Footsteps at Night: 1930s California

June 10, 2011
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Los Angeles in the 1930s: The WPA Guide to the City of Angels (WPA Guides)Okay, forgive me first for pointing out Library Journal’s glowing review of Soul of a People. They call it a “touching, straightforward, and well-paced look” at this slice of American history, “a welcome addition to literature and history collections.” My partners on the film and I couldn’t agree more.
    Just in the last two months come two reprints of WPA guides, with insightful new introductions by David Kipen: the WPA Guide to Los Angeles, with an essay that points out the bubbling L.A. scene when the book was first written, with early film noir and Orson Welles, and late F. Scott Fitzgerald. Southern California was even more beautiful than now, and a magnet for fascinating people. “If only some benevolent patron had stepped in and commissioned a panorama of prewar Los Angeles,” Kipen writes. “In other words, if only there existed the book that you … now hold in your hand.” He is as lavish with San Francisco, where he lived for years.
    This is how the stories and footsteps of the past stay with us. As I come from burying my father this week, this is on my mind: mixing stories with histories.

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