10/10/2012 01:15 pm ET Updated Dec 10, 2012

In "Glittering" Return, Paglia Lets Loose

Camille Paglia, art historian, culture critic, founding Salon columnist and expert provocateur, has a new book out, "Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars" that looks closely at 29 wide-ranging works -- paintings to sculpture to performance art to digital art -- that she sees as defining works of art. And for the voluble and volatile Paglia, the lean precision of the book is a marvel.

Each work is paired with a relatively short and compulsively readable essay, a format she writes was inspired by "Catholic breviaries of devotional images, like Mass cards of the saints." Her choices range from the classic and expected to the obscure and the startling (she proclaims "Star Wars" creator George Lucas our greatest living artist). It's Paglia at her best. Even her explorations of the more familiar works will have you marveling anew -- her chapter on Picasso's notorious "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" had me wanting to run to the MoMa to see it again with fresh eyes. She even manages to breathe new life into an overexposed, coffee-mugged work like "Irises":