CATEGORY   Social History

Hardcover, 192 pages, 248 x 168mm, over 200 black-and-white illustrations, 1983

Quartet Books ISBN 978-0-704-32353-7

Mark Booth

What is camp? The word is used to describe people, clothes, lifestyles, paintings, literature, music, architecture and interior design. It may be used to express stern disapproval or utter delight. But ask anyone who uses the word to define it and the answer will not stand up to examination.

Camp is not kitsch, which is bad art, miscalculated with the best of intentions; camp art can be good art created with the worst of intentions. In this book, Mark Booth identifies and defines the phenomenon and plots its history and characteristics. He unearths the roots of camp in Roman decadence, in Mannerism and in the conspicuous consumption of Versailles in the reign of Louis XIV. And he examines and recounts the behaviour of Regency dandies, fin-de-siècle aesthetes, bright young things in the ’twenties, literary cliques in the ’thirties, yesterday’s pop art and today’s pop music. The gallery of camp personalities runs from Beau Brummell and Disraeli through Sarah Bernhardt and Robert de Montequiou-Fezensac (the model for Marcel Proust’s Baron de Charlus) to Andy Warhol and Mick Jagger.

Celebrating as it analyses, Camp is a unique contribution to cultural and social history. With almost 200 pictures covering the whole gamut of camp, it is also a delight to look at.