THE UNFORTUNATE IMPORTANCE OF BEAUTY is a story picked by my book group for our discussion in September. I ran into one of our members at the grocery store who was reading ahead as she is headed back to school in a few days and she said, “our next two books are weird!” I was hoping that meant weird and wonderful and not just strange. I have to say it was a very interesting premise and the humor made me smile as I turned pages and settled in for the cover-to-cover experience.
About the author from Amazon:
“Amanda Filipacchi is the author of four novels: Nude Men, Vapor, Love Creeps, and, just out, The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty (W. W. Norton, Feb. 2015). Her fiction has appeared in Best American Humor and elsewhere. Her nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic. She earned an MFA in fiction writing from Columbia University. She lives in New York.”
The story is a rather amazing testament to friendship. There are four friends, who gather for the Nights of Creativity. Georgia has written several novels, Jack is a person who can resolve conflict, Lily is a brilliant composer of music, Penelope works at being a potter and selling pottery, but her craft is putting pieces back together, and Barb who is an award winning costume designer. Gabriel was a member of the group, but he committed suicide and changed the group’s lives. His suicide note said that he was in love with Barb but not worthy of someone who was so beautiful.
Barb reacts to this sadness by making and wearing a fat suit of clothing inclusive of messy teeth and a wild and frizzy grey wig. She has worn this cover-up/costume for the last several years. Barb also believes that her father had affairs when her mother’s great beauty began to fad and they divorced. She hopes someone will overlook her “ugly” veneer and love her for herself.
Georgia leaves her laptop in a cab and she can no longer write until it is returned a number of days later. Her novels are quite popular. Georgia is clever with words and ideas.
Lily who is not very attractive at all and can write beautiful music which drives folks to purchase office supplies or purchase books at Barnes and Noble falls in love with Strad who can not see her as beautiful at all and the group begins to help Lily with her obsession of him. The group encourages each other and cares for each other and develops some absurd solutions to help problem-solve and find happiness.
The humor is not knee-slapping or belly laughing material, rather makes this group more loveable and likeable and charming. There is a constant undercurrent about beauty and a condemnation of Strad but not a true or real solution to the society’s influence. There is a strong message about how persuasive our culture is and the role of marketing and how that changes minds and uniforms us into roles. The characters need to come to their own conclusions and ideas and then proceed into society with the strength of friendship holding them together.
It was an interesting and fun read and I was happy to be introduced to this book and this author. I will ask at our next gathering who discovered the book and why they chose it for us to discuss. Certainly THE UNFORTUNATE IMPORTANCE OF BEAUTY will produce an interesting discussion evening.