Katy Kelleher: 'The Ugly History of Beautiful Things'
- Written by Belinda Elliott
- Category: Featured - Radio
- Published: 17 August 2023
Crushed beetle shells in our lipstick? Burnt cow bones baked into our dishware? This week, we are uncovering the hidden stories behind the beautiful objects that surround us.
Katy Kelleher has spent much of her life chasing beauty. As a child, she uprooted handfuls of purple, fragrant little flowers from the earth, plucked iridescent seashells from the beach, and dug for turquoise stones in her backyard. As a teenager, she applied glittery shimmer to her eyelids after religiously dabbing on her signature scent of orange blossoms and jasmine. And as an adult, she coveted gleaming marble countertops and delicate porcelain to beautify her home. This obsession with beauty led her to become a home, garden, and design writer. In researching these objects, Katy concluded that most of us are blind to the true cost of our desires. Because whenever you find something unbearably beautiful, look closer, and you’ll inevitably find a shadow of decay lurking underneath.
In her new book The Ugly History of Beautiful Things she weaves together science, history, and memoir to expose the dark underbellies of our favorite goods.
Kelleher is an art, design, nature, and science writer living in the woods of Maine. Her work has appeared in the pages of the New York Times, The Guardian, American Scholar, and Town & Country. She’s written online for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Jezebel, and others. She’s a frequent contributor to The Paris Review and spent several years writing a popular column on color, Hue’s Hue. Her essays have been anthologized in both Best American Food Writing and Best American Science and Nature Writing.
She joins Dr. Alan Campbell this week on Watching America.