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

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Ted Gioia: <em>The Birth (and Death) of the Cool</em>

Mourning an old friend

Cool is dead. For those of us who missed the funeral, Ted Gioia offers a probing eulogy, reminding us of the cool we once knew—that intangible tangle of image and irony, artifice and fashion.

Drawing heavily on his background as a jazz historian, Gioia outlines the birth of cool, devoting a chapter each to three jazz musicians he identifies as its fathers. Weaving from Bugs Bunny to Bond, he sketches a 20th-century timeline. He claims that the corporate co-opting of cool was its death knell, ringing in the current “postcool” era defined by authenticity and earnestness.

Gioia’s prose is intelligent and engaging (and wonderfully uncool), but some of his points seem off the mark. He says this era is defined by a lessening of irony and vanity; I say, somebody needs a field trip to Williamsburg.

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