Monday, January 21, 2013

Too Beautiful to be Believable?

A reviewer of Eva of the Farm commented that Eva’s poems in the book were too beautiful to be believable. Usually, I don’t respond publicly to reviews, but I do need to respond to this comment because I don’t understand it. Gentle Readers, perhaps you can help me understand.

What does it mean--too beautiful to be believable? Really. THINK about it. Consider the following:

Michelangelo’s David
This is the most beautiful works of art I have ever seen. Does its incredible beauty mean it cannot possibly be real? Perhaps it is an illusion, perhaps it was made by Martians, perhaps it doesn’t even exist. It is too beautiful to be believable.

Victoria Soto
A teacher puts herself in front of a madman to try to protect her students, sacrificing her life. What an act of astonishing beauty. Does that mean it did not happen? Is it too beautiful to be believable?

Sunset over the Grand Canyon.
This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed. The color, light, and shadows on the rock and in the sky were more beautiful than anything I’d ever seen before at that age. I guess, though, because it was so beautiful, it could not have been real. Was I having a hallucination?

Now I suspect, Gentle Reader, you may say something like this. “The reviewer meant that Eva’s poems were too beautiful to believe they were written by a child.” But I find that baffling, too. Has anyone heard twelve-year-old Jackie Evancho sing? (If you have not, click here right now) Why can’t we expect  works of astonishing beauty from children?

Do we really only believe in beauty that is within our realm of understanding the world? Isn’t good art SUPPOSED to take us to a new level of appreciation for or understanding  of beauty? All I know is that I love to be astonished by beauty.

What about you, Gentle Reader?


  1. Hi Dia,

    It is an odd turn of phrase, "Eva’s poems in the book were too beautiful to be believable." I think the problem could have been resolved if the reviewer had used a term like refined or polished instead.

    12 can be pretty mature and accomplished, so even there, it is a bit dicy. Still, technical mastery is something that comes with age (if it comes at all) whereas beauty can come as easily from the simple purity of youth as from sophisticated experience.

    Either way, it sounds like a positive review.

    1. Yes, it was a positive review--the reviewer had lots of good insights. I do like your comment about beauty being able to come to us in many ways...through mastery as well as through simplicity. I think Tolkien wrote in Tree by Leaf (?) that we need to get back to the strength and beauty of simple, strong words--like green. I think about tht a lot while I write.
      Thanks for your help!