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American Cool Hardcover – January 24, 2014

4.9 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Stunning photographs that explore the evolution of the word 'cool.'"

People Magazine

About the Author

Joel Dinerstein is the James H. Clark Endowed Chair in American Civilization at Tulane University and the director of the New Orleans Center for the Gulf South. Frank H. Goodyear III is co-director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 196 pages
  • Publisher: Prestel (January 24, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3791353497
  • ISBN-13: 978-3791353494
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 9.2 x 12.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #672,318 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Virtually all of us know someone either personally or from afar that we consider “cool,” yet our efforts to articulate why they’re cool are usually as vague and inadequate as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography, “I know it when I see it.”

Just as elusive as a general definition is the inability of any two people to agree on who is cool. If you don’t believe it make a list of the 20 people you consider the coolest over the last 50 years and ask the person you feel most compatible with to do likewise. Before either of you says something you might later regret, purchase American Cool.

In American Cool, Joel Dinerstein and Frank H. Goodyear have not only defined this ever-changing term but have also compiled a list of the 100 coolest Americans. Dinerstein has provided background sketches for a majority of the individuals selected for the book, as well as cogent essays that trace how cool has been defined, altered and applied across the decades, from Lester Young to Jay-Z. Dinerstein has formulated a four-part rubric used to determine the “Cool 100” that will no doubt be of great service to future generations of cultural historians

Goodyear, former curator of photographs at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, contributes captions for 30 of the subjects as well as a thoughtful essay explaining the role photography and photographers have played in capturing and asserting the icons of cool.

Some of the best captions describing an individual’s cool come from those who were directly influenced by them, such as bandleader Eddie Condon writing that Bix Beiderbecke’s cornet sounded “like a girl saying yes,” or Bob Dylan’s declaration that “Hearing [Elvis] for the first time was like busting out of jail.”

The selection and presentation of stunning imagery and informative text affect the viewer in ways similar to great individual works of art, challenging us to reconsider our assumptions.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I saw the exhibit first in the National Portrait Gallery. and wanted a book to show to my husband who missed it. I didnt want to fly back from Washington DC with that heavy book so I waited til I got home and ordered it from Amazon. I even saved a few cents on the price. The book is printed beautifully and the photos are very sharp and large. It is a great coffee table book with faces anybody would be drawn to. A great collection! Get this book!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have had several long conversations because of this show about what it means to be "Cool," and what defines cool. The person I conversed with felt that because there are no mathematicians, or physicists in the book (the nominee was Richard Feynman), it is not a legitimate portrait of cool. My mother feels that Neil DeGrasse Tyson was also overlooked. Because of the onslaught of naysayers, however, I delved more deeply into understanding this concept of "Cool," and where it came from, and how it came out of jazz. After reading the essays, and then really looking at a picture of Miles Davis being super cool, it is clear that while Feynman may be known for, "the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium," (thanks Wikipedia!) he does not belong in a book defining American Cool through portraiture (check out his picture on Wikipedia). This would be a great discussion to have with my high school students - and a great discussion for them to develop their analyzing skills with a concept they already have an interest in.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I bought this after seeing the exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery. The price was much less on Amazon than at the museum. It makes a nice coffee table book. Enjoyed seeing the portraits at the gallery and reading more about the people in this book. Like with anything, it can always be debated that some people who should have made the list did not and vice versa. Overall, I think they did a great job.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book provides great reproductions of the 100 images of "cool" American figures featured in the "American Cool" exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery. The book's introductions and accompanying essays by the exhibit's two curators aptly present the complexity of American cool as it emerged in 20th-century popular culture, including the criteria they used to select the coolest 100--a controversial and daring set of decisions. They point out the role cool has played in relationships between mass culture and individuals' very personal needs. They articulate problems associated with American cool (White appropriation of African-American aesthetic work has not profited the original, originating artists nor properly honored their genius. And why has it been so much harder to see women as cool?), so that readers get a strong sense of how cool matters in all its rich complexity. You'll probably begin by reacting to the list and wanting to revise it to suit your taste and how your sense of cool serves you. Having a list of "the top" 100 provokes that sort of high-school sensibility. But read on, and you'll discover how thought-provoking the topic is.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I visited the Amerian Cool exhibit in the National Portrait Gallery, I was amazed. The book gave me the chance to bring a piece of the exhibit home with me and followed along with it nicely. It provides a very interesting take on the culture of cool in America through photographs and explanations on the evolution of cool through the decades, what it meant, and how these prominent figures fit the definition of cool. Great images and interesting history; I can't wait to share it with guests.
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