Quenby Moone, Nonfiction Editor of The Nervous Breakdown, has a piece on her father’s death in TNB Books’ new collection, The Beautiful Anthology.

 

What is your personal definition of beauty?

Growing up with artists, I learned to look at things critically all the time. Everything is up for review–clothing, landscapes, food. Our house has become one long meditation on beauty which evolves over time. Right now I seem to be obsessed with the beauty of tiny microenvironments, terrariums and aquariums.

I bought a terrarium off Craigslist last week. The owner neglected to mention that there were inhabitants living there, and I discovered a completely terrified fiddler crab upon arriving home with it. I instantly fell in love with him; he’s this hilarious little creature, showing off his big ol’ claw to any passing lady crabs. He looks like a tiny disco king or an aquatic traffic controller as he waves it around.

A couple days later I was cleaning out his home when I found an outrageously well-camouflaged salamander cowering in fear behind a rock. It was tiny, almost a worm with legs, with two enormous black eyes like an amphibious Keane painting.  Now I have these creatures enriching my life, filling my world with the mystery of the natural. All these amazing, beautiful, fragile things make my heart ache with wonder. That can only be a good thing.

 

What do you hope people learn for themselves about beauty? What have you learned?

Recognizing beauty is what makes us human. Not noticing beautiful people, necessarily, but making things around us beautiful or appreciating naturally occurring beauty. We’re like bower birds, collecting amazing things and arranging them in pleasing ways, which makes us sensitive to our environment. If you stop to collect enough shiny bits and arrange them just so, you are having a direct relationship with your life and the world around you.

 

Biggest surprises when it comes to beauty?

Death is a part of life, and as such, one must recognize its inherent beauty. I learned that as I helped my father die. He faced his death with as much grace and humor as one can, and helped me face death as a reality, not as some sort of mythical idea, unknown and unknowable. My father’s death was one of the two most beautiful and poignant events in my life, the other being—of course—my son’s birth.  To elevate birth without recognizing the sanctity and quiet beauty of life’s inevitable conclusion is not to embrace life in toto.

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TNB Nonfiction features some of the web's best essays, excerpts of up-and-coming books, self-interviews, profiles, and humor from a wide range of authors. Past and future writers include Emily Rapp, Mira Bartók, Nick Flynn and Melissa Febos, among many others.  Our editorial team includes:  SETH FISCHER is the Nonfiction Editor. His work has appeared in Guernica, Joyland, Best Sex Writing, and elsewhere, and he was the first Sunday editor at The Rumpus. His nonfiction was selected as notable in The Best American Essays, and he has been awarded fellowships by Jentel, the Ucross Foundation, Lambda Literary, and elsewhere. He is also a developmental editor of nonfiction and fiction, and he teaches at Antioch University Los Angeles, UCLA-Extension, and Writing Workshops Los Angeles.

8 responses to “Beautiful Views: Quenby Moone”

  1. Well said, Quenby. To embrace that inevitable conclusion and be able to name it honestly as beautiful takes a balanced courage too.

    You said another thing: “If you stop to collect enough shiny bits and arrange them just so, you are having a direct relationship with your life and the world around you.” It’s taken time, and especially a spouse, but I’ve finally started to come around to understanding this too. Though I still refuse to call it home decor.

    Hope the crab and the salamander are getting along swimmingly.

    • It is not “home decor!” Home decor is prefab crap you buy in some lame big box store. Tchotchkes and doobobs and thingamajigs with paintings and drawings and books and art and plants (and, apparently, terrariums): that’s what brings you into a closer relationship with beauty. Home decor is lame.

      The salamander unfortunately bought a one-way ticket shortly after I wrote this–right before I bought it a brand new home. I was surprisingly broken up about it. The fiddler crab is awesome. He remains wholly disco king.

      My father might be hanging out with a salamander somewhere, though he doesn’t know why.

  2. Art Edwards says:

    Lovely examples of beauty, Q.

    Did you really not know there were creatures in the terrarium? What a delight to discover them.

    • I did not know there was a crab or a salamander! There was three feeder goldfish in there, suffering mightily. Dude made a nice terrarium but a lousy habitat. I scrambled to make all the critters as comfortable as possible as quickly as possible.

      Most made it. Sallie did not.

      Poop.

  3. Love this. Tweeting it now.

  4. angela z says:

    Hey, I read [ then promptly re-read ] The Quiet Light. Your prose stunned me. It was soooo beautiful. Thank you for the shadow and light.

  5. Autumn Andrade says:

    Hi Quenby,

    I would like to tell you about me, Autumn, your dad’s student and a family friend. Anytime, I would be delighted if you would return a message.

    Thank you

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