Bük Kloob is a series of book reviews loosely related to a book club I started.
How importance is being beautiful? Is beauty, like creativity, a form of expression? What is the power in beauty? Who is to say that beauty in art or in human form or in any capacity is a superpower?
These are the questions that Amanda Filipacchi‘s The Unfortunate Importance Of Beaty attempts to answer. The book is a detangling of beauty and the female body conducted in a bizarre, filthy manner. It’s presented as a fashion magazine rom-com twisted through John Waters absurdity. It’s an unrealistic, unadaptable book that, while about beauty, doesn’t attempt to be itself: it seeks to make you cringe-laugh as you look to your left and right to find the book’s characters in your own life.
The story follows Barb, a beautiful costume designer who turns to a bizarre tactic to make herself less pretty: a fat suit. Hidden in this body shell, she’s able to pass without distracting people with “how pretty she is.” Yes, it’s absurd. Her best friend—Lily—is unfortunate in the beauty department, an unsightly musician who is just dying to have someone pay attention to her. They, along with their crew of fellow unrealistically well-off artists living in New York City, live their lives and find themselves in a sprawling murder plot that is all tied up in one’s looks.
It’s an intentionally strange book. It attempts to satirize Vogue culture while trying to be adopted by Vogue culture, therein exposing itself to being flat on both sides. While not as sharp as Alexandra Kleeman’s You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine, Filipacchi fills her book with the types of observations of class and beauty culture that can only be imparted by an insider—and that’s where she succeeds. Filipacchi has a unique story: her mother was a very successful model and she has always felt somewhat in-the-shadow of her mother’s looks. She’s used this narrative to question femininity and channeled this frustration into The Unfortunate Importance Of Beauty.
More than being a passing book club piece of fiction, Filipacchi accomplishes something readers don’t fully anticipate unless they dig into her life: she created a book-as-therapy. In seeking to question beauty as a whole, the book instead addresses the yin and yang of her own struggle in finding herself. This too seems absurd but, as is the case with most art, the artist’s hand is always someplace in the frame. Filipacchi leaves her fingerprints everywhere, a cause for giggles each time one appears.
The Unfortunate Importance Of Beauty is a delicious light read. It’s hasn’t invented anything new in beauty critiques but it is inventive in being a light surrealist exploration of creativity and aesthetics. The book excels when it gets out of its own way, to talk about what is interesting instead of what it thinks it has to be. Like beauty, you have to look beyond the eyes to actually realize what’s going on.