Friday, March 8, 2013

Book Review: Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars

Glittering Images would like to do for visual arts what Break Blow Burn did for poetry. It is indeed very good, and covers a lot of ground, and has an admirable purpose. Paglia has noticed the distance between artists and the general public, and this is her attempt to bridge that gap with 29 selected artworks reproduced here along with a few pages of descriptions.

I actually think it works better for the older artworks than the newer ones. For some reason, Paglia spends more time describing history and less time describing the art the closer she gets to the present. By the end, only a paragraph or two are spent on the specific artwork while pages go on providing context, while I don't remember that happening in Break Blow Burn. Also, once in a while Paglia's interpretation wheels off a little too far for my personal credibility. Regardless, Paglia isn't afraid to be idiosyncratic (I can even agree on much of what she says about George Lucas being a great visual artist, but I think it's much better applied to his first two Star Wars movies rather than his sixth). Some of the analysis feels tired or stretched.

Back and forth, back and forth, it comes down to this: Second-rate analysis from Camille Paglia is still about an order of magnitude better than average. Despite my mild frustrations, I still very much enjoyed this book. For the desert island, it'll be Break Blow Burn before this. For the non-desert islanders among us, it's well worth a check-out from the local library.

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