Saturday, June 18, 2011

Will beauty save the world?

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From an advertisement for the book:
"Beauty Will Save the WorldImage editor Gregory Wolfe has said more than once that public intellectuals are a dying breed: writers who proceed on the assumption that regular people read novels old and new, go to museums and art exhibitions, and may even dip into theology and aesthetics. The public intellectual writes as if these interests are not the exclusive territory of academics and specialized reviewers, but are the marks of a well-rounded, curious human being, be she project manager, chemistry teacher, cop, or stay-at-home mom. A dying breed, perhaps, but not quite extinct. In Wolfe and a few others like him, the species lives on. His new book’s title, Beauty Will Save the World: Recovering the Human in an Ideological Age, taken from an enigmatic journal entry of Dostoyevsky, summarizes Wolfe’s own way of thinking: beauty is no frill, but a foundation of a full human life. A cheerful, erudite generalist, Wolfe has the rare gift of tackling weighty and complex ideas in engaging, readable prose. What gives particular warmth to this collection is that he is also occasionally personal. The book would never be mistaken for a memoir, but the outline of Wolfe’s own story is there. Its arc is the discovery that the arts have value to a culture, and to individuals, that goes beyond uplift, diversion, and entertainment, and in fact can shape how we think and live more deeply than abstraction and ideology. We participate in a discovery that is also Wolfe’s own, as he grows from an avidly political youth to a sadder, wiser, more catholic reader of poetry and novels, viewer of art and film, and listener of music, who still cares just as passionately about the state of human societies, though now from a different angle. The book’s earlier sections describe the role of art in the contemporary age—a fractured, shifting time, to be sure, but no more so than any other, Wolfe argues—and make the case for beauty as a vital underpinning to the life of the soul and a humanizing, vivifying, mellowing, and enriching force. Throughout, Wolfe is generous with examples. His special joy is in holding up particular gems for our appreciation, including the work of artists and writers both canonical and lesser-known. Later chapters give consideration to novelists dear to his heart (Endo, Berry, Waugh, Woiwode), visual artists (Folsom, McCleary, Fujimura), and the conservative mentors who shaped him as a young man. Wolfe’s engagement with culture is broad and welcoming. Novels, poems, painting, philosophy, aesthetics: the feast is open to everyone. With stunning cover art by painter Laura Lasworth."

Sounds interesting to me.  What about you?
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