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Anything Goes: A Biography of the Roaring Twenties (2008)

by Lucy Moore

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244486,305 (3.57)12
Bracketed by the catastrophes of the Great War and the Wall Street Crash, the 1920s was a time of fear and hedonism. In this text, Lucy Moore interweaves the most compelling stories of the people and events that characterized the decade to produce an account of an often-overlooked period.

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I was a little underwhelmed by this book. It is an overview of the most well known events and people in 1920s America. It didn't open my eyes to anything new or make any great historical research strides forward. If you want a quick summary of things such as jazz, Hollywood, prohibition, Capone, KKK, Dempsey rather than reading books about each topic then this will serve that purpose. If you are after how the 1920s America fit into a world wide era of change and upheaval of society, values, politics, technology etc., you will be disappointed. A bit of fluff for US-centric readers. ( )
1 vote KatiaMDavis | Dec 19, 2017 |
Anything Goes: A Biography of the Roaring Twenties, by Lucy Moore, is just what the subtitle says, although perhaps it would be more accurate to call it a biography of America's 1920s as that's the only country discussed (well, France is mentioned in the chapter entitled "In Exile," but that chapter's all about, yes, Americans in France). Moore covers quite a lot of territory, including the birth of the Jazz Age, Prohibition, the rise of mobsters, women's emancipation, the treatment of Blacks, movies, the rise of industry, literature, xenophobia, the resurgence of the KKK (which chapter is especially interesting to readers at the present time, as there are a lot of phrases in there where "KKK said" could be replaced with "The Tea Partier said" and everything else kept the same), youthful cynicism and hedonism, Lindbergh's flight, the Tunney-Dempsey fight and, finally, the Stock Market Crash. Definitely interesting times, and it's good to get some idea of what contemporary people thought of the times they were living through, but I have a major quibble with this book and that is, no notes! Sure, there's a short paragraph of "notes" for each chapter, where Moore lists her favourite 2 or 3 books for the particular subject of that chapter, but she frequently quotes contemporaries without attribution and there's no meticulous sourcing of her material, just a bibliography at the end. I realize this is meant to be a light-hearted popular history, but this lack of basic protocol when writing about historical periods or persons is annoying, to put it mildly. A pity, as otherwise I'd recommend it as a fun read. ( )
  thefirstalicat | Nov 16, 2010 |
I’d been really looking to reading Anything Goes by Lucy Moore; it is a period of history which especially interests me at the moment, particularly after reading Singled Out by Virginia Nicholson and reading a number of novels written in the inter-war period. The book is about the America during the twenties, which I know much less about than the British experience. Moore focuses on a number of different areas and people whose influence contributed to the distinctive ‘Roaring Twenties’, dedicating a chapter to each.

At the beginning I found this jumping around from one area to the next quite disjointed and disorientating, making the book feel broken up and a little difficult to get into. The first chapter focuses on Al Capone and his gangster career, also examining the issue of prohibition and bootleg alcohol. From this, Moore moves onto the jazz movement, looking at some of the principle black jazz artists of the period, alongside black writers and poets, and talking about the Harlem area of New York, where jazz particularly developed.

Other chapters looked at women’s position in society, particularly that appearance of the flapper, the development of aviation andLindbergh’s record breaking flight across the Atlantic, the Klu Klux Klan’s emergence, the politics of the period, examining the role of President Harding, the creation of the New Yorker magazine and the Dayton trial of John Scopes, which was essentially a battle between the ideas of religion and evolution. Moore also covers the film industry of twenties America, the American fear of foreigners and radicals, the burgeoning business industry, including car manufacture and the role of advertising, the Americans who ‘exiled’ themselves to Europe following the war and the casting of sportsmen as American heroes, focusing on Jack Dempsey, the boxer. Finally, Moore finishes by examining the financial position of America, with the unlimited stock trading leading to the crash occurring in 1929.

Throughout her book, Moore highlights the conflict between traditional American values and modernism after the war that was characteristic of this period. The clashes between the old, pious ideals of American and the developing new world of freedom and high and fast living is a theme which runs throughout all of Moore's chapters. However, I did feel that she often didn't go into enough depth for me, nor really explored how her many examples demonstrated a wider argument.

I was disappointed not to have more on the experience of women in twenties America; whilst Moore’s chapter on the flapper focused on those women, like Zelda Fitzgerald, who were pushing the boundaries of acceptability and revelling in new found freedoms, there was little on women throughout the rest of the book. They are mainly referred to as the mistresses or wives of the men Moore was profiling, like Florence Harding, the wife of President Harding, Caresse Crosby, the wife of Harry Crosby and Marion Davies, mistress of Randolph Hearst. The only other place where women are discussed is in Moore’s section of Hollywood and film stars; some women were able to work as producers, such as Mary Pickford, who had her own film corporation. I did feel like this was a bit of a missed opportunity, and was surprised that Moore had gone with having the token ‘women chapter’, rather than integrating them more fully into her picture of Twenties America as a whole. I also felt that Moore had gone down this route with Black Americans; the only chapter in which they really featured was the chapter on jazz and black writers, rather than incorporating their experience into the rest of the book.

When I read a non-fiction book I always end up adding numerous books to my book list from the bibliography, and I have done here - oops! I enjoyed Anything Goes, and it gave me a great insight into that period of American history and the various different personalities that coloured the Roaring Twenties and has encouraged me to read more on the areas I found particularly interesting. However, I was a little disappointed by some aspects of it, especially the lack of integration of the Black American and women's experience into the book as a whole and at some points the lack of deeper investigation. ( )
2 vote AlisonHT | Jun 4, 2010 |
Surprisingly fun book about lots and lots and lots of different events that shaped and created the 1920s. The first few chapters are brisk and quickly passed over with various subjects, which are a bit of a deterrent to the rest of the book. Once the reader digs deeper into the chapters, Moore actually brings out some good info and it makes for a well rounded, overview type book of a wild decade. ( )
  noblechicken | Mar 19, 2010 |
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Bracketed by the catastrophes of the Great War and the Wall Street Crash, the 1920s was a time of fear and hedonism. In this text, Lucy Moore interweaves the most compelling stories of the people and events that characterized the decade to produce an account of an often-overlooked period.

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