Plastic by Stephen Fenichell
The Making of a Synthetic Century

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Synopsis

Prophylactics to polystyrene, viscose to Velcro, saran to cellophane: For better or worse, we're married to plastic. In your refrigerator, your closet, your car it's everywhere, and it's not going away. You eat with it, work with it, play with it. Often, you even breathe it. Cheap, pliable, easily made, eminently democratic, it symbolizes everything that's both wrong and right with our culture.

In Plastic: The Making of a Synthetic Century, Stephen Fenichell takes a fresh, irreverent look at the substance we all love to hate. The book moves from the early astonishment at such inventions as celluloid film and waterproof clothing, to the nylon-stocking riots after World War II, to the revolutionary yet practical proliferation of Tupperware in the '50s. Fenichell's sweeping assessment of the social and economic revolutions brought on by plastic extends from the sublime to the absurd, the beautiful to the mundane, demonstrating how scientists, artists, politicians and the buying public have all molded, and also been molded, by plastic.

By turns a hero and a villain, a useless fad, an essential commodity, plastic is the ideal indicator of how people think and live. With clarity, wit and deadpan accuracy, Fenichell narrates a rollicking story about the thrills, chills and accidental spills that led to the development of plastic, about the scientists and corporations who got rich (or went bankrupt) creating and selling synthetics, and about the surprising invention that has shaped our world.

 

About Stephen Fenichell

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Scott Bedbury was senior vice president of marketing at Starbucks from 1995 to 1998. Prior to that he was head of advertising for Nike, where he launched the "Bo Knows" and "Just Do It" campaigns. A resident of Seattle, he is currently CEO of Brandstream and a speaker for the Leigh Bureau. Stephen Fenichell is the author of "Plastic: The Making of a Synthetic Century" and "Other People's Money," His articles have appeared in "New York," "Men's Journal," "Forbes/FYI," "GQ," "Discover," "Conde Nast Traveler," and "Wired,
 
Published June 1, 1996 by Harperbusiness. 368 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, Computers & Technology, Professional & Technical, Science & Math. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Plastic

Kirkus Reviews

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But it is poorly organized and repetitive, as he jumps from material to material (it would have worked better as an encyclopedia).

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Publishers Weekly

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Tracking vinyl, rayon, Teflon, Bakelite, polyester and so forth, Fenichell carries the story to pop art, Tupperware, environmental artist Christo's outdoor wrappings and new biodegradable plastics used in ecologically fashionable fibers, dissolvable films and recyclable bottles.

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Entertainment Weekly

And while this method won't be to everyone's taste, the author's references to Pop artists and pop songs (quoting ''R-E-S-P-E-C-T'' is probably the most apropos citation) give his work the qualities we've come to expect from his subject material: It's lightweight yet durable, colorful but se...

Aug 23 1996 | Read Full Review of Plastic: The Making of a Synt...

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