Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I had a great time in my nonfiction class today. We talked about beauty, truth, reality, and love (among a few other things). We had a great discussion about what beauty is. We read Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by James Agee.

The book is about sharecroppers in the 30s in Alabama. This book was achingly beautiful to me. Well, not the book, but the people of whom Agee wrote. Their lives were stark and hard, filled with abject poverty. The pictures in this book break your heart and make you want to take these people into your arms just to let them know that someone cares. These people didn't know any other life than a legalized form of slavery. They had nothing in the world. Broken trinkets carefully pieced together sitting on a dirty piece of cloth on a mantle. They displayed calendars with beautiful women who live in excess. They went about every day without shoes and slept at night with all manner of vermin.

Even though I could smack the author for his declaration that he was not trying to display a piece of art, and because he spent an entire section with not one period on any page so it was exhausting to read, just as I imagine their lives were to live. Never ending, brutal, not able to catch a breath. It was a difficult read.

As I thought about this book and about beauty I thought a lot about my husband and children. I sat on the bus for 50 minutes and pondered what about them made them beautiful to me. It wasn't their faces, their bodies, the color of their hair or eyes. It is their story. The lines in Harold's face that I know came from worry, his hair and the way he can never put it against any pillow without it immediately revolting and going in all directions, only to be put back together by a bit of water and his fingertips. It is the crooked teeth on my son that I mentally will to grow straighter so that we don't have to pay for braces. It is the sprinkling and smattering of freckles on their faces. It is during sleep when both arms are propped behind a head in a smug, smirky manner. It is a body that is maturing and becoming more womanly. The way she looks at me when she thinks I am giving more love to him than to her. It is the cracked hands in the winter that require Vaseline and cotton gloves to keep them from bleeding. It is the eyelashes that are so long and luxurious that if they were to touch you would feel like the finest feathers. It is the singing in the shower, the constant popping off with movie lines that make us all bend over in fits of laughter.

There is so much more I could say, so much more. Think about the beauty in your life.


Julie J. said...

I love this post!

mom/Janet said...

This post gave me alot to think about. I thought over my family and the things about them I love. With that came the things I tend to focus on sometimes that make me forget why they are all so wonderful. I am blesses with wonderful kids and a husband that I've made my list about on each.
Thanks Jeanna for your wonderful insite.

Reno Wells said...

This is the second time now that I want to read the book you have just described even though I would never have picked it up by myself. I am getting a cultural experience from you!! Thanks.

Brittany said...

wyatt read "a seperate peace" and really liked it. he gave it to me to read and i wasn't too impressed. though, i never gave it much of a chance sense i only read about three pages. hope you're enjoying it!

ps - thanks for the reminder on what beauty and love is really about. it really is the inside that counts!

Holley, Dane Brien & Wesley Berry said...

You are reading so many fabulous books. I too read this book and experienced many of the same emotions as you. I came away from the experience of reading this book with a profound sense of gratitude that I am constantly trying to cultivate. I love how you related it to finding beauty in your family. I have been so focused on the "problems" in life lately, that I have not been remembering how amazing my husband and children really are. Thanks for bringing some much needed perspective and reminding me to search for beauty wherever I am.