This is the week I promised myself I’d read something other than old favourites. With my trusty Kindle collecting books the way black pants collect dog hairs, I’ve been sinking back into familiar loved classics and ignoring the new. So I put aside Jane Eyre to come up for, er, air. I bought two books and read them through. They keep blending together in my mind in interesting ways and so I’m writing about them in one peas-and-carrots post.
Even though I don’t care for non-fiction generally, I had to get Melissa Gilbert’s Prairie Tale. I grew up just enough younger than Gilbert that she was one of my role-models for how to become a teenager. Granted, in my sheltered life I preferred her Laura Ingalls example to her Rob Lowe-screwing example but whatever. She did teach me in a roundabout way that Good Girls don’t have to be ashamed of sex.
And loving fiction, large women and unashamed loud feminists there was no way I was passing up on Jen Weiner’s newest book. I feel a certain connection with her because she’s not only a writer and a fat girl but she’s a ZEVON FAN. After her first book came out we had a brief correspondence about the delicousness of Good In Bed and the extreme deliciousness of Zevon’s music, which was laced like a swirl of honey through that glorious beach read of a book. The current nontroversy about her book readings makes me love her all the more. (A Barnes & Noble asked her not to tell her “wall of cock” story at a 3:00pm reading near their children’s section.)
I expected to be disappointed by Gilbert’s book, in the way celebrity books disappoint and I was both right and wrong. Yes, this person I admired danced with drug and drink and had a hard life in many ways. It always makes me sad to see someone I love in the way we love celebrities hurting. But Gilbert’s book was delightful in the way she was frank about those things but also frankly grateful to have the good things in her life. It wasn’t the self-absorbed pity party I was afraid it would be and was instead a chance to sort-of hang out with someone I’ve always liked from afar. We’ll never be girlfriends but after reading her book I wouldn’t turn my nose up at the prospect.
But Jen Weiner’s book? That book kind of broke my heart a little bit. In this week where I’ve argued with everyone from Freddie O’Connell to my own husband about fat and fat-shaming, to have a pro-fat author who zoomed to fame with pro-fat fiction turn in such a fatshaming performance just made me rethink things a little bit. The heroine in this book is a fatty two by four of the Oprah mold. She’s fat because she sneaks food, gorges on food and loves food while hating herself. It’s the cartoon version of fat women we get from Lifetime movies and Weight Watchers success stories. The deux ex machina through which the heroine becomes Thin! and Finally Lovable! is at least a nod toward the fantastical. Financially secure and in a non-traditional job she is able to devote all her efforts to weight loss, drugging herself with sleeping pills to avoid nighttime binging. I was surprised to see such a sad work from someone I respect so much.
And now after all that new I’m going to sink into a stupor with Susan Isaacs’ Shining Through (which is 200000 times better than the estupido movie with Melanie Griffith.)