Desiring Beauty, Even If It Kills Us
As I was reading Katy Kelleher’s beautifully written new book, The Ugly History of Beautiful Things: Essays on Desire and Consumption (Simon & Schuster), I found myself returning to a conversation I once had with the graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister, who in 2018 himself published an astute book on beauty. “If you’re in an environment that is lacking beauty,” Sagmeister told me, “you are becoming an asshole.” Cheeky as his comment may have been, he has a point. But beauty is also much more complicated and contradictory than that. As Kelleher’s book makes all too clear, the beauty that surrounds us is important and, in many cases, essential, but there’s also a lot of ugliness hidden in its making and in its wake.