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17 Responses

  1. dc
    dc November 15, 2012 at 6:38 pm |

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Jeremiah_Sullivan
    (well i know this is catty,but he’s not exactly Idris Elba himself,lol)

  2. dc
    dc November 15, 2012 at 6:45 pm |

    (ps-
    i get the irony/pettyness of my comment.
    and IE is also a great actor…..)
    **ends derail**

  3. zardoz
    zardoz November 15, 2012 at 8:13 pm |

    Reproductive springtime? WTF?

    1. Donna L
      Donna L November 15, 2012 at 9:52 pm |

      And: “emotions straight from the Pliocene, from the savanna.” Where all the Australopitheci used to parade around in their black bikinis, giving each other furtive looks, making sure they all had opposable thumbs.

      I’m not a big fan of that kind of hyperbole, but I’m not sure how it’s possible to read this and be so sure that he *doesn’t* actually see all those diverse bodies as beautiful. In an exoticising kind of way.

      1. pheenobarbidoll
        pheenobarbidoll November 15, 2012 at 11:24 pm |

        giving each other furtive looks, making sure they all had opposable thumbs.

        this last bit made me laugh though.

      2. Alexandra
        Alexandra November 16, 2012 at 12:36 am |

        Yeah, Donna, giving it some more thought, I think you’re right — I think for him, all of those strange wrinkly bodies poolside were just another weird, wacky exotic part of his weird, wacky, exotic trip to Cuba.

        I also think the writer is perceptive, with a knack for imagery that sometimes places his prose at a higher level than his analysis.

    2. konkonsn
      konkonsn November 15, 2012 at 11:11 pm |

      I made a very unpleasant frowny face at the screen when I read that.

  4. Alexandra
    Alexandra November 15, 2012 at 9:27 pm |

    We’re at a hotel pool here, a hotel elegant enough to have an omelet station, and a large pool. Sullivan says he finds all the flesh “beautiful,” but everything else he says about it belies that belief. I find most of veins and cellulite, paunches and man-paps, sagging on the back of the thighs, wrinkled cleavage, and sun-mottled skin beautiful. I’m an American–I didn’t find this effortlessly. I’ve had to learn to work with what I see, to (in Laurie’s words) “make the invisible visible.” I would have loved being at that poolside recently. Sullivan is an evocative writer, and his descriptions are very visual. As he makes clear, however, he has done none of that work–he just thinks he should, so he gives lip-service to “beautiful.”

    I don’t know that I think this is fair. Sullivan’s description of the poolside seemed to me to be coming from a couple of places:

    -culture shock about different standards of covering up/nakedness from America to Cuba
    -the awareness that the bodies of the people he’s seeing are not attractive according to conventional American standards
    -a genuine pleasure at the diversity of bodies he’s seeing and the freedom that represents.

    I mean, as you say yourself, it takes work as an American to deprogram yourself to see different sorts of bodies as genuinely beautiful. Honest to goodness work! And you say that Sullivan has done none of that work himself, that he is merely pretending to see beauty that you can tell by the way he writes – but that’s not the impression I get myself. I get the impression that he is surprised by how beautiful he finds the people around him. I found this essay beautifully written and effortlessly immersive.

  5. may
    may November 15, 2012 at 11:01 pm |

    This is an excellent post. Thank you. Beautiful evocative writing is wonderful, and it should still be questioned.

  6. A4
    A4 November 16, 2012 at 10:39 am |

    I think it’s pretty galling of you to write a one page post criticizing the author of a 10 page article for not engaging authentically with the people he is describing, and claiming that you know this because you yourself have reached the upper echelons of seeing True Beuaty. I see far more thought and personal engagement in Sullivan’s article where he brings real people he has seen to life than I do in this one where you simply assert your enlightened nature.

    1. A4
      A4 November 16, 2012 at 10:42 am |

      Also, summing up his experience of “He’s been to Cuba two or three times.” in no way accounts for the deep familial connection he obviously has combined with his self-awareness of the relative shallowness of that connection. It makes him sound like a visiting businessman which is simply not the case.

  7. Foxy
    Foxy November 17, 2012 at 12:11 am |

    Beauty is both subjective and objective

    1. im
      im November 19, 2012 at 12:10 am |

      This… could actually make for an interesting philosophical discussion. Although we would need to coin some new words.

      Objective beauty might be defined as something that is in some situation a sign of fitness for something or capability (although this is not really aesthetic beauty)?

      Even if that fitness or capability is being totally subverted.

      I loathe the body-positive replacement of compulsory thin-ness with compulsory finding-previously-hideous-sights-beautiful (which should not imply that I hate all body-positive anything everywhere always), but you could say there is another beauty here, the extroversion of being able to ignore one’s own physical unpleasantnesses. But you’ve still just got two different things opposing each other…

      1. tomek
        tomek November 21, 2012 at 9:30 pm |

        well i think bit extreme what say that being not thin is hideous. there is in between fat and thin a good balance which not hideous.

  8. Chuchundra
    Chuchundra November 18, 2012 at 10:23 am |

    I enjoyed the piece very much, Thanks for linking to it.

  9. im
    im November 19, 2012 at 12:00 am |

    I can… tell something is wrong here but I can’t tell what gives him American privilege?

    Is the problem that he is being so analyzing or something/?

    As somebody who does not buy into body positivity (and who is faintly horrified by the idea of scrunching your aesthetic senses into a politically correct mold) I find possibly-fake body positivity rather AWFUL.

  10. francesca
    francesca November 21, 2012 at 9:14 pm |

    It is somewhat interesting to me but mostly horrifying, that the “sanctimonious women’s studies crowd” has latched on the the idea of ‘projection’ to use in their rhetoric. I guess y’all took a cue from the criticisms levied towards your ‘crowd’, and it’s a case of appropriation in order to deflect criticism kind of thing.
    As someone who is more inclined to psychology than politics, and who is capable of communicating with others like myself, I can say with almost 99% certainty that while the everything-is-political crowd has a handle on politics, when it comes to psychological projection, you people are the absolute queens of it. If it makes you feel better to re-deploy this argument, go for it I guess, but honestly no one knows one way or another what the 25 people at the pool were feeling except the people themselves (you know, inside of themselves..??). Any interpretation , even that of a gloriously politically aware person, is a reading-into, and says something about the person reading into the scene, that’s it. The arrogance of this post is pretty grotesque.

    .

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