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Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern Paperback – February 6, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
This is an entertaining, well-researched and charmingly illustrated dissection of the 1920s flapper, who flouted conventions and epitomized the naughtiness of the Jazz Age as she "bobbed her hair, smoked cigarettes, drank gin, sported short skirts, and passed her evenings in steamy jazz clubs." Cambridge historian Zeitz identifies F. Scott Fitzgerald as "the premier analyst," and his muse and wife, Zelda, "the prototype" of the American flapper. Others who invented aspects of the flapper mystique were New Yorker writer Lois Long, who gave readers a vicarious peek into the humorous late-night adventures of the New Woman; designer Coco Chanel, whose androgynous fashions redefined feminine sexuality as they blurred the line between men's and women's roles in society; fashion artist Gordon Conway, whose willowy and aloof flappers were seen by millions of American and European magazine readers; and Clara Bow, who breathed life into the flapper on the silver screen. The Klan, Zeitz relates, denounced flappers as evils of the modern age, and advertisers exploited the social anxieties of would-be flappers by appealing to the conformist at the heart of this controversial figure. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
*Starred Review* This lively history looks at the Jazz Age through its greatest symbol, the flapper. A far cry from the staid Victorian angel of the house, flappers wore their hair short, dared to show their legs, drank, smoked, and cavorted with young men. Alhough he didn't invent the flapper as many suppose, F. Scott Fitzgerald did bring the modern woman into the public eye in his debut novel, This Side of Paradise. Zeitz explores the lives of the women who have come to personify the flapper ideal: Zelda Sayre, the southern belle who married Fitzgerald and became his muse; Lois Long, the sharp-tongued New Yorker columnist whose nightlife was often the subject of her writing; Coco Chanel, the elegant designer who carefully crafted her own backstory; and the actresses Colleen Moore, Clara Bow, and Louise Brooks, who brought the flapper to the silver screen only to be left in the dust when the following decade ushered in a less sexually confident feminine ideal. Zeitz's energetic writing does his subject justice, bringing to life the wild coed parties; the colorful, glitzy fashion; and the general energy and enthusiasm with which the decade embraced modernity. An essential exploration of the women Zeitz deems "the first thoroughly modern American[s]." Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Library Binding edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
"Flapper" spotlights the history of the Jazz Age while zeroing in on the conception of the ever-alluring flapper subculture. The book includes a look into Coco Channel’s rise to fame through her fashion empire, the Hollywood flapper starlets of the era, and the formation of the infamous Madison Avenue, whose executives helped propel the flappers' glamorous look. One of my favorite parts of the book is the interweaving of F. Scott Fitzgerald ("The Great Gatsby") and Zelda Fitzgerald's lives. They truly were the wild "it" couple of the Jazz Age and Zeitz partially credits the couple with birthing the flapper persona.
I'd expect that many Americans probably would guess that the first counter-culture movement wasn’t until the 1960s. Zeitz however, pinpoints an earlier revolution in the response from Jazz-Age youth who were fed up with imposed Victorian ideals. Flappers bucked that system and were the female rebels of their time. However, the flapper subculture was short-lived and ultimately collapsed under the onset of the Depression.
In conclusion, there are many non-fiction books that can become repetitive and bogged down with vocabulary. Zeitz’s work is fresh and his information and ability to weave a storylined plot through an historical narrative – which I don’t see often – kept me turning the pages. Definitely a great read, and if you haven’t seen "Z: The Beginning of Everything", I highly recommend it. Christina Ricci has literally become Zelda Fitzgerald's reincarnate. Fantastic acting. And, Joshua Zeitz, if you are reading this, when is your next book coming out? Please say it's about the history of Victorian America.
Zeitz provides some interesting analysis into how the "flapper" came into being and why it mattered. He discusses everything from changes in women's clothing to changes in how advertisers connected with the public -- both issues impacted how women viewed themselves. He wrote about the high-society types like Zelda Fitzgerald and Coco Chanel, and the woman covered them, Lois Long, but he also used facts and figures to illustrate how the average 20s woman lived and how she was influenced by the prototypical flapper. He wrote this in a style unusual to historical studies: short chapters heavy on anecdotes.
There were instances when I wished he had delved more deeply into certain topics, as some chapters seemed to end abruptly, and a couple of times I wondered why I was supposed to care so much about the Fitzgeralds -- though they certainly were interesting people -- and others. But overall, I learned a lot and read it in just a couple of days.