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A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Reexamined as a Grotesque, Crippling Disease and Other Cultural Revelations Paperback – July 1, 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 229 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (July 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014100195X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141001951
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 5.1 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,195,786 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Warning: do not read this book at a wake, on a precipice, or with a full bladder. Unless you're a humorless fan of Cher, Michael Jackson, Barbra Striesand, or Mick Jagger, Wilson's turbo, heat-seeking essays about fame, the bane of our commodified culture, will induce bent-double, breathless laughter. A columnist for Salon and the San Francisco Examiner, Wilson, a latter-day Dorothy Parker without the self-hate, writes about the psychoses the lust for fame induces in the stars, their fans, and countless pathetic wanna-bes. In writing about boy bands, like the New Kids on the Block, Wilson reports on the disturbing fan mail they receive from women old enough to be their mothers. Excessive cosmetic surgery in pursuit of perfect bodies elicits blisteringly hilarious commentary on the likes of Courtney Love and Celine Dion. Smart, supercharged, ethical, and talented, Wilson also takes on the ersatz worlds of the Oscars and Las Vegas, and the malignancy of racism and sexism in Hollywood. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Cintra is an original. She is talented, funny, and altogether exceptional." -- Francis Ford Coppola

"I like to laugh and I like to think and Cintra makes me do both out loud and in public. She tells the truth funny. She's brilliant, she's funny, and she's really good-looking in that sexy picture in the back of the book that you get for no extra charge. She's better than the best, but you can't afford her, so just buy her book. It's the only thing about her that's cheap." -- Penn Jillette, Penn & Teller

"If the subjects of Cintra Wilson's loathing continue to appear in public after this book is published, it must be because they can't read." -- Greil Marcus --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

This book keep me laughing from start to finish.
Sandra
My one (and very slight) criticism of "A Massive Swelling" has to do with Wilson's writing style, which can only be described as idiosyncratic.
Malcolm Saldanha
I have read it a dozen times over as many years, and still turn red in the ears, laugh, and cringe when I revisit it.
Rick Wiedeman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Erin O'Brien on July 24, 2001
Format: Paperback
Cintra Wilson, a former, longstanding columnist for the "San Francisco Examiner" with a substantial cult following, has produced her first book, a series of satirical essays on celebrities and our cultural obsession with them.
Wilson nails down the essential creepiness of true fandom with the inclusion of such artifacts as an entirely genuine boxful of inadvertently deliriously funny fanmail for "New Kids on the Block": the tragically illiterate x-rated writings of desperate, usually suburban, adult women to teenage boys.
Her observations appear in chapter-length discussions of Elvis in Vegas; the ever more bizarre persona of Michael Jackson and its psycho-sexual origins; and the LA and New York commonplace of the rabidly, shamelessly ambitious aspiring actor, who defines degradation down in a quest for fame.
Wilson argues that celebrity culture is not only toxic to the egos and even physical well-being of celebrities, but also to ordinary folk, ceaselessly encouraged to regard their own lives as inherently shabbier and less important, going undocumented in gossip columns and tabloids.
Wilson's rages at celebrity culture are startlingly real, and produce unforgettably, cruelly funny putdowns of figures from divas Barbra Streisand and Celine Dion, to Siegfried & Roy, as the quintessence of the degraded Las Vegas performer. One can only wonder at what private events befell Wilson to produce this magnificent fury at the fame machine, and a wild attack on its cogs and wheels.
Easily one of the most uproarious and literate works of pop cultural commentary available. Wilson is a true original.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Cintra is my favorite columnist in Salon magazine, and I was really looking forward to this book. I was disappointed, however, to discover that most of the book consists of material that has already appeared in Salon (and can still be read by accessing her archived columns). Although I don't regret buying the book, I'm a little surprised that it doesn't include a disclaimer that it "contains previously published material" or something to that effect.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Alicia Trees on October 18, 2001
Format: Paperback
My, wasn't I surprised to find someone who loathed Celine Dion as much as I do! Cintra Wilson's funny, fearless deconstruction of these so-called icons will surely immunize you against the cult of celebrity. Her chapter on young ice skaters and gymnasts broadens our scope of what this celebrity-thing is that people seek: sometimes involving a search for immortality (via plastic surgery, numerous dye jobs, changes in stage personae) and deification (sometimes resulting in an Oscar, a Grammy, or getting one's face on a cereal box)... Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, Barbara Streisand - even Elvis - will never look the same to me again. Her criticism is scathing at times but very thoughtful: these are not random rants.
I was unfamiliar with Cintra Wilson's Salon column when I read "A Massive Swelling," but it doesn't surprise me that the book functions somewhat as an anthology of past writings. It does have that feel to it. I definitely don't think this weakens the book for the newcomer to her writings. I think it's a good sign that folks are mostly upset about not finding newer works from her. It just means we're all looking forward to what she has coming up next.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Madame Cintra hath hit the nail on the head, tiny and misshapen as that head may be. The central issue here is the mutation of Fame, once an aura that cloaked the highly accomplished as an epiphenomenon, has now become a purely mundane commodity, like sterilized cow manure. CW focuses her incredulous disgust at the most shameless of perpetrators, but one suspects her real targets are not the megelomaniac freaks on the stage, but the mindless legions of zombies that consume the fetid swill as if it were ambrosia of the gods. Fame is now the "radioactive beef" that moronizes both the performer and the audience, in differing ways and in differing degrees. Of course, lurking in the shadows is the implicit recognition of the Corporate absorbtion of Everything into one great happy, megamerged obedience school for lobotomized work-a-trolls who should be thankful for a pizza with The Works as a reward for good company boy self abasement. Corporatism isn't directly assaulted in this book, undoubtedly because Madame Cintra has the acumen to fly under the radar of hidden forms of censorship. But have no doubt, Corporatism is the cause, as it needs to reduce everything it touches into a return maximizing, clearcutting, fume belching money machine. But, know the disease by its symptoms. Superstardom that has evolved into a different Ontological category; Audiences as mass consumers of plasticized crud, the Media as docile and cuddly PR pets, who will say or do almost anything if the price is right. Ms. Wilson, for all her hyperbole and contortionism, is essentially right on in her analysis of the situation, and just about the only person on the scene with the guts and wit to tell it like it is, without shrivelling into the typical careerist bet hedging gooey eyed flattery spewing baby talking goo goo neurotic greasy pole shinnying imbecile. My hat goes of to her. More power to ya, babe.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Gifford on August 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
Wilson's razor-sharp commentary cuts apart why-celebs such as Celine Dion and Barbra Streisand, examining how they became famous at the expense of our culture. Wilson skins musicians, esp. Michael Jackson, as well as fashion models, wannabe film actors, authors, and the theater in her inimitable caustic tone.
At times, Wilson is brilliant in carving new holes in the already-thin fabric of celebrity. Later in the book, however, you can tell that she and her editor have sewn together her columns from salon.com, which, though wonderful as columns, do not come together to form a cohesive argument. In a way, Wilson has become a victim of her own fame, toddling out used commentary and selling it as new, like a remake of a Hollywood favorite, starring Peter Scolari and Molly Ringwald.
This book is mostly enjoyable, however. You'll flag sections of it to read later to your friends, or when you hear Dion's "eye-bleeding" rendition of that awful Titanic song and need your own little way to get back at her.
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