I couldn’t look away. It wasn’t his fault, and I’ve been stared at enough by kids to know that it wasn’t my fault either. I saw something different and I looked.
Ugliness and difference are at the core of Umberto Eco’s wonderful (and beautiful) book On Ugliness. It is the companion to another great book he edited on the History of Beauty.
Eco posits that the traditional concept of ugliness has been the mere opposite of beauty. This doesn’t go far enough, and he proves it in about 450 pages of paintings, sculptures, and commentary throughout the ages.
Umberto Eco is one of my favorite authors. He’s really, really, really smart. Best known for the monk-laden mystery novel The Name Of The Rose, this professor of semiotics and all-around brilliant man is a writer I can’t do without.
The fates decreed that before I got married, I would date a lot of art history majors. On Ugliness does what they were never able to: get me to enjoy a book about the history of art.
By the way, there’s a movie for The Name Of The Rose. When we finished watching it, Janette turned to me and said, “I’ve never seen a movie with fewer hunks in it.”
She’s right, although sadly none of them appear in On Ugliness.
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