cover image Easy Beauty: A Memoir

Easy Beauty: A Memoir

Chloé Cooper Jones. Avid Reader, $28 (288p) ISBN 978-1-982151-99-7

Jones, a 2020 Pulitzer Prize finalist for feature writing, takes aim at beauty standards in her dazzling debut. Born with a rare congenital condition that left her with a curved spine and “mismatched hips,” Jones became accustomed early on to “triggering pity” and stares from others around her. “Measure and proportion are everywhere identified with beauty and virtue,” Jones writes. “My body did not fit into any narrative of order, proportion, plan.... disorder threatened beauty.” But just as she defied doctors’ claims that she’d never walk or stand on her own (even getting the “classic college experience” and, later, having a child), she challenges society’s rules of attraction with razor-sharp wit and intellect. Framing her physical appearance within the context of British philosopher Bernard Bosanquet’s theory of “easy beauty”—which describes the “plain straightforward pleasure” brought by the “apparent and unchallenging”—she makes a thrilling defense of “difficult beauty,” where “one often encounters intricacy, tension, and width.” As Jones explores this paradigm, she experiences the “blunt, triumphant beauty” of Beyoncé at a concert in Milan and the “energy of the aggrieved” of Bernini’s Proserpine, while a Cambodian massage moves her to consider her own complicity in the “fixed distance” she seeks to dismantle. This makes a brilliant case for the beauty of complexity. Agent: Claudia Ballard, WME. (Apr.)