Reviews — From the December 2013 issue

Bewitched

A theory of glamour

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Discussed in this essay:

The Power of Glamour: Longing and the Art of Visual Persuasion, by Virginia Postrel. Simon & Schuster. 288 pages. $28. simonandschuster.com.

In the mid-1970s I was walking down Heath Street, a vertiginous road in Hampstead with the Heath at the top and the Hampstead Tube station and the high street full of fancy shops below. From the top of the hill I saw a bright glow down by the Tube, an aura of light easily outshining the daylight, dazzling, gleaming. People are always filming in Hampstead, using its quaintness to signify older times, when it was a village, in a garden of which Keats wrote “Ode to a Nightingale.” I supposed that was what was happening: floodlights and the strange mixture of limbo and fevered activity of a film crew on the street you are walking along when your day bumps into them. But about halfway down the hill I could see there was no technical equipment, just a small circle of regular-looking people standing around the origin of the illumination, two quite small figures. Closer still, the pair’s features became clear and the mysterious shimmer resolved into Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Or as we called them then, “Richardburtonandelizabethtaylor.”

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’s most recent book is What I Don’t Know About Animals (Yale). Her last article for Harper’s Magazine, “Unfaithful,” appeared in the January 2012 issue.

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