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The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America [Paperback]

Daniel J. Boorstin
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 1 1992 Vintage

First published in 1962, this wonderfully provocative book introduced the notion of “pseudo-events”—events such as press conferences and presidential debates, which are manufactured solely in order to be reported—and the contemporary definition of celebrity as “a person who is known for his well-knownness.” Since then Daniel J. Boorstin’s prophetic vision of an America inundated by its own illusions has become an essential resource for any reader who wants to distinguish the manifold deceptions of our culture from its few enduring truths.


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Review

Praise for Daniel J. Boorstin's The Image

“A very informative and entertaining and chastising book.”
Harper’s 
 
“A book that everyone in America should read every few years. Stunning in its prescience, it explains virtually every aspect of our mass media's evolution and seductiveness.”
—Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize winning author of A Visit From the Goon Squad 
 
“An engrossing book—sensitive, thoughtful, damning, dead on target and in most respects unanswerable.”
Scientific American
 
“Excellent. . . It is the book to end all books about ‘The American Image’—what it is, who projects it, what effect it has at home or abroad.”
The Observer 
 
“A brilliant and original essay about the black arts and corrupting influences of advertising and public relations.”
The Guardian

“Boorstin’s book tells us how to see and listen, and how to think about what we see and hear.”
—George Will

From the Back Cover

"An Engrossing Book -- Sensitive, Thoughtful, Damning, Dead On Target And In Most Respects Unanswerable."

-- Scientific American"entertaining, Acute, Stimulating, Timely, And Intelligent...A Brilliant Polemic About A Very Real Problem."

-- Saturday Review

"excellent...It Is The Book To End All Books About 'the American Image' -- What It Is, Who Projects It, What Effect It Has At Home Or Abroad." -- The Observer


Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Credibility vs. Truth, Hero vs. Celebrity Aug. 9 2001
Format:Paperback
"A celebrity is a person who is well-known for their well-knownness" -- an observation from this book that is one of the most often quoted bits of wisdom on the subject of celebrity, and deservedly so. But this is just one of many quotable observations made by Boorstin in this prescient, clear-eyed look at the beginning of the post-modern world. Written in 1962, this book has been mined by writers on modern society of every stripe: French postmods (who don't credit Boorstin), Neil Postman (who does). Though it suffers a bit from the outdated examples used to elucidate his points about the "Graphic Revolution" -- his line in the sand between the modern and pre-modern -- the book is so cogently argued that it rarely matters.
His main thematic device is to dichotomize pre-modern and modern/postmodern categories. For instance, in discussing celebrity he notes that the precursor of the celebrity was the hero. He explains the difference by saying that the hero was "folk" based, while the celebrity is "mass" based. George Washington was raised to the level of hero by the people for his deeds, his fame embroidered by them, cherry trees invented for him to chop down. On the other hand, celebrities -- the Gabor sisters to use one of his examples -- were celebrities before they even starred in movies. They were created by astute publicists and through their own knack of getting into the paper.
He actually starts his discussion about how the image has come to be substituted for ideals in his first chapter on the gathering and dissemination of the news. He notes the rise of the pseudo-event, e.g.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The American Dream, Imagine That March 9 2011
By Daffy Bibliophile TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Well, it's easy to see where Chris Hedges got his inspiration for "Empire of Illusion". Boorstin's book, "The Image", came out in 1962 and attempts to peal back the layers of illusion, self-deception and blurred reality that characterized the United States of fifty years ago and today. Touching on a diverse range of topics including the concept of a "celebrity", press conferences, the decline of travel and the rise of tourism, Boorstin set the standard for books which try to see what America really is, not what Americans think America is. Reading "The Image" is like sitting in a barber chair watching yourself in a mirror sitting in a barber chair watching yourself in a mirror, looking at yourself in a mirror, ad infinitum. Boorstin never does quite make it to the final mirror, but he made a very good effort and produced a very readable book, at least that's according to "Reader's Digest".

All in all, this is a very good look at modern America and its self-obsession and, despite advances in technology, is not at all dated. I would recommend reading Propaganda by Edward Bernays and Public Opinion by Walter Lippman to get a fuller understanding of public relations, advertising and the whole empire of illusions.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant March 14 2000
Format:Paperback
In general, I recommend anything Boorstin writes: his essays are lucid and his ideas are always perceptive. I read this book around 6 years ago and lost it. I'd like to order it again. What makes this book particularly brilliant is Boorstin's insights into how perception, specifically media perception, influences us psychologically and, thereby, reality. (Think of that Esquire Ad campaign: perception vs. reality.) Also, Boorstin is one of the few contemporary thinkers who writes clearly, without pretensions.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Still Insightful Feb. 20 2000
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Boornstin is such a prolific writer that it's easy to see how this book got passed over by most readers in the 60s. Coming from a serious academic, it must have sounded a stuffy attack on a progressive new medium (TV) and industry (Public Relations)...compare this to some of today's rantings about the evils of the internet.
It's so insightful. The book is quite powerful in that Boornstin's observations of 1962 are now just commonly accepted.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing... July 30 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Boorstin first published this prophetic book in 1962. What amazes me in particular is the accurate depiction of our current media and journalism. The truth is told (and most do not care much for that), that seems to warrant the degregation this book receives. Each of his points are well supported by fact and logic, not to mention appropiate historical events. This book is to me inspiring, a breath of fresh air. He doesn't blow wind in your face. Today history has turned into an anti-imperical nightmare of contradictions. With the slaughter of history by social theorists and humanitarians it is refreshing to read a bona fide historian again.
Thank you Daniel J Boorstin...for telling the truth.
Miss Courtney Payne
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