Book Review: The Art of Grace

Book Review- The Art of Grace

Disclaimer: All views expressed in this article are the personal opinion of the writer.

How do I live gracefully?

That’s the question at the center of Sarah L. Kaufman’s book, The Art of Grace: On Moving Well Through Life. While acknowledging that grace has an undefinable quality, Kaufman writes that the essence of grace is the “transference of well-being from one who is calm and comfortable to those around him.” It’s a quality that’s been lauded throughout the ages – but one we are rapidly losing in today’s “grace gap.” That’s why Kaufman wrote The Art of Grace, “to locate grace and hold it up for examination,” because “we are natural imitators, and the more we look at grace, the more we can become graceful, too.”

And so The Art of Grace is a meditation on grace throughout the ages and in many different media. Kaufman looks at grace in almost anything you can think of. Obvious fields like art and religion come to mind, but Kaufman also sees grace in athletes, walking, hosting parties, falling – even in the seamless workings of a restaurant kitchen. I particularly enjoyed her examination of grace from a scientific perspective, since those seemed like such disparate fields to me. Kaufman rejects the notion that grace is somehow a highbrow trait and insists it’s accessible to everybody. Her book proves that in spades.

I thought The Art of Grace would be a how-to guide to living gracefully – and it is, although not at all in the way I expected. Kaufman provides a list of “Tips for Moving Well Through Life” only at the very end of her book. Rather, Kaufman demonstrates several examples of grace that we can imitate in the fields listed above. It’s practically an encyclopedia…and I loved it.

The book is chock-full of interesting anecdotes about grace, from the time Eleanor Roosevelt drank from a finger bowl so as not to embarrass her guest who did so to Jennifer Lawrence’s famous Oscar fall. The tone of each anecdote ranges but all provide little life lessons for the reader. Some of the examples are famous; many are everyday – interestingly, there were several anecdotes regarding sometimes-famous members of Kaufman’s own family. A book about grace is necessarily nostalgic, so many of the stories are historical ones. As such, I particularly appreciated Kaufman’s inclusion of current examples of grace. We may be living in a “grace gap,” but grace can still be found if you know where to look.

This was especially true because Kaufman’s focus on the past was occasionally confusing. Namely, Kaufman’s model of grace is the classic movie star Cary Grant. She describes his grace in several of his movies throughout the book – and while she does an excellent job in doing so, I couldn’t fully appreciate those examples because I’ve never seen a single movie he’s been in. To be fair, the movies Kaufman describes aren’t obscure but famous classics I’ve now put on my to-watch list.

It’s not just a historical issue. Kaufman is a beautiful writer who masterfully describes grace in several visual media, like movies and dance – but I could still feel that something was lost in translation. Thankfully, she does include visuals (like photographs) when she can.

It’s also a testament to Kaufman’s talent that she’s able to break down such an ethereal topic into its bare-bones and still retain its magic. For example, Kaufman delineates a difference between beauty and grace – which I’d never thought of but made so much sense to me once I read it. Kaufman also was adamant that grace is not a natural talent but rather is developed through years of hard work. Indeed, there are several books throughout history that explain how to be graceful. Even celebrities were once taught grace at the Motown Artist Development Finishing School. So it’s not that people naturally used to be more graceful; we just have stopped developing it. I particularly enjoyed this observation because it reinforced the notion that anyone can be graceful – even me.

All in all, I adored The Art of Grace – but only partly for the comprehensive education it provided me on the topic. Rather, I loved the book because so much of what I read and see today saddens me about the state of the world – especially in a week like this one. The Art of Grace reminded me not only that beauty is absolutely everywhere, but also that it’s something I can create in the simplest of moments with something as easy as fixing my posture. For reminding its readers of that and for the beautiful way Kaufman writes, The Art of Grace is itself an act of grace. If you desire more beauty in your life, I highly recommend you pick up a copy.

Intrigued? Buy the book here!

Written by Sasha Graffagna

Disclaimer: All views expressed in this article are the personal opinion of the writer.

How do I live gracefully?

That’s the question at the center of Sarah L. Kaufman’s book, The Art of Grace: On Moving Well Through Life. While acknowledging that grace has an undefinable quality, Kaufman writes that the essence of grace is the “transference of well-being from one who is calm and comfortable to those around him.” It’s a quality that’s been lauded throughout the ages – but one we are rapidly losing in today’s “grace gap.” That’s why Kaufman wrote The Art of Grace, “to locate grace and hold it up for examination,” because “we are natural imitators, and the more we look at grace, the more we can become graceful, too.”

And so The Art of Grace is a meditation on grace throughout the ages and in many different media. Kaufman looks at grace in almost anything you can think of. Obvious fields like art and religion come to mind, but Kaufman also sees grace in athletes, walking, hosting parties, falling – even in the seamless workings of a restaurant kitchen. I particularly enjoyed her examination of grace from a scientific perspective, since those seemed like such disparate fields to me. Kaufman rejects the notion that grace is somehow a highbrow trait and insists it’s accessible to everybody. Her book proves that in spades.

I thought The Art of Grace would be a how-to guide to living gracefully – and it is, although not at all in the way I expected. Kaufman provides a list of “Tips for Moving Well Through Life” only at the very end of her book. Rather, Kaufman demonstrates several examples of grace that we can imitate in the fields listed above. It’s practically an encyclopedia…and I loved it.

The book is chock-full of interesting anecdotes about grace, from the time Eleanor Roosevelt drank from a finger bowl so as not to embarrass her guest who did so to Jennifer Lawrence’s famous Oscar fall. The tone of each anecdote ranges but all provide little life lessons for the reader. Some of the examples are famous; many are everyday – interestingly, there were several anecdotes regarding sometimes-famous members of Kaufman’s own family. A book about grace is necessarily nostalgic, so many of the stories are historical ones. As such, I particularly appreciated Kaufman’s inclusion of current examples of grace. We may be living in a “grace gap,” but grace can still be found if you know where to look.

This was especially true because Kaufman’s focus on the past was occasionally confusing. Namely, Kaufman’s model of grace is the classic movie star Cary Grant. She describes his grace in several of his movies throughout the book – and while she does an excellent job in doing so, I couldn’t fully appreciate those examples because I’ve never seen a single movie he’s been in. To be fair, the movies Kaufman describes aren’t obscure but famous classics I’ve now put on my to-watch list.

It’s not just a historical issue. Kaufman is a beautiful writer who masterfully describes grace in several visual media, like movies and dance – but I could still feel that something was lost in translation. Thankfully, she does include visuals (like photographs) when she can.

It’s also a testament to Kaufman’s talent that she’s able to break down such an ethereal topic into its bare-bones and still retain its magic. For example, Kaufman delineates a difference between beauty and grace – which I’d never thought of but made so much sense to me once I read it. Kaufman also was adamant that grace is not a natural talent but rather is developed through years of hard work. Indeed, there are several books throughout history that explain how to be graceful. Even celebrities were once taught grace at the Motown Artist Development Finishing School. So it’s not that people naturally used to be more graceful; we just have stopped developing it. I particularly enjoyed this observation because it reinforced the notion that anyone can be graceful – even me.

All in all, I adored The Art of Grace – but only partly for the comprehensive education it provided me on the topic. Rather, I loved the book because so much of what I read and see today saddens me about the state of the world – especially in a week like this one. The Art of Grace reminded me not only that beauty is absolutely everywhere, but also that it’s something I can create in the simplest of moments with something as easy as fixing my posture. For reminding its readers of that and for the beautiful way Kaufman writes, The Art of Grace is itself an act of grace. If you desire more beauty in your life, I highly recommend you pick up a copy.

Intrigued? Buy the book here!

Written by Sasha Graffagna

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