What the Classics Tell Us About Our Cult of Celebrity
By Tom Payne
(Picador, Paperback, 9780312429935, 288pp.)
Publication Date: October 26, 2010
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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.
Tom Payne read Classics at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. For four years he was deputy literary editor of The Daily Telegraph.
"Payne's wonderfully witty and erudite study of modern fame in the light of ancient myths and rituals is markedly kinder and more balanced, and yet also more unsettling."--Sunday Times (UK) "Payne takes us through all the various similarities between sacrificial rituals and the world of Hello! and Grazia. . . . He explains these and other ideas with tremendous gusto, humor, and many flashes of self-knowing irony. . . . Fame is a good read."--Mary Beard, The Observer (UK)