Cover image for The unfortunate importance of beauty : a novel
Title:
The unfortunate importance of beauty : a novel
Author:
Filipacchi, Amanda.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : W. W. Norton & Company, [2015]
Physical Description:
332 pages ; 22 cm
Summary:
"A magical and comedic take on modern love, the power of friendship, and the allure of disguise. Meet the Knights of Creation, a group of artistic friends struggling with society's standards of beauty. Barb, a stunningly beautiful costume designer, chooses to don a fat suit in hopes that it will help her meet the man of her dreams- a man who can see beyond her looks. Lily, Barb's brilliantly talented, unfortunate-looking musician friend, goes to fantastic lengths to attract the shallow man she loves. Penelope, neither beautiful nor talented, makes her living by selling hideous clay pots after convincing customers they've broken them. To complicate matters, the friends discover they may have a murderer in their midst, that Barb's calm disposition is more dangerously provocative than her beauty ever was, and that Lily's musical talents are more powerful than anyone could have imagined. Imbued with Amanda Filipacchi's characteristic twisted charm and absurdist, satiric wit, The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty is touching, whimsical, and gorgeously strange. "Filipacchi [creates] magic out of thin air. . . . One of our best satirists."-Neil LaBute"--Publisher.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780393243871
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

A magical and comedic take on modern love, the power of friendship, and the allure of disguise.

In the heart of New York City, a group of artistic friends struggles with society's standards of beauty. At the center are Barb and Lily, two women at opposite ends of the beauty spectrum, but with the same problem: each fears she will never find a love that can overcome her looks. Barb, a stunningly beautiful costume designer, makes herself ugly in hopes of finding true love. Meanwhile, her friend Lily, a brilliantly talented but plain-looking musician, goes to fantastic lengths to attract the man who has rejected her--with results that are as touching as they are transformative.

To complicate matters, Barb and Lily discover that they may have a murderer in their midst, that Barb's calm disposition is more dangerously provocative than her beauty ever was, and that Lily's musical talents are more powerful than anyone could have imagined. Part literary whodunit, part surrealist farce, The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty serves as a smart, modern-day fairy tale. With biting wit and offbeat charm, Amanda Filipacchi illuminates the labyrinthine relationship between beauty, desire, and identity, asking at every turn: what does it truly mean to allow oneself to be seen?


Author Notes

Amanda Filipacchi is the author of three previous novels, Nude Men, Vapor, and, most recently, Love Creeps. Her writing has appeared in Best American Humor and elsewhere. She lives in New York City.


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Filipacchi's (Love Creeps, 2005) fourth novel offers an astute, piercing look at the value society and individuals place on appearance. Five friends make up the artistic circle known as the Knights of Creation. Stunning Barb conceals her beauty in a fat suit and wig after the suicide of her best friend, Gabriel, who was hopelessly in love with her. Unattractive Lily uses haunting piano music to evoke desire. Fragile Penelope makes art so hideous she must trick customers into purchasing it. Prickly author Georgia's will to write is sapped after the laptop containing her new novel is stolen. Jack is a former police officer who rescued Penelope from a traumatic kidnapping. The Knights have just learned via a posthumous letter from Gabriel that one among them is a killer and that the killer is targeting Strad, the vain and shallow man for whom Lily is pining in vain. Barb concocts a plan to save Strad, while Lily works on composing a piece of music that will make her beautiful in Strad's eyes. There is power in beauty. That's the tragedy of it, Filipacchi observes in this wise, witty farce that is both impossible to put down and utterly dead-on in its assessment of human nature.--Huntley, Kristine Copyright 2015 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

Filipacchi's fourth novel blithely upends the social constructs of beauty, desire, and art in her signature brisk, darkly comic style. As usual, Filipacchi taps the sleaze at its source: Manhattan. The focus is on a successful costumer designer named Barb and her group of artsy friends, the Knights of Creation: Georgia, a bestselling novelist; Lily, a talented pianist; beautiful socialite and would-be potter Penelope, who was once kidnapped; and Penelope's rescuer, ex-cop Jack. The fractured fairy tale of a plot turns on narrator Barb, who inherited her supermodel mother's jaw-dropping looks but has dressed in an elaborate disguise since she learned that her beauty drove her friend Gabriel to suicide, and Lily, whose face is "simply extremely ugly-the kind of ugliness that is inoperable," and who yearns to write a piece of music that will hypnotize her longtime crush, a bro-ish violinist named Strad. Filipacchi (Love Creeps) succeeds by loading this frothy plot with sharp surreal turns and layers of subversive meaning as Georgia's lost laptop mysteriously reappears, Lily's melodious powers of persuasion become supernaturally effective, and Gabriel warns in a postmortem letter to Barb that one of the Knights intends to kill Strad. The author's own mother, model Sondra Peterson, even makes a cameo, but while looks can kill, they're no match for Filipacchi's rapier wit. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Filipacchi's (Love Creeps) absurdist fourth novel requires a reader who is willing to suspend disbelief, so let's accept the ridiculous premise and dive in. Barb the beautiful lives in a fat suit and wears the most inappropriate clothes and a ratty gray wig because she must protect the world from her loveliness. Ugliness is a mask she regularly discards in bars to prove that men are obsessed with beauty. Lily, the truly ugly one, is obsessed with Strad, who isn't afraid to say he can only love beautiful women. Lily will do anything to get Strad to love her and, with Barb's help, she succeeds. Lily, a pianist, composes a song that makes her beautiful-but only while it's playing. Barb designs a mask for Lily, which, in combination with the beauty song, is used to seduce Strad. And it works until Lily decides she can't hide behind the mask any longer. There is also a murder plot, magic realism, and a love story for Barb. VERDICT While some of Filipacchi's gags stray into eye-rolling territory and her message about the role of beauty in our culture manages to be both heavy-handed and superficial, the novel has its moments. The successful reader will embrace the over-the-top set pieces and roll with it.-Pamela Mann, St. Mary's Coll. Lib., MD (c) Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.