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Anything Goes: A Biography of the Roaring Twenties
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Anything Goes: A Biography of the Roaring Twenties

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  732 ratings  ·  80 reviews
This is an exhilarating portrait of the era of invention, glamour and excess from one of the brightest young stars of mainstream history writing. Bracketed by the catastrophes of the Great War and the Wall Street Crash, the 1920s was a time of fear and hedonism. The decade glittered with seduction: jazz, flappers, wild all-night parties, the birth of Hollywood, and a glamo ...more
Hardcover, 389 pages
Published November 1st 2008 by Atlantic
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May 01, 2013 rated it did not like it
I thought this would be more of a social history of everyday people, but basically it's a collection of short overviews of the things in the 1920s that everyone has already heard of anyway--Al Capone, Henry Ford, the movie industry, etc. At least I thought it would be a fun refresher course.

Then things started to be noticeably different from other, well-researched books I'd read. First it was a bit about Charlie Chaplin that sounded different than I remembered from the biography I read, but I j
Jan C
Apr 15, 2018 rated it liked it
It was an enjoyable read. But I have to question my enjoyment since it did sit on my shelf for about 7 years. I was about 1/3 into it and I put it on the shelf, whether on purpose or by accident. Maybe there was just another "shiny" new book that attracted my attention.

Fairly informative, kind of gossipy.

Touches on most aspects of the '20s - Harlem Renaissance, white people slumming in Harlem (not appreciated by the residents), the revamp of the Ku Klux Klan (Indiana has a lot to answer for),
Nov 02, 2011 rated it it was ok
This book really was "just okay." It wasn't particularly cohesive--basically just a number of biographical essays on famous individuals from the '20s strung together without a coherent theme. It wasn't footnoted or well-researched, either. At one point in the bibliography the author notes that "as far as she knows" there is only one major work on Zelda Fitzgerald--as though she couldn't be bothered to check for sure. For a more well researched, better written, and generally more exciting read on ...more
Jan 02, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: american-history
Not the greatest work of history I've ever read. It's entertaining and readable enough, but that's more a result of the subject than the actual content. The Twenties was a decade that is hard to make boring.

Moore takes a thematic approach rather than chronological, organising her chapters by topics such as celebrities, movies, sport, architecture, literature, politics. I'm not sure the approach works - it makes it much more a superficial, 'potted' history rather than anything approaching any kin
Sep 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is the 1920s in America and I thought the book gave a good overview of the good and bad of the decade. Each chapter deals with a different topic such as: Chicago and its gangsters, music and dance (Charleston and the blues); religion and its impact on law and society; cars and the introduction of the modern factory (and labour laws) and the stock market and great crash to end the decade.

Much of this decade with its great changes in society and technology seems familiar even today. The fina
Nicola Pierce
Jun 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can see lots of negative reviews but I wonder if they are down to the fact that the writer isn't actually American. Anyway, I enjoyed it. I love reading about America and I love reading about the 1920s. Plenty of the 'cast', I had read about before - the Fitzgeralds, Chaplin and the Lingberghs etc - but it was my first time to read about the likes of Al Capone and Jack Dempsey. I was surprised not to see screenwriter, director, writer Francis Marion's name in the chapter about her best friend ...more
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfic
Bite size snippets of history, mainly American. Nothing Wikipedia wouldn’t have given. Sigh.
Matthew McDonough
As others have noted, the book starts off pretty good, but then just drops into almost unreadable, gossipy, poorly-researched rubbish. More often than not, it comes across as a self-published, glorified term paper. Some GLARING issues: teenagers in the 1920s borrowing the family car to visit friends(?); central figures whose names seemingly changed from paragraph to paragraph; and my favorite: constant reference to "Middletown," as if it is a legitimate U.S. city, with no explanation as to the o ...more
Jan 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I received this from a friend, as I am interested in that period. Really fascinating accounts of crime in Chicago and good portrayal of Al Capone. My only criticism so far is that it is all set in the US. Still it got me playing some old Bessie Smith songs, which is a very good thing.
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Written with all the wit and analytical power of a Wikipedia article.
Leslie Goddard
I was genuinely surprised by some of the “meh” or outright negative reviews of this book, which I thought was fresh and vivid and fun to read. It’s hard to condense a number of dense, complicated topics (e.g. jazz, the Scopes monkey trial, the Sacco Vanzetti case, the rise of skyscrapers) into succinct, readable chapters but this book did it unusually well for me. And I found the writing lively and entertaining. It kept me engaged even with topics that don’t usual interest me.

I wonder if some of
Alex Smith
Jun 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Breezy, entertaining social history of the 1920's in much the same style as David Halberstam's "The Fifties" or Bill Bryson's "One Summer in America" (although shorter and more narrowly focused than either of those books). Lucy Moore writes about fourteen events or trends, with an eye for telling anecdotes (Bessie Smith's insulting the white hostess who attempts to kiss the singer at the end of a party) or memorable detail (Al Capone's predilection for splashy, pastel suits). Moore is not a "big ...more
Adam Glantz
Apr 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading Lucy Moore's book made me realize that a lot of what we associate with America in the 1960s was present in the 1920s. Hedonism, openness to African-American culture, sexual experimentation, the glamour of intoxicants, the cult of celebrity, intellectual ferment, new technologies, political corruption, a sneaking fondness for violence, shell-shocked veterans, the desire to "drop out," and an almost suicidal cult of youth (Think of Roger Daltry singing "I hope I die before I get old" a few ...more
An interesting popular history of the decade called "The Roaring Twenties" in the United States. All the "usual suspects" are mentioned: Prohibition; Al Capone and gangsters / racketers / bootleggers, Dance crazes like the Charleston; Short skirts and shingled hair; F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald: the Ivy League writer, the Flapper and the Gin parties; the Stock markets going up, up, up.; the "Monkey Trial" between Fundamentalism and Evolution; the Fatty Arbuckle scandal and all that Hollywood ja ...more

Very nice book that goes through the ups and downs of the 20's.
The pomp. The scandal. The good and the bad. It's all discussed in short chapters that add colour to the image of the 20's.

It wasn't as glamorous as it is shown today. It also has great relevance to our modern times.

In a sad harrowing way, the 20's kind of show that nothing has changed. There are still issues that we have in today's society that were problems in the 20's.

There were some boring parts but it was a great read nonet
Susan M
Feb 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
What better time to learn more about the 1920's than the start of the 2020's! This is an entertaining - easy to read account of the 'roaring' decade. Finally learned the specifics of the Sacco & Vanzetti trial, and the 'long count' controversy in the Dempsey/Tunney fight. Also learned what a force First Lady Florence Harding was. Loved the chapters on the Algonquin Round Table, the Flappers and the Lost Generation. I highly recommend the book if you are a fan of this time period. ...more
Ned Jackson
May 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent portrait of a fascinating decade, beautifully written.......

Clever selection of persons and events to highlight, well researched, would ask the author to consider a similar treatment of the Thirties or perhaps the Fifties....
Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good introduction to major themes of the 1920s whilst also homing in on important individuals of the time. An enjoyable read.
Gwynneth Anderson
Nov 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A fun, informative read.
Nov 10, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"Reformers saw Prohibition as a necessary instrument of social improvement- a way to help the poor and needy help themselves. They associated alcohol with urbanization, with violence, laziness and corruption, and with unwelcome immigrants." (p.24)

"Throat burning Yack Yack Bourbon, made in Capone’s Chicago, blended burnt sugar and iodine; Panther whiskey contained a high concentration of fusel oil, which was thought to trigger paranoia, hallucinations, sexual depravity and murderous impulses; Phi
Alison C
Mar 04, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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, m ...more
Mar 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A popular history of the decade, zipping through the salient features of the cultural landscape (in America): Prohibition, gang violence, the rise of jazz, inchoate Hollywood and the talkies, Ford, flappers, the KKK and xenophobia, the Scopes trial, Lindbergh’s flight, and so on.

It’s a fun ride, readable and instructive, though at times it reads like a thesis, and there’s quite a lot of unattributed quoted material. Some of the spotlights Moore shines are questionable – an entire chapter on Jack
Gary Land
Moore's book is an entertaining account of the "roaring" aspects of the 1920s. It covers virtually all of the notable symbols of the period--prohibition, gangsters, jazz, flappers, and so on. The "biography" in her subtitle reflects her approach in that nearly every chapter focuses on a representative individual--Al Capone, Jack Dempsey, Harry Crosby, etc. While a good popular history, the book does not dig very deeply and, therefore, does not examine the complexities of the period, namely that ...more
An okay overview of a decade that has been written about extensively in the past. Moore is a British author, and there are some examples of a ignorance of common American culture, for instance she writes that Babe Ruth's Home Run record still stands. It does not. This book was written in 2010, and quick internet search by the editors would have shown that Roger Maris is the record holder, not withstanding the tainted records of Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire.

The most fascinating portion of the boo
A fun depiction of the dynamic decade of 1920-1929 in the United States, "Anything Goes" paints an evocative, if brief, picture of many of the themes and people that made the decade so interesting, including bootleggers, flappers, Ford autos, "normalcy," Fitzgerald, and Lindbergh. Each chapter provides an overview of one of these major themes. While not the most detailed, exhaustive pieces of history, Moore writes a really nice introduction to the period, great to get a good feel for the time. S ...more
Marguerite Kaye
Sep 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is, as some other reviewers pointed out, a gossipy history, with a fair seasoning of 'stars'. But it's exactly what I wanted. The Roaring Twenties of America in all its glossiness, its tawdriness, its spelndour and its tragedy, told well and with ample facts to back it up. Lucy Moore does put her stories in context, she does analyse and construct an overall historiography, but it's actually quite well-hidden because the stories themselves are so vivacious. It is there though, a kind of map ...more
Jill Hutchinson
This is a fun and gossipy romp through the Roaring touches on disparate subjects from sports to the "lost generation" fleeing to Paris to the Algonquin Round Table to the Ku Klux Klan to Lindbergh's trans-Atlantic flight. The author chose her subjects well and provides the reader with a colorful cross-section of that era. It's a fun read.

Unfortunately there are a couple of glaring errors in the text which kept me from giving it a higher rating. On at least two occasions she ide
Jul 24, 2011 rated it it was ok
This book was an interesting survey of the roaring 20's decade. I believe that this was a little thrown together to tie in random events with other events that happened. It also focused on the negative personal tragedies (mostly drug use) of several actors in the blossoming Hollywood, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Al Capone. It also takes a look into a couple of other events that were key in the 1920's including Teapot Dome and the Sacco and Vanzetti trial. Generally, if you are looking for something ...more
Jun 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, us-history
Reading this work gave me a feeling of 'deja vu all over again'. The author writes on a number of topics all concerned with the "Roaring Twenties," from Prohibition to the 1929 stock market crash. The post World War I era saw changes in many facets of life. New trends in writing, music and art exhibited a devil may care attitude among many. Hollywood came into its own, jazz and blues became the beat of the younger generation. Industries grew as farm and small town youth moved to the cities. Peop ...more
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Feb 17, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
A quite interesting overview of the Twenties in the USA giving sketches of leading personalities as well as seminal events and trends.

I found it a little 'bitty' in that respect though in the closing chapters she did give a wider perspective in terms of the clashing of values and the conflict between modernity and more conservative elements that resisted change.

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May 03, 2010 rated it liked it
Non-fiction. Fun overview of the twenties.
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Lucy Moore was born in 1970 and educated in Britain and the United States before reading history at Edinburgh University. She is the editor of Con Men and Cutpurses: Scenes from the Hogarthian Underworld, and author of the critically acclaimed The Thieves Opera: The Remarkable Lives and Deaths of Jonathan Wild, Thief-Taker, and Jack Sheppard, House-Breaker (Viking 1996) as well as Amphibious Thing ...more

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“The crash did not cause the Depression: that was part of a far broader malaise. What it did was expose the weaknesses that underpinned the confidence and optimism of the 1920s - poor distribution of income, a weak banking structure and insufficient regulations, the economy's dependence on new consumer goods, the over-extension of industry and the Government's blind belief that promoting business interests would make America uniformly prosperous.” 3 likes
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