Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.75 shipping
+ Free Shipping
Addicted to Americana: Celebrating Classic & Kitschy American Life & Style Hardcover – October 3, 2017
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
About the Author
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
At 51 years of age, I’m seeing much of my childhood disappearing at a fast clip … it seems like everything is being replaced, updated or removed all together. While moving forward and anticipating what lies ahead is certainly fun and exciting, looking back and remembering is just as thrilling to me. What I enjoy about the “recent” past (last half of the 20th century), is that today we have pretty much surpassed the 1950s and 60s vision of the future. It’s neat to see the simple and gaudy things that used to excite and entice people in this country … ADDICTED TO AMERICANA aims to remind us of America’s somewhat embarrassing tendency of embracing the cheesy side of life.
ADDICTED TO AMERICANA markets itself as a “colorful kaleidoscope of retro pop culture” and its author, Charles Phoenix is deemed the “Ambassador of Americana” and “King of Retro”. The book itself is a colorful and eccentric presentation of Kodachrome-quality photos, insets, sidebars and text (in a font that seems to shout at the reader) that document things some may be familiar with (Disneyland and the Weinermobile) to obscure things (like a serious collection of bowling alley signage). The book is heavy on photos and, unfortunately, too many of the photos include the author himself, dressed in themed-attire and making faces … yes, the author tends to “photo-bomb” his own book. While I felt the author injecting himself through-out the book tended to get annoying, I must applaud his seemingly exhaustive effort to find so many obscurities (all of those creepy, giant statues/mannequins/figures that serve as enticements for restaurants, museums and stores). Much of what fills the pages of this book are things we see on the side of remote roads when traveling. In other words, the places most Americans drive by with their eyes rolled, Charles Phoenix pulls over to investigate. From that perspective, we are given the small satisfaction of seeing what we’re “missing”. The book is aimed at western US subjects … otherwise the cloying “South of the Border” located on the east coast would have certainly graced the pages of this book. Some of the book’s highlights are the retro McDonalds, the original Disneyland presentation, vintage diners and restaurants. The end of the book has a nice section on unique vintage cars that some may find appealing.
I guess one would expect a book documenting kitsch would be annoyingly kitschy itself … that is the case with Addicted to Americana. Phoenix crams a lot of stuff in the pages of this volume and you can tell this subject matter is a labor-of-love for the author. Although the book’s presentation is somewhat ADHD-inducing, it falls naturally into a designated shelf in my home library dedicated to nostalgia.
The author turned a love for collecting orphaned photo collections from the 1950s and 1960s into talks and personal presentations. He's the perfect 'ambassador of kitsch' and his love of the era and Americana gives the book its warm and sparkle. Surprisingly, photos of other people's vacations don't take up as much of the book as seeing Phoenix's images of himself standing next to kitsch items he's tracked down. From a monorail from a world's fair languishing in a backyard to large historic fiberglass statues, there are a LOT of photos of Phoenix in the book. Admittedly, they are very snapshotty as well and so it was hard to appreciate several items with him standing in front of them. A book about the love of kitsch would have felt much better to me if the items stayed in the past with their pristine conditions. Before and afters of how items survived are great but I would have loved a perspective taken from the same angle for comparison, rather than a random shot of Phoenix standing in front of/blocking that item. The fun and magic of nostalgia is taken away when drearily grounded by the modern. And although it is sweet that he met the elderly owner of an object, I can't say I was as interested to see a snapshot of the two together as I would have been to see the owner standing in front of their proud monument to American kitsch. This is a nitpick, of course, but by the end, I wanted more old snapshots rather than Phoenix in front of yet another object, grinning happily at his find.
The book has a narrow focus on the kitsch: Disneyland, fairytales, mermaids and dinosaurs, giant statues, roadside attractions, motels, shopping centers, drive ins, bowling alleys, Lax, World's fairs, Las Vegas, restaurants, and cars. That seems like a lot, but most of those topics only have a few items. Restaurants, Disneyland, and cars/monorails/trains get the most topics covered. an example would be Let's Go Shopping: that section has Sears, White Front stores, Eastland Mall, and the Walk O Wonders shopping center. Just four items yet I couldn't help but feel there is so much more!
There were many great subjects in the book and some that perhaps could have been left out. Although Disneyland may seem like a no brainer, it's probably been discussed so much that we really didn't need Phoenix's brief survey and a couple of tourist photos. Rather, I would have loved to see more about attractions that copied Disneyland but then eventually closed, like Boston's Pleasure Island. There are so many that, even without a personal connection in someone's history, are fascinating and definitely part of American kitsch. But then there are images in the book of the wonderful A-frame bowling alleys, coffee shops (Sambo's!), and half domed shopping malls that put a smile on your face when you see a mom and kids posing in front of their local haunt.
The book is wonderfully graphic but not very deep. Most of the anecdotal text is Phoenix reminiscing or congratulating himself on the find. Perhaps that is why it felt indulgent because most of the time I wanted to know more about the items rather than a shallow "I tracked this World's Fair elevator down in a farm in Alabama and then snuck into their yard to photograph it." But that said, we do learn a bit more about things like the giant statues (e.g., the muffler man) and that they were pretty much made all by the same fiberglass company.
I found the vehicle section the least interesting. But I was also pleasantly surprised because the author focused on prototype cars that were rare and hard to find (e.g., a car made specifically for women called "La Femme") But the 'car' section also included monorails, the TWA rocket at Disneyland, and a 'rocket witch' parade float that was saved from scrap.
In all, it is beautifully presented and wonderfully graphic, with each page full of image that include modern incarnations, old snapshots, promotion materials from the time, and many snapshots of Phoenix in front of something/smiling with the owner. There's very little text to get in the way and it is friendly and upbeat - you can't help but fall for Charles Phoenix as his love of the subject shines through. It all feels very rooted in Southern California - the mecha of googie, modernism, consumerism, and transportation freedom. As a fellow Southern Californian, I absolutely adored all the inland empire images of where Phoenix grew up. Surprisingly, perhaps because I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, there wasn't a section on the apartment building and how all the valley had whole sections of fantastical architecture - from Tahitian entrances to Phoenician and Egyptian theme buildings. Perhaps they didn't have those as much in the Pomona area but I felt the lack all the same. For that reason, I would love to see an Americana book of this type but focusing on Southern California in the same way - I think that's where Phoenix's heart truly lies and there is so much that could be covered in more depth. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.