Glamour: A History Paperback – Aug 15 2009
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Review from previous edition: "Glamour has enough juicy celebrity anecdotes to keep you gripped during your week's sunbathing in Sardinia this summer." --The Scotsman. 01.07.08
"Well researched and thoughtfully written, this book manages to be an excellent read and will appeal to anyone interested in popular culture." --Book Quarterly June 2008
"This book is essential reading for anyone interested in or working within popular culture, cinema and fashion, and recommended for anyone seeking a scholarly yet readable account of this potent phenomenon." --THES. 17/07/2008
"Gundle is brilliant at the old razzle-dazzle." --Saturday Guardian. Veronica Horwell. 02/08/2008
"This book is a thoroughly comprehensive and meticulously researched history of glamour." --THES. 17/07/2008
About the Author
Stephen Gundle is Professor of Film and Television Studies at Warwick University, having previously taught at Royal Holloway, University of London and both Oxford and Cambridge universities. He has written widely about Italian and European culture in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, his work focusing especially on the mass media, the cultural aspects of politics and fashion, and the impact of American modernity on European popular culture.
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Strongly rooted in a British perspective, Grundle touches on personalities in his book such as Napoleon, Hugh Hefner, Warhol, Versace, Joan Collins (yes!), and Lady Di, in a scampering manner that seems more eager to cover the eras involved than to offer any real insight. The book is filled with comments that range from the boringly obvious ("the display of fashion became a key element of many movies") to the questionable (that Joan Collins's character on "Dynasty" taught Lady Diana "how to be strong and radiant in the face of personal adversity"). The book also has statements that needed verifying: for example, the myth of John Gilbert's voice being the demise of his career (Grundle's compatriot Kevin Brownlow long ago disproved this "fact") or the statement that Carole Lombard had a "curvaceous figure" (she was well-know for being flat-chested). Minor irritants to be sure.
Glamour is less about the "who" of celebrity and more about the artistic creation of impact and its ensuing influence. It is much more the sparkle than the star. Grundle misses this fine yet definitive point, and as a result, his book spins in many directions, not knowing when to pause long enough to shed any insight nor on whom. A much more enlightening book on glamour that I wholeheartedly recommend is the book "The Power of Style" by Annette Tapert and Diana Edkins. In it, they detail how key glamorous women influenced fashion, film, and interior design in the last century.
The book "maps the origins of glamour and investigates the forms that it took in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries...The book captures the excitement and sex appeal of glamour while exposing its mechanisms and exploring its sleazy and sometimes tragic underside... (from the Introduction). Elsewhere, "From its origins, glamour has been associated with dreaming. The yearning for a better, richer, more exciting, and materially lavish life accompanying the development of modern consumerism and fueled innumerable fantasies and fictions." And near the end, "Glamour links the rare, the remote, and the desirable with the accessible."
The text is filled with such embracing, insightful views. Leading up to these is abundant colorful material of portraits and vignettes of Marlene Dietrich, Douglas Fairbanks, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, Hugh Hefner, Paris Hilton, and many other actors, rock stars, etc. But Grundle begins with early 1800s figures such as Napoleon whose campaigns toppled the old sociopolitical order; Lord Byron and other Romantics who represented the new individualism and it mutability along the lines of desire and aspiration; and Walter Scott who romanticized individuality and in some ways showiness. The origination of the word "glamour" is attributed to Scott. The word is an Anglicized versions of the Low Scottish word "glamer" meaning "the supposed influence of a charm on the eye, causing it to see objects differently from what they really are."
With its myriad examples of celebrity and pregnant summations, Gundle's Glamour brings much of contemporary society into perspective. Neither celebrating nor lamenting the culture of celebrity, the author paints a full picture of this centralized characteristic which is simultaneously seductive and formulative.
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