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Four Questions for Kevin Starr

April 21, 2002|SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS

Question: What interests you about writing history?

Answer: I'm interested in telling stories, in capturing those moments when the internal imagined experience intersects with social reality. Individual lives give this experience context. I have to be adept at telling the tale and using the factual record. I have to be particularly choosy about which facts I get to keep.

Q: What aspect of California history interests you most?

A: I find the more I come up to the present in this series, the more I recognize people I knew and the more I remember events I saw as a child. I was born in 1940; that's really the world that shaped me.

Q: Who is the most surprising character in California history?

A: I'd have to say Henry J. Kaiser, who had an eccentric Wizard of Oz personality. He was able to reconcile the world of business with the world of social responsibility: workers' rights, pensions and housing. He was a titanic figure. I think we'll come to value him more and more in the future.

Q: What is your favorite place in California?

A: Room 200 in the California State Library in Sacramento. I've been the state librarian going on eight years, a post in which I have the privilege of serving the people of California. I have always wanted to be in public service. This role is an honor and a challenge to which I bring all my past lives and skills, as a historian, a teacher and a Californian.

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