The Origins Of Cool In Postwar America

Hardcover | May 22, 2017

byJoel Dinerstein

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Cool. It was a new word and a new way to be, and in a single generation, it became the supreme compliment of American culture. The Origins of Cool in Postwar America uncovers the hidden history of this concept and its new set of codes that came to define a global attitude and style. As Joel Dinerstein reveals in this dynamic book, cool began as a stylish defiance of racism, a challenge to suppressed sexuality, a philosophy of individual rebellion, and a youthful search for social change.

Through eye-opening portraits of iconic figures, Dinerstein illuminates the cultural connections and artistic innovations among Lester Young, Humphrey Bogart, Robert Mitchum, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Jack Kerouac, Albert Camus, Marlon Brando, and James Dean, among others. We eavesdrop on conversations among Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Miles Davis, and on a forgotten debate between Lorraine Hansberry and Norman Mailer over the "white Negro" and  black cool. We come to understand how the cool worlds of Beat writers and Method actors emerged from the intersections of film noir, jazz, and existentialism. Out of this mix, Dinerstein sketches nuanced definitions of cool that unite concepts from African-American and Euro-American culture: the stylish stoicism of the ethical rebel loner; the relaxed intensity of the improvising jazz musician; the effortless, physical grace of the Method actor. To be cool is not to be hip and to be hot is definitely not to be cool.

This is the first work to trace the history of cool during the Cold War by exploring the intersections of film noir, jazz, existential literature, Method acting, blues, and rock and roll. Dinerstein reveals that they came together to create something completely new—and that something is cool.

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Cool. It was a new word and a new way to be, and in a single generation, it became the supreme compliment of American culture. The Origins of Cool in Postwar America uncovers the hidden history of this concept and its new set of codes that came to define a global attitude and style. As Joel Dinerstein reveals in this dynamic book, cool...

Joel Dinerstein was the curator of American Cool, an acclaimed exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, and the author of its accompanying catalog. He is also the author of Swinging the Machine: Modernity, Technology, and African-American Culture and Coach: A History of New York Cool. He is professor of English at Tulane...

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American Cool

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Swinging The Machine: Modernity, Technology, And African American Culture Between The World Wars
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Format:HardcoverDimensions:352 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.98 inPublished:May 22, 2017Publisher:University of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226152650

ISBN - 13:9780226152653

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Table of Contents

Prelude: Paris, 1949
Introduction: The Origins of Cool
1 Lester Young and the Birth of Cool
2 Humphrey Bogart and the Birth of Noir Cool from the Great Depression
3 Albert Camus and the Birth of Existential Cool from the Idea of Rebellion (and the Blues)
4 Billie Holiday and Simone de Beauvoir: Toward a Postwar Cool for Women
5 Cool Convergences, 1950: Jazz, Noir, Existentialism
A Generational Interlude: Postwar II (1953–1963) and the Shift in Cool
6 Kerouac and the Cool Mind: Jazz and Zen
7 From Noir Cool to Vegas Cool: Swinging into Prosperity with Frank Sinatra
8 American Rebel Cool: Brando, Dean, Elvis
9 Sonny Rollins and Miles Davis Sound out Cool Individuality
10 Hip versus Cool in The Fugitive Kind (1960) and Paris Blues (1962)
11 Lorraine Hansberry and the End of Postwar Cool
Epilogue: The Many Lives of Postwar Cool
Acknowledgments
Notes
Index

Editorial Reviews

“The Origins of Cool vibrates with the energy of its very subject—as restrained, composed, and revitalized as the postwar rebel himself.  From the cafes of the existentialists to the bars of film noir, from Lester Young’s sax to Elvis’s pout, Dinerstein offers a brilliant exegesis of the simmering mode of resistance we call cool. He penetrates the meanings of a misunderstood mode—a concept, a mood, a posture—while connecting the rich details of art and culture to the deepest transformations of the postwar world. The Origins of Cool takes the elusive and inchoate and renders them clear and nearly tangible, making the reader feel this mysterious current of postwar culture as if for the first time. This is a masterwork.”