From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Like Dim Sum for the intellectually curious and literary-minded, Gioia's chronicle of the birth and death of cool samples a variety of genres and disciplines. In the end, the reader has not consumed great portions from any literary group, yet he finds himself gratified. Part Jazz history, part African American history, part Sociological and Marketing text, this work defies easy classification. It is a must-read for marketing and sociology "philes" that no music historian, particularly a Jazz Historian, should be without. One might expect this work, coming from the author and musician who penned such notable works as Delta Blues and The History of Jazz, to delve into the cool world of Jazz. And it does. Far from an expose on the cool, cool world of Jazz and the hip musicians who personified it, however, this book is an in-depth study of cool and its influence on society. The cool, as Gioia explains, was a psychological attitude, cultural phenomenon, and worldview which is relatively new to society. In fact, it was only decades-old, yet is already dead. Commoditized, co-opted by the corporate machine, cool became merely a marketing tool. The current postcool Zeitgeist rejects materialism and sees coolness as superficial, even suspicious. And, as Gioia writes, the death of cool has come with a price: society is angrier. One only needs to listen to talk radio or read Internet blogs for evidence that we have lost our cool. Like everything else, this postcool era will pass one day. But Gioia says the cool will never return. --ForeWord Reviews (November/December 2009) by Robert L. Brandon Jr.
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.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --Publisher's Weekly
Ted Gioia... has written an extended essay on a phenomenon that draws on his own field of expertise. And he has hit upon the one essential point: He writes that the cool "eventually boiled down to how one was perceived by others. Coolness, even more than beauty, is inevitably in the eye of the beholder." This is a remarkable insight into all of modernity, not just "the cool." --"Cool Gone Cold" in The Weekly Standard, 11/29/09 by Ann Marlowe
A sign of the worth of Gioia's book is that it is hard to summarize...Gioia has an extremely interesting thesis and, if he is correct, the impact of these changes will be very substantial in the entertainment industry, mass marketing, and consumer behavior. Time will tell whether Gioia's argument will bear out, until then it is well worth reading and keeping in mind. --Jazz Reviews by John Schu on 12/01/09
Cool is dead. For those of us who missed the funeral, Ted Gioia offers a probing eulogy, reminding us of the cool we once knew-that intangible tangle of image and irony, artifice and fashion. --Paste Magazine by Marti Buckley Kilpatrick
Gioia's conversational and informative style makes the pages fly by as a Chet Baker solo. --Jazz Weekly by George W. Harris
[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 by Carolyn See on December 18, 2009
Going over the history of cool and where society may be heading next, Ted Gioia gives readers a fascinating read of cool. "The Birth and Death of the Cool" is a choice pick for any cultural studies collection. --The Midwest Book Review, Library Bookwatch by James A. Cox
It will force you to think about making connections you haven't made before. --statesman.com on 1/9/10 by Carolyn See
Ted [Gioia] is right up there with Gene Less, Doug Ramsey, Nat Hentoff and a host of others who have taught us so much about Jazz over the years and enriched our listening experience with their unique insights and knowledge about the music and its makers. --Jazz Profiles Blog by Steve Cerra