Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Beauty ache: Take two Advil and call me in the morning

Amusing piece in the NY Times Book Review on cliches in book reviews--particularly, overuse of the word "astonishing."

But the cliche that gets me is "achingly beautiful":

But then, Craig Wright's "Pavilion" is a poetic, profane, achingly beautiful little "play about time" that revolves around the concept of wanting to change the ground rules. --Asbury Park Press, 1/23

In fact, the whole night was an adventure. The program included Olivier Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time," given an achingly beautiful performance... --Chicago Sun Times, 1/23

Yes, there are times when it feels pretentious, but this is magical filmmaking--achingly beautiful and impossible to get out of your head. --Real Movie News, 1/23

Dark, disturbing and yet achingly beautiful, "Pan's Labyrinth" is destined to be a classic, an adult fantasy that all but erases the line between the real and the imaginary. --Kansas City Star, 1/19

His solo introductions to tunes like The Dear Irish Boy were achingly beautiful--tenderness filled with a hint of melancholy. --The Age (Australia), 1/17

"Heart Food," released two years later, was, if anything, even better, with achingly beautiful melodies such as "The Kiss" and "The Phoenix." --Washington Post, 12/30

"Everything All the Time" is achingly beautiful from end-to-end. --Orange County Weekly, 12/28

When tunes settle down, things can get downright lovely. Jon co-wrote "Yesterdays" with his brother and fellow bandmate Tim, and it's an achingly beautiful meditation on the death of a loved one, pointing to a future beyond the grave as he sings, "until I'm with you, I'll carry on". --The Trades, 12/24

But my favorite from the Achingly Beautiful Sweepstakes:
The show isn't without its Cirque-like components: gymnasts, trapeze artists, clowns. But Latourelle effectively integrates those elements with the horses. There's a romantic and achingly beautiful routine that features two female acrobats on bungee cords and a pair of partners on slowly loping steeds. Choreographers Brad Denys and Alain Gauthier manage to meld the worlds of horse and circus without making anything look awkward or forced. --OC Register, 1/5

Wow, that sounds astonishing!


God Is My Codependent said...

Frankly, I prefer the soothingly ugly.

Jim Donahue said...

Hence, the appeal of Ernest Borgnine.

unclewilly said...

I have long secretly ached for female acrobats on bungee cords. But because I yam who I yam, I am reminded again of E. B. White (from "Elements of Style"): "The world of criticism has a modest pouch of private words (luminous, taut) whose only virtue is that they are exceptionally nimble and can escape from the garden of meaning over the wall. Wolcott Gibbs once wrote, '. . . they are detached from the language and inflated like little balloons.'"

Gina said...

Achingly beautiful is up there with "screamingly fresh", which I encountered at least three times in Anthony Bourdain's "The Nasty Bits".

fermicat said...

Reliance on overused cliches is no doubt one of the many reasons that these people are critics of the arts and not creators of it.

God Is My Codependent said...

unclewilly, your being reminded of E.B. White reminded me of George Orwell, who wrote, in Politics and the English Language,

In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning.† Words like romantic, plastic, values, human, dead, sentimental, natural, vitality, as used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless, in the sense that they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly ever expected to do so by the reader. When one critic writes, "The outstanding feature of Mr. X's work is its living quality," while another writes, "The immediately striking thing about Mr. X's work is its peculiar deadness," the reader accepts this as a simple difference of opinion. If words like black and white were involved, instead of the jargon words dead and living, he would see at once that language was being used in an improper way.

† Example: Comfort's catholicity of perception and image, strangely Whitmanesque in range, almost the exact opposite in aesthetic compulsion, continues to evoke that trembling atmospheric accumulative hinting at a cruel, an inexorably serene timelessness . . .Wrey Gardiner scores by aiming at simple bull's-eyes with precision. Only they are not so simple, and through this contented sadness runs more than the surface bittersweet of resignation." (Poetry Quarterly)