Social history at its most engaging and topical, Grundle gets to the essence of glamour and its fascination for modern-day publics, especially democratic ones. Although published by a leading academic publisher and in stretches written in a somewhat academic style (Grundle is a professor of film and television studies), with its frequent references to and often vignettes about top celebrities and to a lesser extent, familiar historical figures, the work reaches into the popular vein. Behind the readily comprehensible analyses and particularly cogent summarizations usually tying together mixed or opposing elements is extensive scholarship and long reflection guided by an interest in popular culture.
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.