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Category Archives: beauty

“One of the things that makes the people on television fit to stand the Megagaze is that they are, by ordinary human standards, extremely pretty. I suspect that this, like most television conventions is set up with no motive more sinister than to appeal to the largest possible Audience – pretty people tend to be more appealing to look at than non-pretty people.

Because of the way human beings relate to narrative, we tend to identify with those characters we find appealing. We try to see ourselves in them. The same ID-relation, however, also means that we try to see them in ourselves. When everybody we seek to identify with for six hours a day is pretty, it naturally becomes more important to us to be pretty, to be viewed as pretty. Because prettiness becomes a priority for us, the pretty people on TV become all the more attractive, a cycle which is obviously great for TV. But it’s less great for us civilians, who tend to own mirrors, and who also tend not to be anywhere near as pretty as the TV-images we want to identify with.

Not only does this cause some angst personally, but he angst increases because, nationally, everybody else is absorbing six-hour doses and identifying with pretty people and valuing prettiness more, too. This very personal anxiety about our prettiness has become a national phenomenon with national consequences. The boom in diet aids, health and fitness clubs, neighborhod tanning parlors, cosmetic surgery, anorexia, bulimia, steroid-use among boys, girls throwing acid at each other because one girl’s hair looks more like Farah Fawcett’s than another… are these supposed to be unrelated to the apotheosis of prettiness in a televisual culture?”

David Foster Wallace, “E Unibus Pluram”

“A runner’s every step is a leap, so that for a moment he or she is entirely off the ground. For those brief instants, shadows no longer spill out from their feet, like leaks, but hover below them like doubles, as they do with birds. For my friends who run long distances, these tiny fragments of levitation add up to something considerable; by their own power they hover above the earth for many minutes, perhaps some significant portion of an hour or perhaps far more for the hundred-mile races. We fly; we devour heaven in bites too small to be measured.”

– Rebecca Solnit, “The Blue of Distance,” A Field Guide to Getting Lost

“Beauty is often spoken of as though it only stirs lust or admiration, but the most beautiful people are so in a wa that makes them look like destiny or fate or meaning, the heroes of a remarkable story. Desire for them is in part a desire for a noble destiny, and beauty can seem lik ea door to meaning as well as to pleasure. And yet such people are often nothing extraordinary except in their effect on others. Exceptional beauty and charm are among those gifts given by the sinister fairy at the christening.”

– Rebecca Solnit, “Abandon,” A Field Guide to Getting Lost

“Of all the cardinal sins against the environment, driving long distances is the most seductive, the one that brings us back to otherwise inaccessible places. I love long drives alone. The road is a net dropped over the vastness of the continent, tying together all its distances onto one navigable labyrinth of asphalt. Roads are the real architectural achievement of this century in the US. Roads are the architecture of our restlessness, of those who wish neither to stay in their built places nor wander in the untouched ones, but to keep moving between them. A road promises something else to us, though the promise is better fulfilled by traveling than by arriving.”

– Rebecca Solnit, Savage Dreams

“An exploding nuclear bomb is a kind of star come to earth. There is something wondrous about the fact that humans have managed to make stars, and something horrible about the fact that we went to the trouble of making stars for no more interesting reason than obliterating other human beings.”

– Rebecca Solnit, Savage Dreams

“On the prairie there is sometimes a quiet so absolute that it allows one to begin again, to love the future.”

– Robert Adams, Why People Photograph

“The sound of the sea is the most time-effacing sound there is. The centuries reroll in a cloud and the earth becomes young again when you listen, with eyes shut, to the sea – a young green time when the water and the land were just getting acquainted and had known each other for only a few billion years and the mollusks were just beginning to dip and creep in the shallows; and now man the invertebrate, under his ribbed umbrella, anoints himself with oil and pulls on his Polaroid glasses to stop the glare and stretches out his long brown body at ease upon a towel on the warm sand and listens.

“The sea answers all questions, and always in the same way; for when you read in the papers the interminable discussions and the bickering and the prognostications and the turmoil, the disagreements and the fateful decisions and agreements and the plans and the programs and the threats and the counter threats, then you close your eyes and the sea dispatches one more big roller in the unbroken line since the beginning of the world and it combs and breaks and returns foaming and saying: ‘So soon?’ ”

– EB White, “On a Florida Key”

“This is a day of high winds and extravagant promises, a day of bright skies and the sun on the white painted south sides of buildings, of lambs on the warm slope of the barnyard, their forelegs folded neatly and on their miniature faces a look of grave miniature content. Beneath the winter cover of spruce boughs the tulip thrusts its spear. A white hen is chaperoning thirteen little black chicks all over the place, showing them the world’s fair with its lagoons and small worms.

“My goose will lay her seventh egg today, in the nest she made for herself alongside the the feed rack in the sheep shed, and on cold nights the lambs will lie on the eggs to keep them from freezing until such time as the goose decides to sit. It is an arrangement they have worked out among themselves – the lambs enjoying the comfort of the straw nest in return for a certain amount of body heat delivered to the eggs – not enough to start the germ but enough to keep the frost out. Things work out if you leave them alone.

“At first, when I found lambs sitting on goose eggs I decided that my farm venture had got out of hand and that I had better quit before any more abortive combinations developed. ‘At least,’ I thought, ‘you’ll have to break up that nest and shift the goose.’ But I am calmer than I used to be, and I kept clear of the situation. As I say, things work out.”

– EB White, “A Shepard’s Life”

“Mountains have not always been a source of reverence and awe. We take it for granted that since the beginningof time people have climbed them for pleasure and written aeans to their beauty, because we assume that our own responses to them are, like nature, eternal and natural. But this is not true. Throughout most of Western history, at least since the ancient Greeks, people felt unmoved and even repelled by mountains. The Romans found them desolate, hostile places.

In fact, our modern attitude toward mountains – to what we consider their natural beauty – is a matter of conditioned learning, inherited through literature and theology, which has evolved during the last few centuries to encompass a notion of the sublime in nature: we have been trained what to see and how to feel. The evolution of the whole modern worldview, including the notion of beauty, you might even say, is exemplified by teh evolution of our feelings toward mountains.”

– Michael Kimmelman, “The Art of Lofty Perspective,” The Accidental Masterpiece

“People look so beautiful when their expressions show that they know they have a future.”

– Banana Yoshimoto, The Lake

“Beauty – the beauty Peter craves – is this, then: a human bundle of accidental grace and doom and hope. Mizzy must have hope, he must, he wouldn’t shine like this if he were in true despair, and of course he’s young, who in this world despairs more exquisitely than the young, it’s something the old tend to forget. Here he is, Ethan aka the Mistake, shameless and wanton, addicted, unable to want whaever it is he believes he’s supposed to want. This would be the moment to do him in bronze, to try to capture the aching raw nerves of him, the all-but-umbearbale final stages of his youth shimmer, as he begins to understand that this condition, like everybody’s, is serious, but before he begins to take the necessary steps to live semipeaceably in the actual world.”

– Michael Cunningham, Nightfall

“Drive the animal before you and never stop. Starve it, cut it, stuff silicone in it. Feed it until it’s too fat to think or feel. Then cut it open and suck the fat out. Sew it up and give it medication for pain. Make it run on the treadmill, faster, faster. Examine it for flaws. Not just the body but the mind, too. Keep going over the symptoms. It’s not a character defect; it’s an illness. Give it medication for pain. Dazzle its eyes with visions of beauty. Dazzle its ears with music that never stops playing. Send it to graze in vast aisles of food so huge and flawless that it seems to be straining to become something more than food. Dazzle its mind with visions of terror. Set it chasing a hot, rippling heaven from which illness and pain have been removed forever. Set it fleeing the silent darkness that is always at its heels. Suck it out. Sew it up. Run. When the dark comes, pray.”

– Mary Gaitskill, Veronica

“Sometimes something can look beautiful just because it’s different in some way from the other things around it. One red petunia in a window box will look very beautiful if all the rest of them are white, and vice-versa.

“When you’re in Sweden and you seee beautiful person after beautiful person after beautiful pereson and you finally don’t even turn around to look beacuse you know the next person you see will be just as beautiful as the one you didn’t bother to turn around to look at – in a place like that you can get so bored that when you see a person who’s not beautiful, they look very beautiful to you because they break the beautiful monotony.”

– Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)

“Beauties in photographs are different from beauties in person. It must be hard to be a model, because you’d want to be like the photograph of you, and you can’t ever look that way. And so you start to copy the photograph.”

– Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again)

“She squandered her beauty like an heiress spending her whole fortune in a few crazy, glittering years. Boys gathered around her like hungry dogs, growling and snapping, and for all her good fortune Marcia was, finally, a pathetic case. Because she fed herself to the dogs. Because she laughed too knowingly and wore tight skirts and would end in an apartment in Elmont or Uniondale, married to the fiercest, sexiest boy, who’d carve the years straight into her skin with his tempers and habits. You could see the Marcia Rosselinis of ten and twenty years ago, working as waitresses or cashiers or shouting from front porches at their own wild children. They’d lived a life of desire and desire had burned to ash in their perfect, practiced hands.”

– Michael Cunningham, Flesh and Blood

” ‘Everything seems to mean so much,’ said Sandra. But with the sound of her own voice the spell was broken. She forgot the peasants. Only there remained with her a sense of her own beauty, and in front, luckily, there was a looking glass.

” ‘I am very beautiful,’ she thought.

“Her husband saw her looking in the glass; and agreed that beauty is important; it is an inheritance; one cannot ignore it. But it is a barrier, it is in fact rather a bore.”

– Virginia Woolf, Jacob’s Room