Vanity knows no bounds in this breezy account of Americans’ love affair with physical enhancement.
New York Times Style reporter Kuczynski injects her experiences as both participant and observer into these revelations about the costly and painful business of fighting off age and battling imperfections through cosmetic surgery. She reveals who undergoes it and why, what they spend and what they endure in the pursuit of beauty. Some take a combination safari-and-surgery trip to South Africa; others make a monthly maintenance visit to a local skin-care salon. Kuczynski interviews women and men who have undergone surgery and the doctors who work on them, focusing particularly on New York and Los Angeles. She attends conventions where the tools of the trade are marketed and the providers of cosmetic enhancement learn how to promote their services, revealing how this lucrative, heavily advertised business is being conducted by people with various levels of training. On a more sober note, she recounts stories of deaths that have occurred during cosmetic surgery, specifically those of Olivia Goldsmith and Susan Malitz, both at Manhattan Eye, Ear, and Throat Hospital in 2004. Describing herself as only “relatively obsessed” with her appearance (a description the reader may find questionable), the author relates her own unpleasant experience with liposuction and the comic near-disaster of her venture into lip enhancement by Restylene injection. Kuczynski also includes a capsule history of cosmetic surgery from reconstructive efforts during World War I to the current Botox craze. The various components combine to provide a solid summary of the downside of cosmetic surgery, though the author’s self-regard is a tad annoying.
Fans of Kuczynski’s style of personal journalism will be entertained.