Saturday, April 9, 2011

On Jolie Laide

While looking for the lyrics to the Serge Gainsbourg song whose lyric lent the title of this blog, I came across an exceptional NYT piece by Daphne Merkin. It was published in 2005 and you can read the full text here.

. . .there have always been those who question the dictates of conventional beauty, whose views of what constitutes a ravishing face range further than either the classical ideal or the ordained images of the cultural moment and who see our reverence for certain types over others as a form of aesthetic provincialism. . . (One) was my Belgian-born grandmother, who looked irritated whenever I, an insecure girl loitering on the edges of adolescence, asked her whether she thought I was pretty. "Pretty?" she'd ask. "Who wants to be pretty?" Her blazing blue eyes lit up her wrinkled face with the preposterousness of the wish. "Pretty is silly." I later discovered that no less an authority than F. Scott Fitzgerald, who studied the laws of female comeliness the way others study the laws of physics, agreed with my grandmother regarding the inherent banality of the merely pretty: "After a certain degree of prettiness," he wrote, "one pretty girl is as pretty as another."

I think Proust put it well too. He wrote, "Let us leave pretty women to men with no imagination."

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