Published in The American Poetry Review Volume 38 No. 5
I was doing some reading on the concept of “cool” for a course I teach on New York in the 1950s. I looked at Birth of the Cool by Lewis MacAdams, Cool Rules by Pountain and Robins, Hip: A History by John Leland, The Conquest of Cool by Thomas Frank, and American Cool by Peter Stearns. And there I found the usual and not so usual suspects and subjects from Jack Kerouac to William Gibson, from be-bop to hip hop, from existential hauteur to post-modern irony, from the beats to the punks, from Baudelaire to Bob Dylan, from the Bird to Notorious B.I.G., from Jackson Pollack to Andy Warhol, from the trickster to the hipster, from the Bowery Boys to Boyz N the Hood, from reefer madness to heroin chic. What I didn’t find in any of the books was any serious consideration or even recognition of the place of cars in the world of cool.