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The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion Hardcover – November 5, 2013
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"THE POWER OF GLAMOUR is another reminder why Virginia Postrel is one of our keenest cultural observers and most important social thinkers. Using lively prose, fascinating images, and examples that range from Alexander the Great to Kate Moss, Postrel brings to life an elusive subject. This book is essential reading for people in advertising, marketing, politics, and entertainment -- as well as for anyone interested in seeing our culture with fresh eyes." (Daniel H. Pink, author of TO SELL IS HUMAN and A WHOLE NEW MIND)
"[Postrel] offers a thoroughly researched, analytical, illustrated view on the characteristics, both keen and subtle, that qualify an object, person, event or location as glamorous...Postrel cites innumerable sources, weaving quotations and vignettes into each of her chapters, and the result is exhaustive and wholly entertaining. For those interested in the evolution of glamour over the ages, as well as readers with a stake in marketing, this is a must-read." (Kirkus)
“Postrel’s cleareyed and exhaustive analysis looks not only at the history of glamour, but at how it works…[Postrel] seems to be the kind of public intellectual for whom the TED Talk seems to have been invented." (The New York Times Book Review)
About the Author
Virginia Postrel is a columnist for Bloomberg View and has been a regular contributor to The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and Forbes. Formerly the editor of Reason magazine, she is the author of The Substance of Style and The Future and Its Enemies. She teaches a special seminar on glamour in the Branding program at the School of Visual Arts in New York. She lives in Los Angeles.
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Top Customer Reviews
The author begins with "the magic of glamour" to set the context. She describes glamour as a form of rhetoric that involves an interaction between an object and the audience. She then builds out her definition of glamour over the next several chapters. There are 3 recurring elements in her analysis of Glamour: The Promise of Escape and Transformation, Grace, and Mystery (leaving something to the imagination). Each of these chapters is full of interesting information and analysis. For the purpose of this review, I would like to note a few key things she points out in regard to Grace.
Grace gives us the impression of something being effortless even though in reality there is a tremendous amount of hard work that we don't see and which is needed for that grace to be developed (think of all the practice Michael Jordan needed to do to become so graceful on the basketball court, that Astaire and Rogers needed to do to look so graceful on the dance floor). As she points out "glamour appears effortless" and this is what "makes glamour so dangerous and so alluring."
Ms. Postrel also differentiates Glamour from other related concepts. I found her analysis of the difference between glamour and charisma to be very enlightening. She presents a chart with the differences between the two concepts (she also notes that objects can be glamorous but they cannot have charisma) and then notes some examples to illustrate those differences. Her example of Barack Obama as someone who has Glamour explains how this helps with getting elected but becomes a hindrance when trying to enact specific policies. She also notes those rare individuals, like Steve Jobs, who have both.
She traces glamour all the way back to Achilles and she takes us through the history of glamour and explains why the concept really took off in the 20th century.
One of my favorite features of the book Icon section at the end of each chapter. Each chapter has 2 icons that are explored and they illustrate a lot of the ideas in the book. I found each of these interesting but my three favorites are: The Superhero, The Gibson Girl and The Horseman.
The author notes at the end of the book that:
"The story of glamour is the story of human longing and its cultural manifestations. Like other forms of rhetoric and art, glamour can embody good ideas or bad ones. It can inspire life-enhancing actions or destructive ones. Its meaning and its effects depend on the audience. But one things is certain: glamour is not trivial."
Ms. Postrel has given us a detailed analysis of glamour and the powerful role it plays in our lives. By understanding glamour more deeply, we can be alert to both its positive and negative effects. I highly recommend this book as a great way to better understand and appreciate "The Power of Glamour".