At the Great Indoors, a hugely successful department store chain, customers can choose from among 250 lavatory faucets. If that represents too little variety, there are more than 1,500 distinct models of drawer pulls. Like it or not, we live in an age where we can minutely dictate every aesthetic choice, to an extent our ancestors would certainly have found disturbingly wasteful and superficial. It is this censure that New York Times economics columnist Postrel is dead-set on dismantling. Aligning herself against "pleasure-hating" modernists like Walter Gropius and Adolf Loos, Postrel adopts the position that fashion has meaning. One of her argument's charms is that she allows Joe Q. Ray-Ban his own justification for his purchase ("I like it") against the interpretations of theorists who insist an interest in surfaces is linked with deception, status or falsehood. Postrel's apt example of the proliferation in toilet-brush design is an effective rebuttal against such theorists-after all, nobody buys a sleek toilet brush to impress neighbors who will never see it, so aesthetics must constitute much of the rationale. Increasingly, form is simply part of the function. Postrel begins by explaining that appearance has a meaning commensurate to loftier values, then examines the many manifestations of this truth. While her argument is intellectually sophisticated, Postrel's journalistic training ensures the examples she cites are well-chosen and the prose remains crisp and readable. Gracefully representing one endpoint of a certain debate, this ambitious book may someday become a classic of the genre.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
It's enough to make your head hurt, this very conscious, contemporary, intellectual interpretation of Keats' "Beauty is life, life, Beauty." On the other hand, social scientist and author (The Future and Its Enemies, 1998) Postrel brings together some very compelling arguments, insights, and examples about the value of aesthetics today. Nothing is quantified; instead, she points to qualitative examples like the GE Design Center in Selkirk, New York, devoted exclusively to the creation of new plastic forms. To Starbucks and the iMac, each a symbol of looks that sell--at a higher price. And to the 1,500-odd different drawer pulls available at the Great Indoors. Aesthetics is how we make the world around us special, a feature recognized as early as 1927, when adman Ernest Elmo Calkins opined about "Beauty the New Business Tool" in the Atlantic. It enhances communications (cf. PowerPoint) and identities (Hillary Clinton's hair). Ask any Afghan woman who risked prison to style her hair and paint her face; aesthetics is at one with life. Barbara Jacobs
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
I enjoyed the book and it made me think about style in ways I'm not accustomed to, but to be honest, it was a bit of a slog to get through and I didn't finish it. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Ted Sanders
I very much enjoyed this book. Well written and argued, I enjoyed the premise much more than I originally thought. Read morePublished 6 months ago by S.M.Boydstun
Beauty is a distinct advantage in life. Postrel leads us through a rational, interesting and compelling argument as to the power and the intrinsic advantages enjoyed by the... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Questhm
This is the product of a hack. Her essential argument is that companies are increasingly able to make beautiful, cool stuff for an increasingly demanding public. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Robert J. Crawford
Postrel is insightful and as a person who appreciates material things I appreciated her explanation of why so many people want the best of the best. Things make a difference. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Linda F. Greenberg
I have not read many books since entering middle age that have metaphorically grabbed me by the lapels, batted me around, and screamed "WAKE UP and actually THINK about your... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Christopher K. Gray
A great idea to look at aesthetics from this perspective of advertising and media. Unfortunately this ambitious book strings together just too many ideas with little analysis. Read morePublished 24 months ago by m stone
I liked the ideas in this book, it was very enlightening. Quick read too. It was for a class which is why I could not bring myself to "love it"...Published on January 30, 2013 by apet