How Glamour Shapes Our Lives: Q&A with Author and Former Reason Editor Virginia Postrel


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"If you acknowledge that you find something glamorous it makes you vulnerable because it says something about who you are," says Virginia Postrel, author of the new book, The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion. "But I want people to think about what they find glamorous and learn from that."

Postrel, who served as the editor in chief of Reason Magazine from 1989 to 2000, is an internationally acclaimed writer, a regular columnist for Bloomberg View, and the author of two previous books, The Future and its Enemies: The Growing Conflict Over Creativity, Enterprise, and Progress (1999) and The Substance of Style: How the Rise of Aesthetic Value is Remaking Commerce, Culture, and Consciousness (2004).

She sat down with Reason TV's Nick Gillespie for an hour-long conversation about her new book, which is a meditation on how our perception of glamour shapes our culture, determines the choices we make, and reveals our inner-selves. The book is an entertaining romp, analyzing the deeper significance of the glamorous people and places that have shaped the last century of American culture.

Gillespie and Postrel discuss the glamour of the Tuskegee airmen (6:45); the glamour of California (9:30); the distinction between glamour and charisma (14:45); Obama's glamour vs. Bill Clinton's charisma (16:45); Marxist art critic John Berger's "desiccated" take on glamour (20:30); Joan Crawford role in "defining the modern woman to the general public" (25:20); how a "ridiculously glamorous" image inspired dancer Michaela DePrince (27:30); how Naomi Wolfe's projected her "single mother chic" image on Angelina Jolie (30:45); Oprah Winfrey's infatuation with the Mary Tyler Moore Show (32:15); David Bowie's ever-changing personas (36:30); how glamour "tells the truth about desire" (38:45); the democratization of glamour (40:45); the proliferation of glamour in a capitalist society (45:20); how Postrel's libertarianism informs her work (48:30); the "intense glamour" of planning in the early twentieth century (51:20); how understanding glamour provides insights into human behavior (56:15); and how the breast cancer drug Herceptin saved Postrel's life (57:30).

For more on Postrel's tenure at Reason, watch a recent discussion she participated in celebrating the 45th anniversary of the magazine, and read Brian Doherty's oral history of the magazine, on the occasion of its 40th anniversary.

Approximately 1 hour.

Camera by Jim Epstein and Anthony Fisher, and edited by Epstein.

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