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Bug: The Strange Mutations Of The World's Most Famous Automobile Paperback – June 2, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press (June 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306813599
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306813597
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,255,154 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Volkswagon Bug-so named for its outline, its droning engine and its "insectlike ubiquitousness"-is no simple car, argues Patton in this entertaining history: it is "a shape, a set of ideas-and a selfish meme" (the term zoologist Richard Dawkins coined to describe the cultural equivalent of a selfish gene). After chronicling the minutia of American life in Made in USA: The Secret Histories of the Things That Made America, Patton turns his sharp-eyed gaze to the VW Beetle's improbable journey from Third Reich dream to Disney's cute Herbie the Love Bug to Silicon Valley status symbol. Pulling material from obscure books, films and songs, he shows how the story of the Bug is essentially the postmodern dream of the West in the 20th century. Today's Bug, Patton argues, is a synthesis of such unrelated events as Ford's assembly line, Hitler's attempted conquest of Russia, pre-war German union intrigue, the rebuilding of postwar Germany, U.S.-Japanese car wars, 1960's counterculture and the brilliant manipulations of the American marketing machine-making the car an enduring cultural icon and an idea that refuses to die. 8 pages of b&w photos
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

It became an iconic shape on the roads, with quirky advertising that won many awards. It was a huge success, and then it was gone. Now the Volkswagen Beetle is back, and this new book attempts to place it in the context of a changing historical landscape. Unfortunately, by trying to combine history, social commentary, design analysis, and political intrigue in one package, Patton (Dreamland) fails to do any of them well. This is a shame because the Beetle was a car that always made people happy. There are mistakes in the book that will make car enthusiasts cringe. For example, the Karmann Ghia sports derivative was introduced in 1955, not 1957. The Taurus didn't save Ford in 1985 when it was introduced; it took several years for that to happen. The Mazda Miata was introduced in 1989, not 1983. The introduction of the Rabbit GTI had nothing to do with VW's Fahrvergnugen advertising campaign. Taken alone, none of these mistakes looms large, but together they are emblematic of a tendency to merge design eras and to condense events of different decades. While much of the history here is accurate, many other books have more depth, e.g., Walter Henry Nelson's Small Wonder, and numerous titles accompanied the new Beetle's 1998 release. An optional purchase.
Eric C. Shoaf, Brown Univ. Lib., Providence, RI
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

2.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Brian on August 30, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I disagree with other reviewers who seemed most appalled with Patton's willingness to connect the Beetle with Hitler. Patton does acknowledge that the idea of a "people's car" had roots that preceded Hitler. But Hitler pushed the concept as part of his plan for economic power in Germany. This fact does not give Hitler "credit" for something wonderful and magical. It's just a car, folks. To suggest (or, as Beetle fans often do, insist) that Hilter had nothing to do with it is simply naive. Yes, Hitler was a madman and yes, ironically, he had something to do with creating the most beloved automobile of the century.
That said, most of the book concerns itself with more interesting ideas about the connections between technology and human culture. This is not your standard "VW history," but rather a wide-reaching history of the importance of automobiles and the way people connect and fail to connect with certain models. The author is not afraid to try to find connections between ideas and words in interesting ways. If you're looking for straightforward technical prose, look elsewhere. Patton is an intelligent writer who knows how to turn a phrase.
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32 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Marshall Webber on October 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
1 star for proceeding from the most egregiously faulty and revisionary premise: that the concept and design of the "bug" was the brainchild of Adolf Hitler.
Ferdinand Porsche had been working on a "People's Car" for more than 20 years before Hitler was even in power. Porsche was frequently forced to backburner the project because his employers (like Daimler-Benz) wanted his design talents focused on the luxury saloons, not an inexpensive 'everyman' car. Porsche eventually quit his job and formed his own design bureau and did piece work for his former employers to fund his passion: the volks-wagen.
Many prototypes had already been built and 90% of the design completed before Hitler appeared quite late in the development process. Adolf's ideas (as referenced in this book) were already part Porsche's pre-KdF design or were the marketing meddlings of a politician anxious to make populist hay of the German Auto industry's refusal to produce an affordable, maintainable car.
Phil Patton has robbed Ferdinand Porsche of the credit he deserves for the selfless pursuit of a people's car and places the laurels, unmerited, on the brow of a madman. Porsche was the visionary; Hitler was only the financial means. You could say that Porsche allowed his life-long goal to see the car produced cloud his judgement in choosing a business partner.
Crediting Hitler with the design of the Volkswagen is sensationalistic historical revisionism at it worst.
For a historically responsible evaluation see "Volkswagen - Nine Lives Later" by Dan R. Post.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. F Malysiak on May 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Whether or not Phil Patton's latest is factually accurate or merely revisionist sensationalism, the first half of this overly long "history" of the VW Beetle makes for an entertaining enough read. But past World War Two and Hitler's interest in developing the ultimate people's car, the narrative loses focus and seems to lose its way amid references to Charles Manson, Mickey Mouse, Nike Town, and a host of other pop culture items. I almost got the feeling that the author wasn't quite sure which direction to take and that his editor was MIA. I found myself also losing focus the more I read and by the time the author discusses the Autostadt, I'd lost any semblance of interest. I'd have stopped reading, but I had less than twenty pages to go.
My hat goes off to the dust jacket's designer. It's exceptionally eye-catching.
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