Books: West of the Sun

CALIFORNIA by LELAND FREDERICK COOLEY 607 pages. Avon. $1.95.

AMERICANS AND THE CALIFORNIA DREAM by KEVIN STARR 494 pages. Oxford. $12.50.

Social essayists have a habit of calling California "the cutting edge of the future"-a cautionary model of what the U.S. might become if and when it finally degenerates into a transcontinental landscape of neon, plastic, and religious eccentricity. Californians tend to look back the other way, over their shoulders, with a snobbery of heritage worthy of Cavalier Virginia or Puritan New England. To be able to connect with grandfathers and great-grandfathers who had...

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