Taste: The Secret Meaning of Things

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1992 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. Sewn binding. Paper over boards. 237 p. Audience: General/trade. The author has drawn on a huge and varied range of sources to create the ... first synopsis of a subject which is notoriously ilusive and naggingly present. Fully illustrated with carefully chosen images which are tart interrruptions of a well-informed but witty text. Read more Show Less

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Taste forever changes, as the fluctuating reputations of Shakespeare and El Greco attest. On this central premise British design critic Bayley erects a witty, erudite, wide-ranging social history of taste that demolishes the gaudy, the meretricious, the ready-made and the vulgar, both high and low. He takes aim at the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (``forever in pursuit of a mythic gentility''), prim Scandinavian furniture as the presumed epitome of ``good design,'' contemporary kitsch architecture a la Manhattan's Trump Tower and fashion designer Ralph Lauren (``he sells an image of an image, based on romanticized myths about the Wild West and WASP society''). This lavishly illustrated survey includes chapters on taste and lack thereof in art, architecture, interior design, clothes, food and manners. Intriguing observations abound: for instance, the length of a sneaker's tongue is a macho symbol among athletes, and the idea that tanned skin is attractive goes back no further than the pseudo-scientific theory of heliotherapy developed in the 1920s by German and Swiss doctors. (Mar.)
Library Journal
This book is an introductory examination of the phenomenon of taste primarily from a historical rather than a philosophical point of view. It argues that taste ``is not so much about what things look like, as about the ideas that give rise to them.'' Bayley divides this project into two parts. In the Imbroglio the history of the idea of taste is traced from the Enlightenment to the present day. The Scenario features separate chapters, each dealing with taste as it has been revealed in the fields of architecture, interior design, fashion, and food. The entire text is nicely supplemented with a poignant array of illustrations whose captions display the author's often vicious wit. On the whole, Bayley provides many striking observations on the history of popular culture from a decidedly British perspective (American readers may fail to understand many of his examples). The writing is lively and full of humor. It is unfortunate, though, that the recurring subtheme--the variability of taste in the face of apparent permanent aesthetic values--is never fully resolved. For specialized art and popular culture collections and larger academic libraries.--David B. Hegeman, King's Coll. Lib., Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780394558929
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/15/1992
  • Pages: 256

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