The Substance of Style

Clearly I’m catching up on some blogging I haven’t bothered to do. 🙂

The other book I finished recently was “The Substance of Style,” by Virgina Postrel, a economics columnist for the New York Times.

I’m really not sure what to say about this book. I can’t decide if I “didn’t get it” or if it really was the same point made over and over — aesthetics have become important for their own sake because human beings enjoy looking at pretty things, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t think the book was inaccessible: she didn’t use a lot of fancy economics vocabulary, and it was well-written. I had the sense that the argument was (probably) growing and changing, and she was making points to support things she’d talk about later. But I just couldn’t follow her. There was a point maybe two-thirds of the way through where I thought I was starting to get it, but then that chapter ended and I was lost again with the next. I think perhaps there wasn’t enough of a coherent “story” for me, but I’m not even sure about that.
I’m not really sure what I was expecting when I picked this book up. I remember seeing a couple of people reading it on the T when it came out, and the title intrigued me. I never looked at any reviews, I just put in a request for it at the SPL. If you had this book on a list of things to read because you’re a designer or a marketer or an engineer or you really love her columns or other books (none of which I’ve read) or you’re in business school or something, I’d say go ahead and get it. But if it’s just out of idle curiosity I’d skip it (or be sure not to buy it, at least).

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