The bestselling author of Sexual Personae and Sex, Art, and American Culture is back with a fiery new collection of essays on everything from art and celebrity to gay activism, Lorena Bobbitt to Bill and Hillary. These essays have never appeared in book form, and many will be appearing in print for the first time.
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Those who missed them in Playboy, The New Republic, and other media can catch up with culture diva Paglia's latest performances here. The special effects are as spectacular as ever; the act, however, is getting old. As in her previous collection, Sex, Art, and American Culture (not reviewed), Paglia fills this volume with every magazine piece of hers from the last few years, transcripts of her TV appearances, an annotated bibliography of media references to her, and even a section of cartoons in which she was featured. Paglia's production is like a three-ring circus. There's competent journalistic cultural criticism on one side, encompassing appreciations of figures like Sandra Bernhard and Amy Fisher, and reviews of books by Madonna and Edward Said. Paglia's well-publicized polemic against feminist and gay movement dogma, which continues here, hasn't gained any subtlety. Her loose use of the opprobrium ``Stalinist'' will strike those misguided readers who take her essays on ``culture war'' topics seriously as genuinely offensive. In another ring, there's batty scholarship. A long essay written especially for this volume offers a ``pagan theory of sexuality'' for the contemporary world. Those seeking rigor will be warned off by the fact that Paglia's title for this piece is taken from dialogue in the movie Ben Hur. The really compelling action comes in the center ring, where the carnival of Paglia's construction of her own persona never stops. Her straightforwardly autobiographical writing is brilliant. One moving memoir celebrates the formative influence on her of four gifted and rebellious gay male friends; another hilariously revisits the promise and the pomposity of the Susan Sontag whom the young Camille Paglia idolized. Inspired by Sontag, Paglia exclaims that ``we need more women stars who can run their own studios!'' Paglia herself has become a star, and as such she inevitably fascinates. But she often seems miscast as an intellectual leader, mirroring as she does another aspect of her image of Sontag: ``no argument, only collage.'' -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
Either you like the polysexual, pagan Paglia, or you don't-and this collection by the author of Sexual Personae isn't going to change that. Perfectly aware of her image, Paglia early on compares herself to Ross Perot, Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern, in her "raging egomania and volatile comic personae tending toward the loopy." On this outing, Paglia revisits the same fire hydrants, sniffs the competition and then marks them once more as her own. Pornography continues to be great; Lacanians, bad; Freud, underrated; feminists, undersexed. Although her main essay "No Law in the Arena," is not as solid as "Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders," the analysis of academe that anchored Sex, Art, and American Culture, many of her essays expand on her gritty common-sense understanding of the nasty realities of sex. Particularly good are "Rebel Love: Homosexuality"; "Lolita Unclothed" and "Woody Allen Agonistes." Paglia is at her bilious ad feminem best skewering one-time idol Susan Sontag in "Sontag, Bloody Sontag," or Catharine MacKinnon ("the dull instincts and tastes of a bureaucrat") and Andrea Dworkin ("The Girl with the Eternal Cold") in "The Return of Carry Nation." As usual, there's much about tabloid icons-Amy Fisher, Lorena Bobbit, Jackie O-but Paglia herself has become just such an icon, appearing in movies and TV specials whose transcripts she rather tediously includes. Still, when Paglia is good, she is palatable; when Paglia is bad, she's terrific. Author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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