The Birth (and Death) of the Cool
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The Birth (and Death) of the Cool

by Ted Gioia
     
 

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It's hard to imagine that "the cool" could ever go out of style. After all, cool is style. Isn't it? And it may be harder to imagine a world where people no longer aspire to coolness. In this intriguing cultural history, nationally acclaimed author Ted Gioia shows why cool is not a timeless concept and how it has begun to lose meaning and

Overview


It's hard to imagine that "the cool" could ever go out of style. After all, cool is style. Isn't it? And it may be harder to imagine a world where people no longer aspire to coolness. In this intriguing cultural history, nationally acclaimed author Ted Gioia shows why cool is not a timeless concept and how it has begun to lose meaning and fade into history. Gioia deftly argues that what began in the Jazz Age and became iconic in the 1950s with Miles Davis, James Dean, and others has been manipulated, stretched, and pushed to a breaking point—not just in our media, entertainment, and fashion industries, but also by corporations, political leaders, and social institutions. Tolling the death knell for the cool, this thought-provoking book reveals how and why a new cultural tone is emerging, one marked by sincerity, earnestness, and a quest for authenticity.

Editorial Reviews

Carolyn See
As far as I can see, [Gioia's] perceptions and insights about jazz, the actual "birth of the cool" (as a mind-set as well as a point of view about musicianship) are flawless. His chapters on Beiderbecke, Young and Davis are what reviewers like to call lapidary; they are jewel-like, particularly the pages about Miles playing with Charlie Parker in the early New York days. The prose is so strong, simple and evocative that it brings the reader almost to tears with longing. What wonderful nights! What insanely terrific music! What a marvelously enchanted meeting of minds and sensibilities! The book is worth much more than its price for these three chapters alone.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
“We're through being cool,” Devo announced back in 1981, and Gioia contends that the rest of America has slowly caught up. Describing “cool” as a set of “beliefs, values, and behavior patterns” rooted in the personal and musical styles of Bix Beiderbecke, Lester Young and Miles Davis (with a healthy dose of Bugs Bunny), Gioia argues that while their ironic detachment once held sway, earnestness has made its way back on top. His narrative history of cool hits intriguing touchstones, such as Lee Strasberg and Frank Sinatra, while a time line appendix provides even more cultural referents—for the new sincerity as well, culminating with the arrival of Susan Boyle and Twitter. At times his explanations for how “trendy loses out to homespun” can be reductive, as when he offers the boom in motivational self-help books for teen readers as evidence of a postcool generation. Sometimes it's downright confusing: anime and manga are presented as “quintessentially uncool” with only the barest of explanations. Gioia's conversational tone breezes through such rough patches, however, and though one might welcome more historical context for the long-running tension between cool and uncool as coexisting movements in American culture, he's at least zeroed in on a major shift in the balance between the two. (Nov.)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781933108315
Publisher:
Fulcrum Publishing
Publication date:
11/01/2009
Pages:
252
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

Ted Gioia is a musician and author, and has published six highly acclaimed books. Gioia's The History of Jazz was selected as one of the twenty best books of the year in The Washington Post, and was a notable book of the year in The New York Times. He is also author of Delta Blues, Work Songs and West Coast

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