Why do lovers on greeting cards always walk on bea

Why do lovers on greeting cards always walk on beaches? Why do stuffed animals seldom have paws? When did bad posture and messy hair become de rigueur? In Cute, Quaint, Hungry and Romantic, author Daniel Harris offers an answer, concentrating on the politics and low-brow aesthetics of product design and advertising. With a sharp wit and insightful eye, Harris, a noted essayist, puts consumerism on trial.

The aesthetics of consumerism, Harris argues, are not thrust upon us but emerge out of a rich and imaginative collaboration between the forces of capitalism and our own fears and desires. Advertisers have simply taken up residence in the well-appointed emotional quarters we have prepared. Indeed, Harris claims, the public’s appetite for nostalgia provides fertile ground for advertisers.

Cute, Quaint, Hungry and Romantic examines consumerism at the point consumers experience it: the visceral level of the senses and the body. Shoppers don’t know capitalism from the standpoint of Hegelian dialectics; they relate to the sensation of color, enticing rhetoric on packages and the beauty of actresses in romantic comedies. It is the moment of engagement with a product or design that Harris addresses in his compelling book.

Each chapter defines one broad principle that governs an element of pop culture—from zaniness to deliciousness, coolness to cuteness. Whether its Saturday-morning cartoons, Piggly Wigglys in suburban Tallahassee malls or posh designer boutiques on Madison Avenue, we live in an eclectic landscape that determines our buying preferences. Advertisers tap these desires—conscious and unconscious alike.

From Cute, Quaint, Hungry and Romantic by Daniel Harris. Copyright © 2000 by Daniel Harris. Published by arrangement with Basic Books, a member of the Perseus Books Group.