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Fame: What the Classics Tell Us About Our…

Fame: What the Classics Tell Us About Our Cult of Celebrity

by Tom Payne

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Some insights but the rambling narration makes it somewhat tedious. ( )
  Mithril | May 17, 2014 |
This engaging and witty book examines our fascination with celebrities in the light of classical art, society and literature, the work of James Frazer and cultural anthropologists, and history. If that all sounds like a dull tome, this brief book most assuredly is not at all dull and Payne's insights are often served with dry humor. Far-ranging, funny and insightful. ( )
  nmele | Apr 6, 2013 |
Payne's premise, though he does not state it in these terms, is that human nature and therefore the patterns of human society have remained unchanged since the days of our earliest ancestors. This human nature needs to have "gods," heroes, human sacrifices, or other famous figures (celebrities) to unite the rest of us by virtue of our not being them. He examines the patterns of how we treat and relate to these people and traces these patterns down to the present day. His argument is persuasive, though it can be rough going at some times (the multitudinous footnotes, while informative, definitely do not improve the flow of the book-- most of them should have been either integrated into the text or eliminated entirely).

This book will primarily be of interest to readers with a good grounding in Greek and Roman classics, as so many of the examples are drawn directly from them. The book is also pretty British-centric; Payne spends a lot of time talking about Jade Goody and Jessica Sierra, and I'm still not entirely certain who those people are. American celebrities, even very recent ones like the cast of Jersey Shore, do enter the discussion, but to a much lesser extent. (Refers to a First Reads edition) ( )
  readrunandrepeat | Apr 3, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312429932, Paperback)

We may regard celebrities as deities, but that does not mean we worship them with deference. From prehistory to the present, humanity has possessed a primal urge first to exalt the famous but then to cut them down (Michael Jackson, anyone?). Why do we treat the ones we love like burnt offerings in a ritual of human sacrifice? Perhaps because that is exactly what they are.

From Greek mythology to the stories of the Christian martyrs and Dr. Faustus, Payne makes the fascinating argument that our relationship to celebrity is perilous, and that we wouldn't have it any other way. He also shows that the people we choose as our heroes and villains throughout the ages says a lot about ourselves—and what it says is often quite frightening. Fame even brings new life to all the literary figures from our high school English classes. In these pages, the most ephemeral reality television stars (those "famous for being famous") find themselves in the same VIP lounge as the characters of The Iliad. With great wit, scholarship, and insight, Tom Payne draws the narratives of the past and the present into one intriguing story.

Fame is a dazzling, hilarious look at the mortals, and the immortals—us and them.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:05:16 -0400)

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In a comparison of modern celebrity culture to the classics, the author draws parallels between the society's perception of such celebrities as Britney Spears and Michael Jackson and figures from Greek mythology.

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