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The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America Paperback – September 1, 1992

4.4 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for Daniel J. Boorstin's The Image

“A very informative and entertaining and chastising book.”
“A book that everyone in America should read every few years. Stunning in its prescience, it explains virtually every aspect of our mass media's evolution and seductiveness.”
—Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize winning author of A Visit From the Goon Squad 
“An engrossing book—sensitive, thoughtful, damning, dead on target and in most respects unanswerable.”
Scientific American
“Excellent. . . It is the book to end all books about ‘The American Image’—what it is, who projects it, what effect it has at home or abroad.”
The Observer 
“A brilliant and original essay about the black arts and corrupting influences of advertising and public relations.”
The Guardian

“Boorstin’s book tells us how to see and listen, and how to think about what we see and hear.”
—George Will

From the Inside Flap

First Published In 1962, This Wonderfully Provocative Book Introduced The Notion Of "pseudo-events" -- Events Such As Press Conferences And Presidential Debates, Which Are Manufactured Solely In Order To Be Reported -- And The Contemporary Definition Of Celebrity As "a Person Who Is Known For His Well-knownness." Since Then Daniel J. Boorstin's Prophetic Vision Of An America Inundated By Its Own Illusions Has Become An Essential Resource For Any Reader Who Wants To Distinguish The Manifold Deceptions Of Our Culture From Its Few Enduring Truths.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (September 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679741801
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679741800
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #215,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"A celebrity is a person who is well-known for their well-knownness" -- an observation from this book that is one of the most often quoted bits of wisdom on the subject of celebrity, and deservedly so. But this is just one of many quotable observations made by Boorstin in this prescient, clear-eyed look at the beginning of the post-modern world. Written in 1962, this book has been mined by writers on modern society of every stripe: French postmods (who don't credit Boorstin), Neil Postman (who does). Though it suffers a bit from the outdated examples used to elucidate his points about the "Graphic Revolution" -- his line in the sand between the modern and pre-modern -- the book is so cogently argued that it rarely matters.
His main thematic device is to dichotomize pre-modern and modern/postmodern categories. For instance, in discussing celebrity he notes that the precursor of the celebrity was the hero. He explains the difference by saying that the hero was "folk" based, while the celebrity is "mass" based. George Washington was raised to the level of hero by the people for his deeds, his fame embroidered by them, cherry trees invented for him to chop down. On the other hand, celebrities -- the Gabor sisters to use one of his examples -- were celebrities before they even starred in movies. They were created by astute publicists and through their own knack of getting into the paper.
He actually starts his discussion about how the image has come to be substituted for ideals in his first chapter on the gathering and dissemination of the news. He notes the rise of the pseudo-event, e.g.
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Format: Paperback
the pace of media in the world today makes this book more important than ever. boorstein clearly and effectively examines the nature of images, specifically in marketing and broadcasting, and their effect on how we engage those events. rather than a bunch of drivel, this book offers a clear, descriptive examination of the changing nature of the way in which we view the world. as an amatuer sociologist and market observer, this is fascinating stuff to me. the number of nature of the areas he examines in this essay, while not exhaustive, is representative and substantial.

this book isn't a complete tome on the subject, nor does it pretend to be. one of the great strengths of boorstin is that he doesn't attempt to be complete. instead he proposes a thesis or a thread of ideas and develops that. he's skilled at this task and remarkably clear. in a nutshell, don't treat this book as the sum and substance of the topic, it's just a great essay on the topic.

nor is this a book describing the ills of the world. it's an essay describing the changing nature of the world in which we live. if we are to be active participants on this world, we should be informed and study how it changes. technology's effects are not demonized, their impact is just described.

the age of the book, some 40 years or so, makes some of the events under discussion seem quaint or outmoded, but frankly they're just a foundation of today's media.

highly reccomended.
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Format: Paperback
Serious readers should be impressed by any book- written by an American Professor- that is still printed and sold over 35 years after original publication. Boorstin was a major 20th century historian who was never forgiven, by the common run academic historian, for not being formally schooled in history. Proof that it is not only the average high school graduate & his parents who confuse schooling for education. Boorstin was a major Professor of History at the University of Chicago who possessed two JD degrees, one from Harvard and one from Oxford, and who was simultaneously member of the American and British Bar. He had no former schooling beyond law school.

Even more unforgivable, Boorstin, a Professor of History, penned a major work of social theory and social criticism in the 1960s (when radical students would not allow him to speak in his own classroom)But then, many historians still insist world recognized sociologist-historian Charles Tilly is not a (tell your history teacher the proper article is 'a', not 'an') historian and many sociologists claim he is not a sociologist. No matter. Tilly's work stands long after his critics are forgotten. Likewise, Boorstin's work has outlived that of most of his critics.

"The Image" presents Boorstin's acute observation that in Modern American public life image matters more than substance, especially in the market place and also in the corporate work place. A criticsm I have of "Image" is that Boorstin did not examine the decline of character(substance) and the rise of personality(social lubricant). It seems to me that the cult of "personality" (Outpatient therapists mostly "treat" personality problems, not mental illness) goes hand in hand with the "image" and "pseudo-event" phenomenon he labels and discusses.
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By A Customer on July 30, 1999
Format: Paperback
Boorstin first published this prophetic book in 1962. What amazes me in particular is the accurate depiction of our current media and journalism. The truth is told (and most do not care much for that), that seems to warrant the degregation this book receives. Each of his points are well supported by fact and logic, not to mention appropiate historical events. This book is to me inspiring, a breath of fresh air. He doesn't blow wind in your face. Today history has turned into an anti-imperical nightmare of contradictions. With the slaughter of history by social theorists and humanitarians it is refreshing to read a bona fide historian again.
Thank you Daniel J Boorstin...for telling the truth.
Miss Courtney Payne
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