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Twee: The Gentle Revolution in Music, Books, Television, Fashion, and Film

3.14  ·  Rating details ·  332 ratings  ·  66 reviews
New York Times, Spin, and Vanity Fair contributor Marc Spitz explores the first great cultural movement since Hip Hop: an old-fashioned and yet highly modern aesthetic that’s embraced internationally by teens, twenty and thirty-somethings and even some Baby Boomers; creating hybrid generation known as Twee. Via exclusive interviews and years of research, Spitz traces Gener ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 3rd 2014 by It Books
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Rebecca
Spitz, a music journalist and novelist, sets out to define what “twee” might mean in relation to popular culture. According to the OED, this primarily British slang word connotes “excessively affected, quaint, pretty, or sentimental” and is “chiefly derogatory.” For Spitz, twee is all about being naturally trusting, “fighting fear and hatred with kindness.” In other words, it’s about being nice. As literary examples he cites Dave Eggers, Jonathan Safran Foer, Sarah Vowell, even J.D. Salinger. Th ...more
Evan
In the sound-bite world we barely get a word out of our mouths before we get branded some one word "ist," or a practitioner of some "ism," wittingly or not, and two-way communication breaks down and the assumptions fly, projection runs rampant, and everyone runs for cover in their safe spaces and lobs molotov cocktails at random.

Labeling, branding, catch-phrasing, categorizing... we instantly need some way to subdue the nasty beast that is life; it is too big and messy and mean and it makes us m
...more
TJ
Aug 12, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
This is barely a book about twee. There's a chapter about Belle & Sebastian, some pages about Beat Happening and K Records, and Sarah Records is more-or-less a footnote. Otherwise, it's really pop 'history' fluff about sensitive men in American and European pop culture since the 1950's. It's readable and enjoyable at times for what it is (the chapter on Nirvana was done relatively well, and I CAN get behind Kurt/Nirvana as twee), until you remember that what you're reading is supposed to be abou ...more
Randy Allain
Jun 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
My biggest complaint about this book is that it started to tear down my illusion that I was an individual with unique & eclectic tastes and a heightened sense of morality – not chained by cultural monikers. Apparently, all this time...... I was just a Twee.

In all honesty, I found this book incredibly fun and “twee” in and of itself. What I mean is, you will share my opinion of this book if and only if you have a functional passion and sense of nostalgia for at least ¾ of the artists, songs, film
...more
Robert
Jun 13, 2014 rated it liked it
I never felt at home in a community until I found twee. I have friends amongst the punks, hackers, writers, scientists, and academics, but any gathering of modest size within any of those groups inevitably starts to get a little mean, in that critical, competitive way. People bait each other, make fun of each other for knowing too much or too little about things -- it's all in good fun, but it starts to grate on me. I want to be with people who are passionate about everything , who are thrilled ...more
susie
This book is not so much non-fiction as it is Op-Ed; it's the kind of Chuck Klosterman pop-culture theorist writing that we kind of see in the 33 1/3 series and in other forms, in print.

But the book is misnamed.

I was drawn into this book by its opening chapter and really appreciated the many ways in which the author thoughtfully wove through art, film and music to basically define the evolution of subculture's softer and less obvious side: underdog culture. It's not really Punk, though there's
...more
Danine
Jun 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
As I was reading The Atlantic, I read the article about the Twee movement and Marc Spitz' book. The names Edward Gorey, Wes Anderson, and The Smith's caught my attention in the article. These names are definitive in my small existence. I knew I had to read more and I ordered the book. The book itself is twee in size. I enjoyed Spitz' way of stringing one twee element to another. It reminded me of a mixed barrel of monkeys that with care, and slight precision, are hooked and connected together to ...more
vladb
Jun 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
I've been waiting for years for a book on the Twee phenomenon, so understandably I was quite excited about this. This book explores the meaning of Twee as the author sees it, and briefly introduces its icons. Of course, everyone has their own opinion on who should be included in the Twee pantheon. I thought that some of Marc's choices were spot-on, and others more questionable. "Maus" has anthropomorphic animals in suits, one of the Twee style landmarks, but to call the whole work Twee is a bit ...more
Robert
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
When I was a teenager I noticed that my tastes in music was different than my peers, when britpop died. I tended to lean towards more gentle sounding bands such as Belle and Sebastian, my fave track on The White Stripes White Blood Cells album was We are going to be Friends and did I ever play the first Aberfeldy and Hidden Cameras albums to death. Not too mention the band that changed the way I looked at music: Beat Happening

Later on I gravitated towards films such as Eternal Sunshine of the Sp
...more
William
Oct 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Not bad, but a little mainstream and bland. Covers the basis, but for what purpose, really? Other than geeking out on some familiar names? Jonathan Richman got his well deserved time, but no mention of some of the more super obscure stuff I was really looking for. Hoped to expand my world, not just observe it from where I'm already sitting, you know?
Kaylyn
Apr 13, 2014 rated it liked it
I won this book as a Goodreads giveaway.

Well, this was not exactly what I expected. I expected a fun, easy-going read that tracked a social movement from its origins to modern times. For the most part, this book did so. Prior to reading this book, I have never heard of Twee. Upon some Google searches I kind of had an idea of what Twee was: a group of people who support local artists and businesses, love the earth, and are unwilling to let go of a sense of childhood innocence. This novel basicall
...more
Jay
May 10, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: music, media, first-reads
People like to categorize things. It's one of those things that distinguishes humans from the lower animals. Rock writers really like to categorize things. Author Marc Spitz writes books about rockers and wrote for Spin magazine. He gets this categorization thing. "Twee" is an attempt to categorize together very disparate popular personalities and media along the theme of gentleness and a child-like approach to the world. The way this is done is to drop a name of a person, movie, book, tv show, ...more
Liss Carmody
Aug 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
Huh. I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting out of this book: maybe an overview of a movement? Maybe something that coalesced the ideals and philosophies of what it means to be Twee? I found, as I tried to articulate these things to people who would inquire about what I was reading, that even as I worked through each chapter, I didn't feel any closer to a true understanding, or a real ability to communicate it. Twee, as described here, seems more of a referential club, an aesthetic that one ...more
Jeff Glovsky
Sep 19, 2015 rated it it was ok
I'd been confused about this "movement" for some time - The sometimes lazy, often fearful, hyper-emotional misfits demanding the coddling of their helicoptered childhoods to continue well past sell-by dates, into their collective twenties and thirties.

A weird skinny lumberjack beard or two later, these (wo)men-children have been, somewhat insultingly, labeled "Twee". If the shoe fits... The problem is, it fits too well. Author Marc Spitz does not even bother to come up with a label as resounding
...more
Jody Cates
Jul 08, 2014 rated it it was ok
I was intrigued by this book's claim to provide an inside look at what I have only known as the "hipster" generation. I had never heard of "Twees" before I picked it up. I found much of the book to be a labored attempt to connect the dots from punk to twee and found it to read much like a dry history book - packed with names and dates and facts and events - with very little to bring life and personality into the story of a cultural movement toward caring and kindness (the author's definition of ...more
Karla Zavala
The essay has a lot of interesting references and connections between indie culture. It is like a good overview of the main influencers in what the author refer as "twee" revolution. However I must say I personally found a lot of opinions that could be categorized as ethnocentric, due to the words like "brooklynized", and that "it" has spread all over the world. The subtext is always somewhat "the world has followed the leader" or something like that. In my personal opinion indie culture may hav ...more
Al
Jun 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
An amusing survey of twee. As a fringe benefit, this book confirmed my suspicion that while I may look upon aspects of twee with a certain degree of amusement or fondness, I am very much not twee. Fun book, though.

My eyebrow was raised at the idea of Kurt Cobain as being twee. Seriously?
Ian
Jun 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Over emphasis on music as an influence, perhaps mixes influences with the aesthetic style itself. Doesn't really address race or class.
Tanya
Apr 30, 2015 rated it liked it
I'm giving it a three for readability. Even so, I felt it was a bit of a stretch to say "The Diary of Anne Frank" was a progenitor of Twee. The chapter on Mumblecore was very good, though.
Justin Zuckerman
Apr 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. Spitz tries to trace a general, linear history of "twee" from Walt Disney's beginnings to 2014. And that's essentially 100 years of pop-culture history fit into 300 pages, so it's going to be pretty surface-level. It doesn't so much focus on the Twee music scene of the 80s and 90s. The music segments are mainly focused on the Smiths, Belle and Sebastian, and Nirvana. I was pleasantly surprised by how much time he spent on film though, especially mumblecore. Spitz also ...more
Natasha Thoreson
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
All this time I was a member of the twee tribe but didn’t know it was even a thing. I still don’t fit in.

This book, though a bit heavy handed at times (the author probably reiterated his thesis statement 18,000 times overall), helps make sense of the world as well as the terrifying realization that this IS, in fact, it. I don’t think anything in this book will help, but it will probably mitigate the pain knowing so many others are locked in their homes feeling the same thing.

Actually, I do often
...more
Kimberly  Edwin
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Brooklyn NY, which is where I've lived for 42 Years, is the epicenter of "Twee". The Brooklyn Owl, a shop on Flatbush near Bergen street, epitomizes this aesthetic. It sells sparkly unicorn horns and other "twee" items for children. It's been there for a while so it must be doing well. I loved the reference in the book to "Saint Biggie of Old Brooklyn", who features in murals all over Bed-Stuy. I will refer to the Notorious One as Saint Biggie from now on.
dearlittledeer
Apr 14, 2020 rated it liked it
I was really sad to find out in the midst of reading this that Marc Spitz had passed away. I have been a fan of his since How Soon is Never. RIP dude.

I love that this book exists, with entire chapters on both Kurt Cobain and Belle and Sebastian. It's like it was made for me. But I guess I'm just twee 😝
Metalpig
Sounded so interesting, but ended up in laundry list mode. I don't think it's too mysterious that sensitive people will seek out "something pretty" when the surrounding culture is brutal. Is it a trend? I can only effing wish.
Daphne
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was ok
What's this? A book that lists on and on about "Twee" icons, like that irritating person at a party who Knows Everything. There is no analysis, very little commentary, except a Greatest Hits list of Who's Who - which I suppose is rather enjoyable (until it was not)
Joanna
Apr 19, 2018 rated it it was ok
I feel that I have so many opinions on what makes something truly "twee" that there was no way I could fully enjoy this book. How is Nirvana twee? I suppose Nirvana is more twee than Foo Fighters, but there are so many better examples of twee music out there.
History_and_scfi_buff
not bad
Edward
Aug 05, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Twee (the book) is about the rise in the U.S. (mostly) of Twee (the phenomenon). The epicenter of Twee is contemporary Brooklyn, but there are outposts in places like Austin, TX and Portland, OR. Further abroad there is Glasgow, Scotland which is rather like the Mother Ship of Twee. The Godfather of Twee would be Morrissey. The Great-Grandfather of Twee is the ever-youthful Holden Caulfield.

Here is author Marc Spitz's definition of Twee:

* Beauty over ugliness.
* A sharp, almost incapacitating a
...more
david smith
Jan 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Decent, if somewhat oversimplifying.

Marc Spitz attempts a history of what he posits as a dominant cultural force "Twee."

Twee was originally a pejorative term for describing a sort of precious, homemade quality that music on labels in the 1980's such as Postcard, Sarah, and K possessed. Spitz gives brief histories of all these labels in the book. He also extends his purview of Important Twee Culture to movies such as Gregory's Girl and directors such as Noah Baumbach and Wes Anderson, citing hi
...more
Christopher
Mar 29, 2016 rated it liked it
As someone who lives in a neighborhood in Toronto where you can't swing a dead Etsy cat without hitting something sold in a mason jar, I found this an interesting concept - better than the "Twee" title though, would've been "whimsy." That's far more straightforward and relatable.

(As an aside, I feel like this review should've been banged out on a typewriter to heighten the level of affectation, but I'll have to make do with modern technology). Ezra Pound's battle cry was "make it new" but there'
...more
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Marc Spitz was a former senior writer at Spin magazine. His work has also appeared in The New York Times, Maxim, Blender, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Nylon and the New York Post. Spitz is the co-author (with Brendan Mullen) of the 2001 LA punk oral history We Got The Neutron Bomb: The Untold Story of L.A. Punk. He has authored two novels, How Soon is Never (2003) and Too Much, Too Late (2006), as ...more

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7 likes · 5 comments
“Salinger, unlike Disney, came from a well-to-do family, but he stands alongside Mickey’s inventor as perhaps the second great body of water that feeds all Twee streams, rivers, estuaries, and ponds. His influence on the aesthetic is equally vast, his body of work virtual Twee scripture.” 0 likes
“As with any artistic trend, Twee doesn’t become a movement until it gets its own household name. He arrived in the corduroy-draped, beanpole shape of Wes Anderson.” 0 likes
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