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LOS ANGELES — When Matthew Specktor decided to start writing in earnest as a college sophomore, Joan Didion was on his mind. Specktor, who grew up a few blocks from Didion’s Santa Monica home in the early 1980s, wanted to write about Los Angeles too, and he understood that Didion not only offered historical context — she was historical context. “She set me back 10 years, because I had to write ...

A social history of Concord in the 19th century examines the ways changes in the town influenced Emerson and Thoreau. "The Transcendentalists and Their World" by Robert A. Gross; Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (864 pages, $40) ——— Ralph Waldo Emerson relocated to Concord, Massachusetts, in 1834 to live with the Rev. Ezra Ripley, his step-grandfather. On July 4, 1837, at the dedication of a ...

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