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Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modernby Joshua Zeitz
Synopses & Reviews
Blithely flinging aside the Victorian manners that kept her disapproving mother corseted, the New Woman of the 1920s puffed cigarettes, snuck gin, hiked her hemlines, danced the Charleston, and necked in roadsters. More important, she earned her own keep, controlled her own destiny, and secured liberties that modern women take for granted. Her newfound freedom heralded a radical change in American culture.
Whisking us from the Alabama country club where Zelda Sayre first caught the eye of F. Scott Fitzgerald to Muncie, Indiana, where would-be flappers begged their mothers for silk stockings, to the Manhattan speakeasies where patrons partied till daybreak, historian Joshua Zeitz brings the era to exhilarating life. This is the story of America's first sexual revolution, its first merchants of cool, its first celebrities, and its most sparkling advertisement for the right to pursue happiness.
The men and women who made the flapper were a diverse lot.
There was Coco Chanel, the French orphan who redefined the feminine form and silhouette, helping to free women from the torturous corsets and crinolines that had served as tools of social control.
Three thousand miles away, Lois Long, the daughter of a Connecticut clergyman, christened herself "Lipstick" and gave New Yorker readers a thrilling entrée into Manhattan's extravagant Jazz Age nightlife.
In California, where orange groves gave way to studio lots and fairytale mansions, three of America's first celebrities — Clara Bow, Colleen Moore, and Louise Brooks, Hollywood's great flapper triumvirate — fired the imaginations of millions of filmgoers.
Dallas-born fashion artist Gordon Conway and Utah-born cartoonist John Held crafted magazine covers that captured the electricity of the social revolution sweeping the United States.
Bruce Barton and Edward Bernays, pioneers of advertising and public relations, taught big business how to harness the dreams and anxieties of a newly industrial America — and a nation of consumers was born.
Towering above all were Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, whose swift ascent and spectacular fall embodied the glamour and excess of the era that would come to an abrupt end on Black Tuesday, when the stock market collapsed and rendered the age of abundance and frivolity instantly obsolete.
With its heady cocktail of storytelling and big ideas, Flapper is a dazzling look at the women who launched the first truly modern decade.
"This is an entertaining, well-researched and charmingly illustrated dissection of the 1920s flapper..." Publishers Weekly
"An essential exploration of the women Zeitz deems 'the first thoroughly modern American[s].'" Booklist (Starred Review)
"[E]njoyable and readable...recommended..." Library Journal
"The result is a work that feels unduly padded, stuffed full of extraneous facts." Kirkus Reviews
"[S]kitters entertainingly all over the cultural landscape while chronicling the rise and fall of these perfect symbols of the Jazz Age..." Houston Chronicle
"Joshua Zeitz shows that the flapper was much more than her hairstyle. She was, in fact, a torch lighting the way to social change, embracing a 'controversial lifestyle in a spirited attempt at self-definition.'" New York Times
"Zeitz is right to call the 1920s the decade when 'modern' America began to take shape....The world we live in now started to take shape then, and the flapper played an important role." Washington Post
"Anyone interested in the role of women, the beginnings of pop culture or the glamour of old Hollywood will find much to enjoy in Zeitz's delightful and informative book." San Francisco Chronicle
With its heady cocktail of storytelling and big ideas, Flapper is a dazzling look at the women who launched the first truly modern decade. 27 photos throughout.
Flapper is the story of the notorious New Woman of the 1920s who bobbed her hair, smoked cigarettes, drank gin, sported short skirts and passed her evenings in steamy jazz clubs, where she danced in a shockingly immodest fashion with a revolving cast of male suitors.
The book follows the intertwined stories of Lois Long, aka Lipstick, the notorious fashion/gossip columnist and original staff writer at the New Yorker; John Held, Jr. and Gordon Conway, America's leading magazine cover artists in the 20s; Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald, the literary couple who became the first American celebrity couple; Coco Chanel and Paul Poiret, the leading pioneers of Parisian couture; and Clara Bow, Colleen Moore and Louise Brooks, the starlets of Jazz-Age Hollywood who defined "it."
Flapper traces their lives to tell a larger story about the first sexual revolution. It also weaves a captivating narrative about the advent of America's urban consumer culture, the rise of a new cult of celebrity, the emerging prominence of media and fashion elites, the maturation of the advertising and marketing professions, and the privatization of American "rights rhetoric." All of these trends converged in the 20s to lend America the recognizably modern and dynamic culture we know today.
More than just a character type, the Flapper represented the emergence of the new, emancipated American woman. Her image endures today in film, fashion, popular media and politics. Flapper tells her story.
About the Author
Joshua Zeitz is a lecturer on American history and fellow of Pembroke College at the University of Cambridge and is a contributing editor at American Heritage. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New Republic, and Forward. He lives in New York and Cambridge, England. Visit his website at FlapperBook.com.
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