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A Short History of Celebrity Hardcover – July 21, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0691135625 ISBN-10: 0691135622 Edition: 0th

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (July 21, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691135622
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691135625
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.6 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,311,698 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Inglis's treatment is whimsical rather than exhaustive. Alert to the cultural value of iconic figures from Lord Byron to Eric Clapton, he also offers a stimulating assessment of how celebrity has, historically, involved fluctuating proportions of knowability and remoteness."--New Yorker

"The purpose of A Short History of Celebrity, Fred Inglis' brief, energetic, stimulating screed, is to tell us that, although we think we live in the age of celebrity, it's been quite a while in coming."--Martin Rubin, Los Angeles Times

"Inglis is more even-handed than many of his colleagues, and sager too, able to see beyond the ephemera of the moment to take a more expansive view. He asks not simply what the culture of celebrity means today, but where it came from."--Darrin M. McMahon, Wall Street Journal

"In his thoughtful survey of pop culture since the dawn of modernity, Fred Inglis argues that mass obsession with the lives (and deaths) of the rich and famous didn't just pop up out of the blue. . . . In an attempt to give some depth to all the shallowness, Inglis, the author of 20 books including a biography of the late cultural anthropologist Clifford Geertz, goes in search of origins."--Joshua Kendall, Boston Globe

"With scholarly dexterity . . . Inglis describes the manipulation of political celebrities by the likes of Hitler and Stalin, followed by the postwar democratization of fame, as movie stars, sports heroes, and rock guitarists became leading celebrities. Through it all, Inglis argues the lucrative exploitation of the lives of the rich and famous has entailed an appeal to what audiences think of themselves--for better and for worse. . . . The Bottom Line: The development of the fame business comes into clearer focus as a result of Inglis' sophisticated perspective. Four stars out of five."--Paul M. Barrett, Bloomberg Businessweek

"From the glamour of John F. Kennedy's 'Camelot' to Ronald Reagan's rise from B movies and Barack Obama's election campaign, celebrity makes power, money and the world go around. At long last, we have a decent book that goes some way to explain how it got this way."--Mark Beech, Bloomberg

"Byron was one of the first products of the alloy of glamour and publicity that we refer to as celebrity. In his new book, A Short History of Celebrity, Fred Inglis traces the phenomenon back to late 18th-century London. It was there, he argues, with its convergence of theatre and journalism and new opportunities to shop, that celebrity began."--Aditya Chakrabortty, The Guardian

"Fred Inglis has added his learned, sometimes curmudgeonly, often rhapsodic voice to the chorus, with a book that locates the origins of celebrity culture in the 18th century. . . . This emphasis on the history of emotion is what distinguishes Inglis's book from the other accounts of celebrity, making it more than just a great hall of historical fame. Inglis sees these emotional shifts as working concurrently with changing social forces that turned life itself into a spectator sport."--Lara Feigel, The Observer

"[A]n intriguing reflection on how the phenomenon of celebrity shapes our perception of ourselves and our satisfaction with our own images. . . . [Inglis] has crafted a playful but serious essay that delivers telling judgment on an important matter. It deserves a large and broad reading audience."--David Keymer, Library Journal

"Inglis is a magnificently erudite writer who lingers over his subject as though it were a good cigar."--Frances Wilson, Literary Review

"[A] very interesting book. . . . What makes his 'short history' so compelling is how Inglis combines an eye for captivating detail (the actor David Garrick being forced to kneel by a 'jeering audience'), the illuminating comparison (Sarah Bernhardt versus Lola Montez, Hitler versus Edward VIII), and the synoptic view ('A Very Short History of the Feelings'). . . . It not only surveys an extraordinary range of persons, their acts and their import in a sophisticated way, but it induces further thought about the ambivalent powers of celebrity."--Justin Clemens, Sydney Morning Herald

"A Short History of Celebrity is an excellent book. The prose is fabulous, and Inglis is brimming with insight and humor. Moreover, one can't help being drawn into tales of the rich and fabulous. However we may flatter ourselves, the stars are just not like us."--Alex Prescott-Couch, Berlin Review of Books

"In his smartly written and engaging book, cultural historian Inglis successfully tackles a potentially cumbersome topic with the brevity promised in the title. . . . Erudite and entertaining."--Choice

"[C]harming."--Cleveland Plain Dealer

"His transatlantic argument weaves dozens of celebrity case studies into a compelling macro-narrative that artfully balances historical anecdote, cultural theory, histories of ideas, and rhetorical inquires. The result is a thoroughly readable and fascinating exposition of how celebrity identities have enthralled, defined, and reprised western cultures since the middle of the eighteenth century."--Brian Bates, Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Theatre

"Without doubt Inglis writes an original reference work that provides both a framework of analysis and a comprehensive inventory of illustrations, pointing to the centrality of celebrity to American life."--Adriana Neagu, American British and Canadian Studies

From the Inside Flap

"With breathtaking range and panache, A Short History of Celebrity provides a keenly observed interpretation of the emergence of modern transatlantic popular culture. At once learned and accessible, Inglis's vivacious prose reveals the contradictions of icons as diverse as Joshua Reynolds and Lord Byron, the Beatles and Bob Dylan. His insights into the popular heroes of art, literature, and the stage and screen (including television), as well as politics and public life, enable us to appreciate continuities that stretch across two-hundred-and-fifty years."--Richard D. Brown, professor emeritus, University of Connecticut

"Celebrity is ripe for anatomizing, and in this enjoyable work of cultural history Inglis performs an exemplary dissection, showing both the pains and the pleasures, the shame and the virtues, of the modern cult of celebrity. This is vintage Inglis: funny, coruscating, biting."--Krishan Kumar, University of Virginia

"This is a fascinating, remarkable, and thought-provoking book. Its great value is that it doesn't begin with Survivor, Big Brother, or Oprah. Instead, Fred Inglis extends his study back to the eighteenth century and gives attention to painting, gossip columns, and wartime dictators, among much else. Inglis is a powerful and engaging writer and this book is a pleasure to read."--Tara Brabazon, University of Brighton

"Fred Inglis has a distinctive voice as he explores our ambivalence toward celebrities and the phenomenon of celebrity itself. Filled with examples and quotable passages, this is a heartfelt book by a man who is grounded in Wittgenstein yet familiar with David Beckham."--Richard Howells, King's College London


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Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By W. Hall on October 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's hard to come up with a purpose for this book. The book is a Euro-American leaning heavily towards an Anglo-American social history of the last two centuries or so with the bulk of that in the latter half and heavily dependent on the author's personal tastes, which he admits. (He should travel to Mexico, India or China and discover how parochial celebrity really is. It, like politics, is mostly local.) Except for a paragraph or so in the chapter on political dictators and a couple of pages in the final chapter, there's no attempt to explain the mystery of celebrity and why so many people live their lives vicariously through others.

There's a number of factual errors, e.g., day instead of date of infamy in FDR's call for war against Japan, and inconsistencies, e.g., Coolidge is a one-term president yet Theodore Roosevelt, under parallel circumstances, is a two-termer.

The contents are worthy of light reading but the author's style is often near impenetrable. His sentences are laced with parenthetical asides and second, and sometimes third, thoughts set off by hyphens. Sometimes a "sentence" will be missing a verb. Before you buy or decide to read this book, open it at random and read two pages. They will not be anomalies and it won't get any better.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Serge J. Van Steenkiste on October 11, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fred Inglis demonstrates convincingly that the system and production of celebrity is inherent to an industrializing economy (p. 270). The key drivers behind this metamorphosis have been the rise of urban democracy, the successive revolutions in the media industry, the growing individualization of society, the liberalization of mores, and the sheer quantity of money thrown at the manufacture of celebrities (pp. 5; 12; 32; 82; 107; 156-157; 182; 185; 256). Unsurprisingly, London, Paris, New York, and Chicago were the first loci of this industrialization of celebrity (pp. 35-132).

Celebrity progressively took precedence over renown that was once associated with men and women of high accomplishment. Renown reflected the significance of the actions of these people for the society rather than a public recognition of their persona (pp. 4; 219-220; 245). This evolution turned fame into a much more ephemeral reward and shifted public acclaim from an expression of devotion to one of celebrity (pp. 5; 117). Reality TV is the epitome of this metamorphosis (pp. 256-259).

Furthermore, Mr. Inglis brings to light with much brio the powerful contradiction that drives celebrity. Celebrities are simultaneously uniquely recognizable and sacredly remote (pp. 11; 100; 113; 125; 156). This contradiction found its genesis after 1918 (p. 156). Interestingly, Mr. Inglis surmises that this ambivalence could explain why people both worship and despise celebrities (pp. 12; 57; 121; 156; 183; 212; 253; 255; 270). This finding is not so surprising when one considers that a modern society could not function without its intake of (new) celebrities. Mr.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Luis Gomez on September 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I wanted to research the topic of celebrity for some time. I came across this book, and I thought it was exactly what I wanted. Unfortunately, the book is dull and over written. I cannot recall the last time I literally was too bored to continue reading a book. I have attempted on numerous occasions, continuing my reading of this book, only to find, that the material is simply not engaging. I will continue my search for the right book on celebrity - a book that is historically accurate, detailed, and a pleasure to read.
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