Book Review: Glittering Images – A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars by Camille Paglia

by Michael Zabel

Exercising my public option.

   After months of waiting, the hold I had placed on this book finally came up at my local library.  Initially Glittering Images by Camille Paglia piqued my curiosity with its subtitle: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars.  Since Star Wars is arguably the greatest modern epic saga (and my personal all-time favorite set of films) I was interested in Paglia’s theory of how George Lucas stacked up to some of the most notable works/names in visual arts history.
   This book is a fast-paced survey; an excursion that takes the reader through many of the important eras of fine art.  The chapters, progressing towards present day,  each cover an artist and work of art that helped define its respective era in just a few short, and well researched pages thus making this book an overall leisure read.  I found myself reading a couple chapters at a time and letting the information marinate for a while – sometimes until the next day.  I even felt compelled to do some extra research on some of the outside works or events referenced within certain chapters as well.  The culmination is a climactic chapter, regarding the unprecedented genius vision of George Lucas that echos the very lightsaber battle scene it examines.  The entire body of the book is less than 200 pages, however it took me nearly three weeks to really enjoy and savor the finely rationed content.
   In the introduction of Glittering Images, the author states her intended purpose: “This book is an attempt to reach a general audience for whom art is not a daily presence.  [Paglia] has tried to chart the history and styles of Western art as succinctly and accessibly as possible” (xiv).  A noble cause, to say the least, to prove that art should be known and appreciated by everyone, “…not a luxury for any advanced civilization” (Paglia xviii).  In the most essential respects, this book will get people interested in art no matter what level of understanding one has of art history.  It is also guaranteed to generate interest in the reader to further research and discuss the topics presented, encouraging and re-establishing an inherent appreciation for visual arts…a gift that could inspire the next George Lucas, Jackson Pollock or Pablo Picasso to have the courage to challenge the norms and be a creative innovator.          

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