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Beauty by Brian D'Amato
Cover Artist: Photo: Stefano Moro / Blaublut Edition; Illustrations by Brain D'Amato
Review by April Disney
Mulholland Books Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780316217248
Date: 12 March 2013 List Price $14.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Jamie Angelo is Manhattan's biggest artistic genius, though the world sadly does not realize it. He and his assistants, both doctors, walk the line between art and science in a very dangerous medium: human flesh itself. Turning the beautiful into masterful, Angelo yearns for the opportunity to create/ possess/ redefine perfection. And Jai'shree Manglani provides him with just what he needs to delve into this shady, personal desire.

Originally published in 1992, Brian D'Amato's first novel is first and foremost a character study that borders on psychological case study. Through a very sophisticated, intelligent voice, it is easy to step into the shoes of a modern artistic genius.

Obsession is a major theme in Jamie's life. He's so attracted to things and people that are beautiful that it becomes a detriment to his personality. Such major character flaws are sexy in fiction, although some of the horror of this particular work is how true to a real life sociopath Jamie can seem at times. Part of what makes his character so realistic is his incessant self-banter about the nature of beauty and of art. His thoughts could have been fished out of an actual pseudo-intellectual, and may carry some of the darker aspects of the author, an artist himself.

Using his own gift for wit, the author brings Jamie to life in other ways. Those few starkly funny moments of the novel give it the light touch needed to keep it from being too disturbing. Though even in those moments, the flaws of the main character still shine through, as evidenced here:

"You can't make any concessions to received standards of beauty, the whole notion is debilitating, demeaning to women, it's given every woman in the Western world a complex the size of the Graf Zeppelin, it's the biggest psychological disaster since Catholicism, and I'm in a horrible, parasitic, male chauvinist business. But I love it anyway." –pg 123
This is a great example of classic Jamie Angelo, who is a narcissist with an intellect too large for his own good; blaming Jamie for being too much inside his own head would be like blaming an elephant for having a long trunk. It's the natural state of affairs for his character, which leads to both the novel's best and worst aspects. The enigmatically entertaining and sexy man at the heart of this story won't shut up in his monologue, so the plot drags a bit especially through the middle. It's not enough to have dampened my enjoyment overmuch, but it is worth stating that this won't be the quickest read for everyone.

Shadowy, disturbing, and rich, Beauty is quite a ride into the inner workings of obsession and ambition, with a simultaneous commentary on society's obsession with physical attractiveness. Recommended.

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