A book this outstanding is rare, as I can see from the customer reviews many have perceived. Paglia's book, which I read when I was 17, crystallized my thoughts on art, sexuality, and human nature: like her I was a freakish female fan of Oscar Wilde, the gay male sensibility, and decadence. I had truly been searching for this book since I was 13 years old and got my first adult public library card, and thereby discovered the endlessly fascinating world of literature and art--the existence of which I'd never suspected. I'll never forget sitting down with this book during Grade 12 Spring Break; my mother and little sisters were away visiting relatives, so I had the house to myself during the day and I sat in the dining room from the time my step-father left for work at about 7 am to the time he returned about 5 pm, reading. It was by far the longest and most difficult book I had ever read, and I took time over it because as other customer reviewers have pointed out, Paglia addresses such profound, disturbing ideas in such original, provocative ways that I did no less than go over my whole life in my head from my earliest memories to test Paglia's ideas. Needless to say, Paglia won more often than not: the myth of original sin is a better explanation of art and human nature than the myth of social constructionism.
If you are truly open to ideas and you love art, don't read this book unless you want your life completely changed for better or worse. Almost ten years later I find myself completely intellectually alienated from both peers and most professors in my university English program because I continue to fight UNCOMPROMISINGLY for art and independent thought (not to mention intellectual rigour and standards and good prose!), thanks to Paglia's inspiration. But it makes it worthwhile when I come on amazon.com and see that others have felt the same way I do. For you others, if you're looking for other *special* works of criticism (neither the run-of-the-mill merely accurate kind nor postmodern drivel), I recommend George Toles's A House Made of Light: Essays in the Art of Film and Stanley Cavell's Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage. If you read them after Paglia you'll have some balance, too, since Toles and Cavell emphasize the link between art and morality, while treating the subject with the complexity it deserves.