Trying to Be Cool

By Leo Braudy
(Asahina & Wallace, Paperback, 9781940412047, 272pp.)

Publication Date: October 1, 2013

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Philadelphia in the ’50s: Barson’s Soda Shop at 60th and Cedar was the center of the universe, hanging out was the point, and the height of cool was to be kicked out of the Cedar Theatre for public displays of passion. In this engaging memoir of teenage life amid the transformations of post-World War II America, Leo Braudy reveals his younger self as a somewhat clueless narrator in the throes of deciphering the innuendo and subterfuge of a confusing world. Was rock ’n’ roll really a Communist plot? Was “juvenile delinquency” actually a threat to social order? Was “conformity” truly the era’s norm? Weaving a personal narrative through the wider social context of disillusionment and apocalyptic fears, Trying To Be Cool reveals the vibrant eclecticism of a decade too often dismissed as a period of conventionality.

About the Author
Leo Braudy is among America’s leading cultural historians and film critics. Currently University Professor and Leo S. Bing Chair in English and American Literature at the University of Southern California, he teaches Restoration literature and history, American culture after World War II, popular culture and critical theory, including the histories of visual style and film genres. His work appears in journals such as American Film, Film Quarterly, Genre, Novel, Partisan Review, and Prose Studies—to name a few. His book Jean Renoir: The World of His Films was a finalist for the National Book Award. The Frenzy of Renown: Fame and Its History was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Harper’s. His book From Chivalry to Terrorism, was named Best of the Best by the Los Angeles Times and a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times.

Robert Asahina has been editor in chief of Broadway Books (a Random House imprint), President and Publisher of the Adult Trade Group of Golden Books, Vice President of Simon & Schuster, Deputy Managing Editor of The New York Sun, and an editor at George, Harper's, The New York Times, GEO, and The Public Interest. He has also been a film critic for The New Leader and The American Spectator, a theater critic for The Hudson Review, a contributor to numerous periodicals, a consultant on enterprise data strategy and management at Freddie Mac, editor of the 4% Growth Project website, and the author of Just Americans, one of the Washington Post's best nonfiction books of 2006.

Praise For Trying to Be Cool
"Trying to be Cool is very much of and about its time. It’s a smart, lucid, insightful tour of a world that is both long gone and inescapably still with us, an immersion in the early days of our media-saturated, electrified, youth-obsessed culture, a fresh, raw retelling of its creation myth from someone who was there, on the dance floor, losing himself in the beat.” — Peter Birkenhead, Los Angeles Review of Books

“A lovely and passionate evocation of a time and place and the evanescent self we all inhabit.” — T.C. Boyle

"Leo Braudy is not just trying to be cool, he actually is cool. Touching and hilarious." — Robert Ward

“Trying To Be Cool is a memoir with all the yearning and poignant ache of a 1950s rock song. The energy and elation of innocence and youth reverberate throughout this coming-of-age story, set against the backdrop of cold war Philadelphia. I especially loved Braudy’s treatment of the musical scene, the dance crazes, and movies that captured the wild exuberance of the times. What really makes this memoir such a cool book is the fearless honesty and the wide-ranging cultural intelligence running beneath every word.” — Judith Freeman

“I love this book. The irony of Trying To Be Cool is that the book is so damn cool. It’s Rock Around the Clock for smart people. Leo Braudy captures an American moment. This book distills and extrapolates at once. Braudy can play lead and rhythm at the same time.” — Percival Everett
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