Books Life Philosophy

Beauty and daily life

Milan Kundera
Milan Kundera

Stop. Listen. Think. Look
The point of art is to remind us to be alive. To open our eyes. This is a great quote from The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera:

It is wrong to chide the novel for being satisfied by mysterious coincidences, but it is right to chide man for being blind to such coincidences in his daily life. For he thereby deprives his life of a dimension of beauty.

Thank you (a new site by Derek Sivers) for reminding me of this great quote from the book by Milan Kundera. The site is a growing compendium of quotes, mainly about music. Here’s another great quote on the site, from Proust:

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

Books Design

On beauty

In his review of Roger Scruton’s new book, On Beauty, Sebastian Smee (in the Observer last weekend) begins with a wonderful quote from Updike (see earlier post) that, for most men, a naked woman is the most beautiful thing they will ever see. He continues:

He (Updike) didn’t say it was so for all men, nor did he venture an opinion on whether the reverse held for women. But the proposition, so bluntly delivered – as if centuries of hair-splitting philosophy and frenetic sublimation could be swept aside with one cheerfully ingenuous sentence – has always struck me as hard to refute.

just testing …


He ends with another excellent quote, this time from art critic Peter Schjeldahl (no, me neither, but clearly worth seeking out if the rest of his writing is this good):

Beauty is, or ought to be, no big deal, though the lack of it is. Beauty presents a stone wall to the thinking mind. But to the incarnate mind – deferential to the buzzing and gurgling body – beauty is as fluid, clear, and shining as an Indian summer afternoon.

Why am I taliking about this now? Because I am one of the (dwindling, to the mounting fears of the newspaper industry) people who paid £2 to read the article, by actually buying the paper, as opposed to reading it online for free (here!) – as Robert McCrum points out on page 24 of the same edition (22.03). And I finally found where I had put the Review section, and am only now reading it, on this sunny spring lunchtime, with a glass of wine. Well, not with an actual glass of wine, sadly. That bit’s virtual.

Whilst to my mind there are few objects more beautiful or satisfying than a well-designed (and well-written) book, I’m looking forward to the London Book Fair and the opportunity to see what digital readers are like. The cross-referencing possibilities are exciting, as well as the possibility of always having just the book you want with you, but the thought of empty bookshelves and no more leafing through pages is, well, disconcerting to say the least.

Moreover, without the urgency and finality of a print deadline, will books ever get finished? With the relative contingency and malleability of digital, will all works become, to a greater or lesser extent, ongoing …? Unfinished, until – the final deadline that none of us can dodge. 

But back in the here and now, I’m getting really excited that the moment of truth is closing in on one of my current book design projects. This is the cover design, which contains one small detail that will change before the print version. 

Now, where’s that glass of wine.