The Power of Glamour

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I've been a Virginia Postrel fanboy ever since she was editor of Reason (1989-2000). But even I was worried I'd be less than interested by her latest book, The Power of Glamour. What possible interest would I, with about as much glamour as an urban pigeon, have in reading a whole book about the topic?

So I cheated, managing to convince the University Near Here's sainted Dimond Library to buy a copy. And (it turns out) I was wrong about my interest; the book is a tour de force exploration of what glamour is, what it involves, and convincingly argues that it's a hidden force behind much of our social psychology.

Years of meticulous research went into the book, and it shows. Ms. Postrel writes with the touch of a philosopher, carefully drawing fine distinctions, teasing out nuances, and clarifying confusion. She draws pungent examples from history, literature, cinema, advertising, fine art and pop culture. (And she's not afraid to be funny: for example, quoting at length from an old Saturday Night Live bit where Gilda Radner, as Roseanne Roseannadanna, hilariously skewered the glamour of Princess Lee Radziwill. (I can't find a video but a transcript is here.)

Consumer note: do not skip the "Acknowledgments" section at the end, where Ms. Postrel describes the genesis of the book and how she — literally — owes her life to the power of glamour. I was moved.

Last Modified 2024-01-27 5:44 AM EDT