Joseph Roach
April 2007

That mysterious characteristic “It”—”the easily perceived but hard-to-define quality possessed by abnormally interesting people”—is the subject of Joseph Roach’s engrossing new book. As he did in the prizewinning Cities of the Dead, Roach crisscrosses centuries and continents with a deep playfulness that entertains while it enlightens.

Roach traces the origins of “It” back to the period following the Restoration, persuasively linking the sex appeal of today’s celebrity figures with those who lived centuries before. The book includes guest appearances by King Charles II, Samuel Pepys, Flo Ziegfeld, Johnny Depp, Elinor Glyn, Clara Bow, the Second Duke of Buckingham, John Dryden, Michael Jackson, and Lady Diana, among others.

It showcases Roach’s trademark gift of making the invisible visible across a dazzlingly broad spectrum of performance behaviors and time periods. Wittily epigrammatic (celebrity sooner or later extracts in abjection what it bestows in glamor), It gives us a fresh vocabulary for interpreting how after-images endure in cultural memory through ‘the passage of exceptional personalities through the imaginative life of their tribes.’” 
—Andrew Sofer, Boston College