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

3.08  ·  Rating Details ·  65 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
We may regard celebrities as deities, but that does not mean we worship them with deference. From prehistory to the present, humanity has possesseda 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.

Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 26th 2010 by Picador (first published August 1st 2009)
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Oct 26, 2010 Nick rated it really liked it
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.
Simon Mcleish
Entertaining, if somewhat shallow, discussion of attitudes through the ages. It's not much of a surprise to learn that things like delight in the downfall of celebrities, and the feeling that today's famous people haven't done as much to earn their place in the pantheon as those of the past are attitudes which have been around at least since the ancient Greeks. Some of his discussions are quite sharp (the analysis of the marketing of celebrity perfumes was particularly so). But it lacks insight, ...more
May 26, 2015 Tiffany rated it it was ok
Recommended to Tiffany by: Alison
I have absolutely no doubt that this would be a great book for someone to read, just not for me.

The premise is a pretty great one: comparing our current pop culture (obsession) with stories from classical mythology and history. For example, Payne parallels Britney Spears shaving off her hair in 2007 with historical rites of passage that included shaving one's head, and he says that Britney was going through her own transition/rite of passage at the time. He also spends a chapter talking about be
Nov 03, 2010 Jocelin rated it did not like it
First, I would like to thank Goodreads for picking me as a winner of this book giveaway. It was such a surpise to be chosen.
I thought this book would be a comparative study between the classics and the sensationalism of tabloid entertainment. I was wrong; there was not a lot of contrasts at all. What I read was a lot of tidbits on history against stories that have been written in the media. I thought I would gain a little insight as to what the author thought; but he spend time in one chapter ta
Ben Zajdel
Jul 04, 2012 Ben Zajdel rated it really liked it
Payne does an excellent job of comparing our treatment of modern-day celebrities with the legends and myths of the past. He shows that humans have a need for heroes--a class of people just above us, but still vulnerable.

Two of my favorite chapters were those on Achilles and Faust. The Achilles principle--it's better to burn out than to fade away was remarkably interesting. Payne discusses rock stars that die at a young age but are remembered forever because of their talent. We, as a culture, fee
Sep 27, 2011 K marked it as partially-read
I received an advanced uncorrected proof copy of Fame: What the Classics Tell Us About Our Cult of Celebrity through’s FirstReads giveaway program. The last book I won through the program was But Not for Long by Michelle Wildgen and the book has been so boring that I've been tempted to put it down numerous times.

As someone who cannot understand the cult of celebrity and also has a passion for mythology, I am looking forward to finishing that text and beginning my reading of Fame: W
Beth Anne
Oct 18, 2010 Beth Anne rated it really liked it
i have enjoyed multiple articles by tom payne in the wall street journal and on the huffington post...and this book did not disappoint.

i found the juxtaposition between historical figures and modern day celebrities was genius....making us (the reader) think about how and why celebrities act like they do, and how we turn celebrities into deities.

there were some parts that droned on a bit, but the overall observations were quite amusing, interesting and thought provoking. perhaps being interested
Mar 16, 2011 Mary rated it liked it
Payne's book reminded me of college, and would have definitely fit in on many of the honors college syllabi I saw during my tenure there. It starts out with this great thesis that our ideas of fame, why we seek it and how we feel about it have been around since the beginning of time. Furthermore, he goes on to suggest that fame and celebrity fill several voids in our collective psyche.

All of this makes the book very exciting and engaging in the beginning. I couldn't put it down. But somewhere in
Jun 14, 2011 Rachel rated it liked it
I had a review of this and then the internet froze up, losing it. So here's a (blunter) couple sentence sum-up:

In this book, you'll find interesting tidbits about how the elements of fame haven't changed over the centuries. You need, however, a decently good knowledge of pop culture celebrity (including British), because the author doesn't often explain why X celebrity is famous, just that he/she is. Since, half the fun of celebrity pop culture itself is the recognition factor (the "it's that o
Nov 08, 2010 Jennifer rated it it was ok
Shelves: giveaway-wins
I liked Fame best when it was talking about the classics and how they treated the topic of fame. I could have happily read more about that. I was expecting "classics" to mean classics of literature, but, in this book, it referred to both ancient cultures and their writings, as well as more recent writings (relatively recent, meaning not ancient).

I didn't recognize many of the modern celebs Payne used as examples, so my interest waned in those parts. I considered googling the names to see who th
Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2011 Margaret Sankey rated it liked it
Another of my favorite themes--there was never a Golden Age when we were less tacky than we are now. Classicist and literary critic Payne connects the dots between royal children and Suri Cruise, ostracism and eviction from the Big Brother House, Augustus' family on the Ara Pacis and Celebrity Rehab. The irony, of course, is that he uses mostly British examples, and although I spend a lot of time there, I still don't know who most of these people are--proving once again that fame is subjective, ...more
Dec 08, 2010 Rachel rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book through the First-Reads giveaway. I thought this was an interesting book comparing celebrities today to the way things were for the ancient Greeks and Romans. Not being one to pay attention to the celebrity hype, it was hard for me to follow some of the names that were being referenced. But it was interesting to read about how people need celebrities to follow.
Dec 20, 2010 Tara rated it liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Though I didn't always follow his train of thought, overall it was an interesting look at the way we construct fame and celebrity. It's definitely altered my thoughts about celebrity and how those people function our daily lives.

The chapter about hair and the one about human sacrifice were particularly compelling. Can't wait to use some of this material for our next show.
Thank you GoodReads for this book. This was an interesting book. I think that I would have finished it more quickly if it hadn't been for receiving it during the holidays. It shows how current celebrities and historic figures are loved and hated, often at the same time by the same people. I think that I will reread this at some point in order to get more out of it.
Michele Minor
Nov 18, 2010 Michele Minor rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
This is a study of how fame today is similar to fame in classic works of literature. There are some places where I didn't know some of the present day celebrities since the author is British and he uses British references. Overall though he does make some good points about being a celebrity today. He also described how people became famous in ancient times.
Mar 29, 2011 Jeffrey rated it it was ok
In attempting to write an academic book about popular culture, Mr. Payne manages to alienate both audiences. While it addresses popular topics in mythical terms, the author fails to make the connection between pop icons and mythical heroes/heroines believable. Probably won't hold up on bookshelves or in syllabi.
Mar 04, 2012 Lee rated it liked it
Enjoyable discursus upon ancient and modern (Western) celebrity, with a bunch of Classical references that I did, and modern British "sleb" references that I did not get.
Kristopher Swinson
Jan 12, 2013 Kristopher Swinson rated it it was ok
Some scant insight to be had, but primarily too sympathetic to the base and obscene elements.
Feb 19, 2011 Jessica rated it liked it
this book makes me feel less guilty about watching joan rivers during the awards season.
Aug 24, 2016 Sarah marked it as to-read
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