Review: Burlesque: The True Art of Seduction

Dear Constant Reader,

This book has been kicking around the library at The Manor for a while. Since it was published, about a decade ago, a lot has changed, but it was sort of a nice trip down memory lane.

Burlesque: The True Art of Seduction by Michel Grondin and Scarlett James, 2011.

I would call this a coffee table book. It’s big, heavy, graphically bold, kinda slick, and full of photos. Montreal burlesque performer Scarlett James graces the cover. There’s not that much text — there’s a lot of white space and some very large fonts. There are a lot of bright colors throughout. Each topic or person has a couple of pages lightly-filled with text or images and usually a quote from Scarlett James with her thoughts on the featured subject. The version I have is a translation from French, so the language is occasionally clunky and the spelling can be erratic.

The first 3 chapters are a history of burlesque from Classical Greece and Rome through the 1960s in America. The third chapter, “American Burlesque” features Legends of burlesque, some long gone, a few still with us (or were at the time). Most, if not all of the living Legends are shown with Scarlett James. There’s an additional two pages briefly mentioning other performers of note, which I found it a little surprising at some of who were relegated to this “also” list.

More than half the book is chapter 4, Neo-Burlesque. It’s loosely arranged geographically, first by country, and then city. Some of the top performers of the time (some of whom still are) make an appearance and notable festivals are mentioned. There are again light write-ups and some large photographs. Although the bulk of the neo-burlesque performers featured are in the US, there is ample coverage of Canada, as you might expect, plus highlighting burlesque in Europe, Japan, and Australia. Full disclosure: Scratch, the Burlesque Expo, and I get a mention (Scarlett likes Scratch’s suits!).

It’s a very pretty book. There’s no in-depth history or detailed biography, just a little taste of burlesque in an attractive package. I don’t think it’s the sort of book one would read cover to cover, but instead flip through and see what catches your eye — and the pages are quite eye-catching. Perhaps you’ll use it as a springboard for further investigation. But really, it’s very pretty.

(Affiliate links in this post benefit the American Burlesque Collection, a 501(c)(3) non-profit)

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