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The Birth (and Death) of the Cool by Ted Gioia

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A sign of the worth of Gioia´s book is that it is hard to summarize. He examines coolness as an aspirational quality and attempts to show how this behavioral style that originated with certain jazz musicians and blacks was used at first by the entertainment industry and, later, by what used to be called Madison Avenue, to sell all sorts of products, particularly to people in their teens and twenties- achieve coolness by consumption. He indirectly claims that the increasing emphasis on lifestyle- a term whose use and origin he discusses to some extent – as a bundle of consumer choices grew in conjunction with the combination of these phenomena but that younger people have adopted different values and no longer consume as a result of marketing campaigns convincing them that it is cool to buy something.

Gioia is strong on explaining the origin of cool in the emulation of Bix Biederbecke, Lester Young, Miles Davis and Frank Sinatra by cool aspirants and contrasts music that precedes them as more blatantly emotionally presented and often sentimental. He then shows how this moved into the entertainment industry, and Madison Avenue.

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