Our Love-Hate Relationship with Gimmicks

Merve Emre at The New Yorker:

Although Ngai’s books are conceptually and philosophically dense, their appeal comes from how they tap into our ordinary use of language. Unless I collect art, or live in a many-windowed house at the edge of a westerly peninsula, where the sea is gilded by the sun and silvered by the moon, I am unlikely to have regular encounters with things I would call “beautiful” or “sublime,” and I may well find the rush and roar of such Romantic descriptions embarrassing. But not a day goes by when I do not call something—my son’s stuffed animals, a dress, a poem by Gertrude Stein—“cute,” or a novel or an essay “interesting.” And I can’t count the number of times I’ve called a kitchen gizmo my husband swears we really, really need (but we really, really don’t) or a colleague’s online persona “gimmicky.” “Theory of the Gimmick” finds in the pervasiveness of the gimmick the same duelling forces of aesthetic attraction and repulsion that shape all Ngai’s work. “ ‘You want me,’ the gimmick outrageously says,” she writes. “It is never entirely wrong.”

more here.