cover image The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty

The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty

Amanda Filipacchi. Norton, $25.95 (256p) ISBN 978-0-393-24387-1

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.)