On This Subjective Idea of Beauty

Continuing my recent theme of objects of beauty, I’m thinking on a word that could describe such things collectively. That is, whilst absolutely acknowledging that the idea of beauty is entirely subjective, how can I describe how certain objects are for me? Is it their ‘feel’, their ‘texture’, their ‘weight’? By these words, I don’t mean the physical properties of dimensions, roughness/smoothness, heaviness/lightness, size, density, etc., necessarily. These properties do come into it, of course, but I want a word to describe objects of beauty in the abstract manner.

I don’t know if there are any more appropriate words: the feel of this book, the texture of the writing, the weight of the whole, for example. For reasons that link to all of this, I’ve decided to reset the release date of my next (micro fiction) ebook collection. This isn’t the main reason for this post (as I say, I’m in a themed thinking mode at the moment regarding art and creativity). I have been watching the counter tick down in the box to the right (regarding the release of Four Kinds of Wreckage). I set this a few weeks back precisely to focus my writing and editing energies. Everything’s written, but it just needs a little time in settling. I won’t put anything out there unless I can see it as, potentially, an object of beauty. FKoW is being given another month.

Now, all this thinking on beauty (subjective though it is), leads me to needing to ‘show and tell’ on objects I’ve found. I want to ‘show’ you five things, but I’m a writer so I want to write them to you. They’re not all books, but they do all affect me in some way.
 
Sa Femme (Emmanuèle Bernheim)

I have a small 1994 copy of this beautiful little book, translated from the original French and published by Viking, sat at the end of one of my bookshelves. It fits in the palm: a gold and black simple dustcover to its hardback. It’s slim, elegant, and was found somewhere, once, perhaps, in some old bookshop nobody really knew about. It must have been this way because this is the way with all the books I have that fall into this category. Somehow, generally, the books bought from the big bookshop chains don’t seem to have a similar ‘feel’.
 
Leave Your Sleep (Natalie Merchant)

In 2010, one of my favourite recording artists — Natalie Merchant — released this absolutely exquisite collection of songs on double CD on the Nonesuch label. The songs are all poems about- for- or by children, and they’re collected from various sources and spanning centuries. What makes this collection special is the craft and love that seems to have gone into the detail: the collection comes with its own book; Natalie spent several years building up to the project, working with over a hundred musicians across a range of styles. I keep this collection very safe.
 
Blank Notebooks

Hand made paper, smooth or textured; a leather hard casing; empty pristine space that part of me doesn’t want to blemish. I think for a long, long time on what to put in pages like these. Words or drawings there have to do the notebook justice. I have some notebooks that have stayed empty for many years.
 
Collected Poems, 1967-1985 (Adrian Henri)

I hadn’t heard of Adrian Henri before finding him, or rather this collection, in a bookshop something like fifteen years ago. We need to rummage in bookshops (the proper ones with creaking floors and several stories winding up narrow staircases to quiet, unmanned little rooms somewhere up and up). We need to rummage because we never know what we’ll find. I found a collection of love in many forms here. I found the way that Adrian used and fused words in new and odd ways, and the way that he made poetry out of lists of Nivea cream and other discarded cosmetics. There are snippets and prints and photos and longer pieces and it all builds up to a significant body of work.
 
Heaven and Other Poems (Jack Kerouac) and Letters to a Young Poet (Rainer María Rilke)

These two books I relate as one here. They’re both slim (there’s something about ‘slim’ that seems to translate to some form of beauty in books); they’re both odd but in different ways, though ‘odd’ here is perhaps more to do with being ‘not contemporary’; most importantly though, they were both sent to me, out of the blue, by an artist friend in Kansas. It is this that imbues more of a sense of ‘special’ in them. One person has taken the time to think, find, and send a book, twice.

Objects of beauty are beautiful in many ways, though I don’t know what could describe them all.
 
 

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