Beauty Junkies
Alex Kuczynski
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Buy *Beauty Junkies: Inside Our $15 Billion Obsession With Cosmetic Surgery* by Alex Kuczynski online

Beauty Junkies: Inside Our $15 Billion Obsession With Cosmetic Surgery
Alex Kuczynski
304 pages
October 2006
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars
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Everyone knows somebody who talks about needing a little lift here or a little tuck there. Perhaps you’ve even walked past the mirror yourself and wished the tummy was a little smaller, the buttocks a little rounder; maybe you’ve considered springing for – ahem -- “breast enhancements,” as the plastic surgeons like to say (you wouldn’t dare and refer to them as implants). If any of these thoughts have crossed your mind, or you just want to read about people who have acted upon such notions, then Beauty Junkies by New York Times reporter Alex Kuczynski is for you. Kuczynski delves into the world of plastic surgery and the seemingly never-ending obsession (fifteen billion dollars worth) with it.

“Now matter how intellectually evolved we are, and no matter how primitive and vaguely immoral it sounds, beauty matters. When Eleanor Roosevelt was asked if she had any regrets in life, she said that she had one: she wished she had been prettier. Taking that sentiment a step further. Mary Tannen, writing in the New York Times Magazine, quoted an aging actress who is very much in favor of plastic surgery. ‘If Eleanor Roosevelt were alive today,’ the actress confidently told Tannen, ‘Franklin and his mother would be packing her off for a lift and a nose tip.”
Clocking in at two hundred seventy-eight pages, Beauty Junkies is a quick read. Divided into fourteen chapters, the overall flow is disjointed: some chapters bombard you with the facts and figures of the cosmetic surgery world, and others are part confessional as she describes procedures that she had done. Though the book feels more like a collection of articles, giving it that uneven flow, Kuczynski no doubt did her research, making for interesting little gems within each chapter than any one arc on a particular “beauty junkie.” With chapter names like “Surgery Safari,” “Fatal Quest For Beauty,” and the obscenely obvious “The Breast,” there is no doubt that you will find something to tickle your interest. In between horror stories of death, disfigurements, labial rejuvenations, and Botox addictions (dubbed “Botulinophilia” by doctors), Kuczynski does dedicate some time to the history of plastic surgery.

There are also some good questions asked. What is beauty? How do we define it? Why has this industry exploded into such a huge business? Why has the emaciated adolescent look become the yardstick against which beauty is judged? Obviously, for those whose livelihood depends on looking beautiful, at some point such procedures become a necessary fact of life. Why anyone outside that one percent of the population would become so transfixed on unattainable beauty is simply a matter of self-esteem. If you are an empty, vacuous soul, then getting procedure after procedure done will only fulfill you in the short term, if at all. Sure,it feels good to look good, but we all know there is no fountain of youth; being on a constant quest for that Holy Grail of beauty only means you’re missing out on aspects of life that are more meaningful. There aren’t any amazing revelations in Beauty Junkies, but with its conversational prose you’re guaranteed a compelling read.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Bobby Blades, 2006

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