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  • Dead Famous

  • An Unexpected History of Celebrity from Bronze Age to Silver Screen
  • By: Greg Jenner
  • Narrated by: Greg Jenner
  • Length: 12 hrs and 47 mins
  • Categories: History, World
  • 4.8 out of 5 stars (20 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Celebrity, with its neon glow and selfie pout, strikes us as hypermodern. But the famous and infamous have been thrilling, titillating and outraging us for much longer than we might realise. Whether it was the scandalous Lord Byron, whose poetry sent female fans into an erotic frenzy; or the cheetah-owning, coffin-sleeping, one-legged French actress Sarah Bernhardt, who launched a violent feud with her former best friend; or Edmund Kean, the dazzling Shakespearean actor whose monstrous ego and terrible alcoholism saw him nearly murdered by his own audience - the list of stars whose careers burned bright before the Age of Television is extensive and thrillingly varied.

Celebrities could be heroes or villains; warriors or murderers; brilliant talents, or fraudsters with a flair for fibbing; trendsetters, wilful provocateurs, or tragic victims marketed as freaks of nature. Some craved fame while others had it forced upon them. A few found fame as small children, some had to wait decades to get their break. But uniting them all is the shared origin point: since the early 1700s, celebrity has been one of the most emphatic driving forces in popular culture; it is a lurid cousin to Ancient Greek ideas of glorious and notorious reputation and its emergence helped to shape public attitudes to ethics, national identity, religious faith, wealth, sexuality and gender roles.     

In this ambitious history, that spans the Bronze Age to the coming of Hollywood's Golden Age, Greg Jenner assembles a vibrant cast of over 125 actors, singers, dancers, sportspeople, freaks, demigods, ruffians and more, in search of celebrity's historical roots. He reveals why celebrity burst into life in the early 18th century, how it differs to ancient ideas of fame, the techniques through which it was acquired, how it was maintained, the effect it had on public tastes and the psychological burden stardom could place on those in the glaring limelight. Dead Famous is a surprising, funny and fascinating exploration of both a bygone age and how we came to inhabit our modern, fame obsessed society.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio on our Desktop Site.

©2020 Greg Jenner (P)2020 Orion Publishing Group

Critic Reviews

"Fizzes with clever vignettes and juicy tidbits....[a] joyous romp of a book." (Guardian)  

"A magical mystery tour through the history of celebrity - eye opening, provocative, triumphant." (Kate Williams, best-selling author and historian)

"A fascinating, rollicking book in search of why, where and how fame strikes. Sit back and enjoy the ride." (Peter Frankopan)

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What listeners say about Dead Famous

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Hugely Entertaining and Informative

This is a wonderful listen that is written and read with charm and wit. It's robustly researched but remains a history romp. This is the best of what public history can be. Highly recommend!

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an interesting story

and interesting story about how the concept of fame developed overtime. not bad really. b

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Great

I've long been a fan of Greg's work, and have keenly awaited this book. Figures of the distant past are woven with the recent to create an engaging and thorough account of what it means to be FAMOUS. The relevance of each figure is contextualised, allowing listeners to understand the individual's standing in time, society and relevance. I also appreciate the explanation and definition of "Celebrity", and the difference between fame, infamy, star or personality. Chapters are split into topics as opposed to figures themselves, allowing for a flowing and constantly engaging narrative. An outstandingly researched book, with a CELEBRATED and dedicated Historian at the helm. Highly recommend.

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Buy this book, then buy it again

An incredible book - well researched, well read and properly interesting. Witty, charming and interesting. I will be buying the hard copy of it, just to enjoy reading it again physically on a cloudy Saturday.

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Educational and funny

Really great book by Greg Jenner. I found it engaging, educational and funny. With Greg reading the book it never feels dry or boring unlike so other history books you my have listen too. Looking forward to the next one

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  • ValaDrew
  • 04-04-2020

An Very Interesting Read

What a great book which I binge listened to over two days. Full of fascinating characters that I would love to read more about, a fall down the rabbit hole of celebrity. Thanks to Greg Jenner for the clear reading, although it was hard not to shout 'nuance window' every time the word nuance was uttered. Great book. Thanks.

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  • Abby
  • 18-04-2020

Dead Interesting

Well researched and packed with interesting tidbits about various historical figures (known and unknown) this is an enjoyable listen, ably read by the author. If you’ve enjoyed Greg Jenner’s podcast ‘You’re Dead To Me’ (which is excellent) you’ll likely feel right at home with this book. My only grumble is that the structure felt somewhat disjointed - it jumped around a lot in chronology and characters and there were regular references to previous chapters so it was easy to lose track of what point the current chapter was meant to be focused on. That’s not a dealbreaker though, just best to listen to it when you’re able to give it enough attention. I’d definitely recommend for anyone looking to dip into some interesting history as it’s engaging and informative.

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  • Thomas C.
  • 19-05-2020

Perfectly Balanced

Dead Famous is a perfectly balanced reflection on celebrity through the ages. Greg Jenner expertly shows that, when you strip away the social and technological infrastructure, the true essence of celebrity has not changed dramatically since the 18th century. The book’s delicate humour never detracts from the intellect of Jenner’s arguments, even when the reader is confronted with the darker sides of celebrity culture. I would recommend this book to anyone that is interested enough to have read this review!

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  • Amanda
  • 27-06-2020

A fantastic journey through celebrity.

Really enjoyed listening to Greg's dulcet tones. Fact packed and so interesting. Highly recommend it.

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  • Mary Compton
  • 12-06-2020

Fabulous and informative

I lived this book. The subject of celebrity can be very vacuous but Gregg has introduced so many aspects of what it means to be well known from Nell Gwynn to today’s influencers. He knows his stuff. Highly recommended.

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  • Silvina De Vita
  • 03-06-2020

Well researched & entertaining

Absolutely loved this book in quarantine! It was super interesting, really well done. Greg is so funny that you don't even notice you're learning History because he's making it accessible to all. I'm recommending this book to everyone I know!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-06-2020

Amazing research

The research that must have gone into this book is amazing. Each sentence is loaded with facts. With so much to take in, at times it felt more like a dissertation then a book. I enjoyed the historic strange celebrity snippets.

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  • Ali
  • 25-05-2020

Really enjoyable listen. Fascinating characters.

Really worth a listen. Extremely good narration. Entertaining and thought-provoking. Made me value my privacy more than ever. Recommend highly

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  • Angel R.
  • 20-05-2020

Such an interesting topic!

I would highly recommend this book! The way Jenner portrays these past celebrities is clear and distinct and it is so interesting to hear their stories.

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  • Alice Crush
  • 20-05-2020

Fantastic, witty, accessible..

Jenner's thematic approach, enlisting a cast of well known and less well known celebrity, casts new light on one of our most influential cultural phenomena.

1 person found this helpful

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