Pulitzer Prize–winning Washington Post dance critic Kaufman reflects on the meaning of grace in modern society.
Grace is as multidimensional as it is an ancient and inherent part of humanity that stretches beyond the Greeks to our common primordial past. In this delightfully readable book, Kaufman studies the nature of grace and offers both an appreciation of it as well as a gentle exhortation to readers to cultivate it in themselves and the world around them. Her model for human grace is actor Cary Grant, who embodied liquid smoothness not only in his movements, but also in his personal interactions, especially those on screen. Others—such as Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy, and even Johnny Carson—all had, to varying degrees, the kind of self-control and self-deprecating elegance that Grant possessed. But with the rise of consumer culture in the 1950s and ’60s and its glorification of technology came the “culture of coarseness.” Manners and even physical grace became unnecessary encumbrances that took too much effort to develop and limited (or even prevented) true self-expression. Narcissism and “grabbing and taking” became the credo of a new generation that largely disregarded the concern for others that Kaufman believes is at the heart of grace. While individuals no longer give grace the importance it once had, the author points out that it still continues to exercise a powerful hold on the human imagination. People still marvel at the breathtaking fluidity of athletes like tennis pro Roger Federer, whose movements on the court have been called “artistic” and “miraculous.” Human beings, Kaufman argues, are hard-wired to appreciate grace, especially in movement. Fascinating throughout, this book not only serves as a reminder of the crude gracelessness into which modern society has descended. It also offers hope that we can reform our current personal and social habits with an eye toward more civilized, harmonious living.
An insightful, intelligent examination of grace, which often “seems to elude fixed meaning."