the accelerated development of a material environ-
ment, which surpassed efforts to develop an intellectual community, southern
Californians turned to the printed word. As proof he provides a comprehen-
sive chronicle of fine book printing and book collecting in the region. While the
disquisition is both accurate and somewhat overdue, it is a perception of reality
that might have been conveyed by librarian and South Pasadena native, Law-
rence Clark Powell, one of Starr's many sources.
Indeed, a weakness of this ample history is that the author has chosen a
WASP axis for his narrative. While he suggests that the region is a key player
along the Pacific rim, the account fails to convey the multicultural texture of
the region. Basque sheepherders in La Puente, Portuguese and Yugoslav fish-
ermen at San Pedro, as well as Japanese citrus pickers employed from Pasadena
to Redlands, along with Mexican workers and Jewish merchants, were also part
of southern California in the 192os. While Starr describes the Watts Towers
created by Simon Rodia, he fails to place the artist within a thriving community
of Italian immigrants who dominated the region's produce markets and whose
wine growers, like Secondo Guasti, faced economic ruin with the enforcement
of the Volstead Act in the 192os. Those economic woes, the celebrations, and
the contributions of these ethnically diverse citizens also helped shape the ethos
of the region.
Starr contends that for a variety of reasons the sciences flourished in south-
ern California. But within this deft and sweeping portrait this is not a signifi-
cant theme. It is hoped it will be represented in a subsequent volume as should
be the challenges faced by organized labor in this region traditionallyinhos-
pitable to union activity. It is also hoped that future volumes will focus more
fully on communities to the south, especially San Diego.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993, periodical, 1993; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101215/m1/181/: accessed November 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.