Not Cool

The Catalog of Cool Edited by Gene Scufatti Warner Books, $6.95; 216 pp.

MAYBE READING The Catalog of Cool on a seedy, red couch in--of all places--Kirkland House had something to do with it. The comfortable but undistinguished corduroys and wool sweater could have also had an effect, not to mention the music emanating from the stereo by musicians who shun narrow lapels pointy shoes, and sunglasses. Whatever the reasons, I just wasn't hip enough to "dig this gig," as the back cover of this compilation of "hundreds of items of enduring cool" urges.

Call me a puppethead after reading the how to peak hip glossary at the end, but this new twist on the be a better and healthier person or else you'll die genre does little for the quest of rooting out the uncool in the world, one of its stated goals. In a mock parody like The Preppy Handbook, one might try to tolerate the section on. "The Dark History of Sunglasses" and the consumer help portions of the book, which offers readers where-to-buy leads, addresses and advice.

But Gene Sculatti and his staff are serious about this cool stuff, so serious that the last page of the catalog asks readers to send in suggestions for "the next Catalog of Cool," which strikes me as a rather uncool enterprise. But what do I know, being an outsider and all. You see. "To the outsider, the manifestations of cool may look arbitrary. That's because cool is selective in the way it reveals itself. It isn't elitist, but it knows its own. "I guess it just doesn't know this chowder-brain--statements like. "Cool is the essence of style--daring, personal, rare," seemed somewhat funky in the early pages, but became a little asinine in the section on "threads."

No subject is off-limits for these catalogsters. In an effort to round out lists of the coolest movies ever made and TV's all-time greatest. Sculatti and his crowd allow some indiscretions which permit even a Z-bird to question the guide's true cool. The adulation bestowed on the Hostess Chocolate Cupcake unwittingly seemed to prove the book's premise: "In a world of ever-encroaching uncool, it has become harder and harder to distinguish the real thing." Salutes to Blondie and the B-52s don't seem quite right for full-fledged hipsters and flipsters. Neither does the image of skinny-tied dudes with Elvis' haircuts watching "Flamingo Road," one of the members of the all-time TV list.

The hardest thing of all to swallow is hip talk:


Now you see in Hip Talk, they call William Shakespeare 'Willie the Shake'! You know why they call him 'Willie the Shake'? Because HE SHOOK EVERYBODY!! They gave this Cat five cents' worth of ink and a nickel's worth of paper, and he sat down and wrote up such a breeze, WHAMMMMM!!! Everybody got off! Period! He was a hard, tight, tough Cat. Pen in hand, he was a Mother Superior.

That talk, according to the Catalog, is the "embodiment of life lived coolly." I may have to sit on my seedy, red couch and ponder that one.