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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

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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Praise for Daniel J. Boorstin's The Image

“A very informative and entertaining and chastising book.”
“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
"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
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant March 14 2000
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 Brilliant but long-winded Dec 23 1998
By A Customer
I'm tempted to give this book 3*, because in my opinion any book worth its salt is efficient and readable, and something poorly written doesn't deserve 4*. However, the social commentary and insights are so brilliant and caustic that I have to give this 4*.
It provides excellent explanations for many of the phenomena so many complain about in modern society, and it is clear, accurate, and affecting. My gripe is that Boorstin makes some point in the first 3-4 pages of each chapter, then follows it with unnecessary examples. Unless you're obsesed with having everything restated and proved several times before you believe it, I advise you to read the first 4 pages of each chapter and then move on to the next-- literally. This book would be a lot shorter if it trusted itself a little-- the truths it reveals are intelligent and the reader identifies with them immediately, and the amount of proof and restatement provided is unnecessary.
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By A Customer
Boorstin's work is an excellent and highly insightful analysis of current American culture; although first puplished in 1960s, it resonates with a wit and wisdom which is even more cogent in today's America.
Boorstin's central theme is America's preoccupation with being preoccupied...with itself. He maintains that our society has lost focus on anything beyond itself, beyond the media-made images of itself, and is wholly preoccupied with the appearance of things and, ultimately, the processes of creating appearances-- a kind of national and cultural schizophrenia. He concludes that this national narcissism--like the Greek namesake--can only result in languishment and demise.
At first blush, the work seems readable and straightforward, but this is not light reading. It demands careful attention and reflection. The payoff is a rewarding experience which should stand as a classic of its kind.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing... July 30 1999
By A Customer
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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