Book Review on The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion

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Glamour is a visual rhetoric and a topic that is hard to put in words, it needs a deeper analysis as a verbal rhetoric. It is a difficult discussion to tackle which might be the reason why this book looks like it was several years in the making based on the terms used that were defined but have already been in wide use. The book has an index that includes all the unfamiliar terms italicized where each term is defined for them to be easily found.

Virginia Postrel, the author of The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion, informs us with the history and evolution of glamour through the ages starting from the origin of the word (a spell cast on onlookers e.g. a Glamor) to today. She analyzes glamour by enumerating the elements necessary to cast the modern “spell with illustrations.

This book is illustrated with more than one hundred photos to demonstrate the author’s points. A key topic is how the idea of glamour can significantly impact how people behave and decisions they make.  For example included in the book are some glamorous photos of models and actresses that are starving to death or photoshopped to change the proportions. These visuals can impact how people choose to eat, diet and view themselves.   Part of the idea of The Power of Glamour is to offer guidance to use the idea of glamour in a positive way.

Virginia Postrel states in the book that glamour is a lie that projects a feeling of “if only”. It posits a theory on how powerful glamour can be and that it taps into our deepest ambitions and yearnings that influences our everyday decisions.  She covers what aspects make a person, object, place, or experience glamorous. She explains how glamour creates a unique sensation of “yearning” to be glamourous. Postrel states that glamour is a phenomenon that reveals our inner lives and shapes our decisions by embodying to be the better self. The magic of glamour stretches beyond the stereotypical areas of fashion, film, or media. It influences our decisions on things to buy, places to live, careers to aim, goals to achieve, and even people to vote.

In The Power of Glamour, Postrel identifies the three essential elements in all forms of glamour and the book is divided according to it:

  1. The Nature of Glamour
  2. The Elements of Glamour
  3. The Evolution of Glamour

The book can be used as a comprehensive guide on the history and glamour as a subject with its sections broken down further into distinctive chapters.

This book is great for people that are interested in advertising, marketing, politics, entertainment, and culture. Postrel did an excellent job on how she give life to an elusive subject as glamour. She uses a lively prose with fascinating images to back up her idea with ease that ranges from the heroic Alexander the Great to the famous professional model Kate Moss.

The Power of Glamour offers detailed research to back up the author’s views on characteristics that qualify something as glamorous. Her chapters are informative and entertaining but also at times a bit exhaustive and scattered. The book can seem unorganized and somewhat haphazard.  But it does make for an interesting coffee table book with its hundreds of photos and interesting subject matter.