Prophylactics to polystyrene, viscose to Velcro, saran to cellophane: For better or worse, we're married to plastic. In your refrigerator, your closet, your car it's everywhere, and it's not going away. You eat with it, work with it, play with it. Often, you even breathe it. Cheap, pliable, easily made, eminently democratic, it symbolizes everything that's both wrong and right with our culture.
In Plastic: The Making of a Synthetic Century, Stephen Fenichell takes a fresh, irreverent look at the substance we all love to hate. The book moves from the early astonishment at such inventions as celluloid film and waterproof clothing, to the nylon-stocking riots after World War II, to the revolutionary yet practical proliferation of Tupperware in the '50s. Fenichell's sweeping assessment of the social and economic revolutions brought on by plastic extends from the sublime to the absurd, the beautiful to the mundane, demonstrating how scientists, artists, politicians and the buying public have all molded, and also been molded, by plastic.
By turns a hero and a villain, a useless fad, an essential commodity, plastic is the ideal indicator of how people think and live. With clarity, wit and deadpan accuracy, Fenichell narrates a rollicking story about the thrills, chills and accidental spills that led to the development of plastic, about the scientists and corporations who got rich (or went bankrupt) creating and selling synthetics, and about the surprising invention that has shaped our world.