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Fame: What the Classics Tell Us About Our Cult of Celebrity Paperback – October 26, 2010
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Top Customer Reviews
His main thesis seems to be that celebrity corresponds to the sacrifices of the ancients. We distinguish heroes or ordinary people, and we give them fame, and we push them off metaphorical or actual cliffs. Along the way, he describes the nature of fame accruing to celebrities ranging from Achilles to one Jade Goody - the latter known only in England, but he explains enough in the text that we non-Brits can figure it out. And if not, there's the Internet to consult.
There are some interesting observations, and some thought-provoking comparisons between the classical world and its culture and the modern world of Demi Moore. The description and analysis of the Roman habit of ostracizing the notorious/famous/politically active is interesting in the extreme and throws light on how we treat some of our more notorious politicians. But I'm not sure how accurately or completely it reflects the actual role of ostracism in Roman society and politics.
Still, the book was mildly disappointing. Many of the comparisons just don't work out, and many of Mr. Payne's observations don't really add up to much. Some of the chapter titles promise more than their chapters deliver. But it is a fun read nonetheless, if you get all or most of the references.
You probably haven't read this far if you're not already interested in the topic and not already equipped with some knowledge of the classics - or at least some nostalgic memory of your knowledge of the classics. Don't expect too much and you'll enjoy the read.
He didn't have anything new or interesting to say about our cult of celebrity, because that wasn't his goal. He just connects something in column A (modern fame) to something in column B (old-timey fame), and to be frank, he does it in a lazy way. He says, "As an actor, Kate Winslet is supposed to look like other people," as though he's stating a fact, and then moves on to make irritating pronouncements about all the times when she isn't ordinary enough. Sorry, but - since when is Kate Winslet ordinary? Or someone who looks like other people? The premise is laughable, and so are his conclusions.
Here's another real doozy: "As Anna Nicole Smith declined, didn't Pamela Anderson start looking more like Grace Kelly?" - What do you do with a sentence like that? No, Tom Payne, the answer to that question is NO.
At another point, further along in the book, he launches into a really long, involved discussion about the British Big Brother show. I don't know anything about American Big Brother, let alone British Big Brother, so this didn't make much sense to me - he assumes anyone who would read this book is thoroughly versed in pop cultural trash, that's his starting point - and then jumps right from his entirely British example to, "The principle of making people famous while booing them is now enshrined in the American way of life." It's not that I disagree - it's that he built up an argument about English television and then drew a conclusion about the American way of life, and didn't appear to notice that his example didn't apply.Read more ›
"Fame" seemed like a promising book, and it did have many interesting ideas. Payne presents arguments that we demand sacrifices of celebreties, that worshipping them makes us feel like a part of something, and that they represent us to ourselves. These are just a few of the points he makes. Some are better than others, of course, but on the whole, they're valid. The problem is the writing. Payne has a relaxed style, and it's pretty entertaining (though sometimes his jokes are a little lame). But what he's trying to say is not always clear. I often asked myself "Where is he going with this?" Sometimes it was a matter of reading a little further, but other times... It's not that his arguments were hard to understand, it's that his examples were too drawn out. It usually took him a while to get to the point, and I sometimes started to forget what the point was in the first place. Sometimes I was never entirely sure how the example related to the argument. Also, though this book was written for American audiences, there are a lot of British pop culture references. His favorite seems to be "Big Brother" contestant Jade Goody. This wasn't so much of a problem, because he explains exactly who she is. More problematic are references to people like Christy Linford.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Payne does an excellent job of comparing our treatment of modern-day celebrities with the legends and myths of the past. Read morePublished on July 4, 2012 by Scandalous Sanity
I just don't really get why this book was written. It strikes me as the kind of thing that people who believe they're smart write in order to try to make other people think that... Read morePublished on June 2, 2012 by Nyghtewynd
This book wasn't that fun of a read but I can see the upside. There is an interesting (and snooze-inducing) collection of facts and there's lots of historic material to draw... Read morePublished on November 27, 2011 by Steve
The topic itself is intriguing; who doesn't like reading about the cult of celebrity? The problem with this book, however, is that author Tom Payne doesn't always do such a great... Read morePublished on September 28, 2011 by missed
This book was extremely frustrating to read. I consider myself to be quite well read, but I don't keep up with all of the day's movie stars, reality shows and celebrity foibles. Read morePublished on August 23, 2011 by Experienced seminar leader
This author manages to turn the seemingly shallow topic of our tabloid-obsessed culture into an elevated discussion about human nature. Read morePublished on August 4, 2011 by Hedera Femme
The author's thesis is this: the cult of celebrity isn't new.
From the heroes of the ancient world up to Britney and even Lady Gaga if the book had been published a year... Read more
I would give 3.5 stars if that was an option here. I'm no celebrity watcher: I get annoyed when shaved heads or clothing slips become top news items. Read morePublished on February 13, 2011 by Dame Droiture
We who live in the modern world tend to have an arrogant outlook on world history. The common fallacy that we engage in is to believe that somehow the way we perceive the concept... Read morePublished on January 30, 2011 by D. Roberts