On Beauty

I was saving this one for a day when I needed a bit of a pick-me-up. I'll admit, I had some idea of what the covers of this book contained - but didn't expect the close-to-homeness of the setting. Yes, the Art History department of a small but prestigious American university (I cheered for the secretary - obviously). And set among this unfortunate setting are the equally unfortunate intellectual creatures and their torturous affairs. In one single great literary thrust the author offers forth the emotionally mangled lives of otherwise brilliant people, proof that the intellect is a gawking younger brother to matters of the heart. There's something for everyone here, all the forms of shame (sexual, intellectual, emotional) that follow affairs, humiliations and awkward failings of the the same. The sexual infidelities take a backseat to the crushing emotional entanglements that seize upon these relationships like cankers, infecting and slowly disintegrating the lives they touch. Nice!

The human story of this book was well done, but lacked balance. I found the setting off-putting, in a strongly American Liberal sort of way. It tried just a little too hard to be fair to everyone politically. I felt pandered to. Luckily, the political aspect of the book is told both explicitly and implicitly. One can ignore the more amateurish brush strokes of the explicit plot while enjoying their mirrored retelling in the personal lives of the characters. I felt at times out of my depth in this book as well, some of the aspects of marriage and 50+ life were simply beyond my meagre experience.

No comments: