Flapper by Joshua Zeitz
A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern

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Synopsis

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.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Joshua Zeitz

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Josh Zeitz has taught American history and politics at Cambridge University, Harvard University, and Princeton University.  He is the author of several books on American political and social history and has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, The New Republic, The Atlantic,  Dissent, American Heritage.  He lives with his wife and daughter in Hoboken, NJ."
 
Published February 4, 2009 by Broadway Books. 352 pages
Genres: History. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Flapper

Kirkus Reviews

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If the United States became modern in the decade after the First World War, a popular symbol of that modernity is the flapper, a scantily clad, frivolous young woman whose newfound freedom from restrictive clothing represented a way of life free of Victorian social strictures.

Jan 01 2006 | Read Full Review of Flapper: A Madcap Story of Se...

The New York Times

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But in his new book, "Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern," the Cambridge University historian Joshua Zeitz shows that the flapper was much more than her hairstyle.

Apr 16 2006 | Read Full Review of Flapper: A Madcap Story of Se...

The New York Times

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He can move swiftly from Clara Bow, the actress known as the "It" girl, and her dim idea of what had actually made her so famous ("I ain't real sure"), to Dorothy Parker, whose lacerating wisecracks were as essential to defining the flapper as was the Charleston.

Mar 24 2006 | Read Full Review of Flapper: A Madcap Story of Se...

Publishers Weekly

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This is an entertaining, well-researched and charmingly illustrated dissection of the 1920s flapper, who flouted conventions and epitomized the naughtiness of the Jazz Age as she "bobbed her hair, smoked cigarettes, drank gin, sported short skirts, and passed her evenings in steamy jazz clubs."

Dec 12 2005 | Read Full Review of Flapper: A Madcap Story of Se...

Tucson Citizen

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive.

Apr 13 2006 | Read Full Review of Flapper: A Madcap Story of Se...

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