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The Fame Formula, By Mark Borkowski Pan £8.99

By Brandon Robson

Mark Borkowski, one of the UK's leading exponents of the dark arts of PR, describes the manufacturing of celebrity from the days of carnival and vaudeville through the golden age of Hollywood and up to the present day. He recounts the exploits of such legendary publicists as Phineas Barnum, Harry Reichenbach and Maynard Nottage, and the stunts involving elephants, safecracking exhibitions and dances of the Seven Veils that kept their clients in the news.

But Borkowski's admiration for such "geniuses" is mystifying. It's no revelation that sex and scandal get you talked about, and that this applied as much in the days of Clara Bow as it does in the days of Britney Spears. I'm afraid I found most of this book uninteresting, and Borkowski's style does not help. The mixing of metaphors in the preface (he cut his milk teeth in a backwater and played with a lukewarm cauldron of publicity as a bushy-tailed youth) warns you at the start that you're not in the presence of a master of English prose.