May 8, 2009

The Blurb, the First Line and Me


Recently, I impulsively bought Judith Moore's memoir Fat Girl (you may have noticed it on the sidebar) because I thought it would be funny. I was in the biography section of the local Barnes and Noble, looking for that Elizabeth McCracken book Diana so thoroughly enjoys, when I found this slender volume (get it?).

The back and front had some solid blurbs, making this sound like a brilliant book. Even says so right there on the front cover. There was a blurb from David Sedaris, and while clearly it wasn't a whole-hearted effort by Mr. Sedaris (it was something like how he enjoyed"Moore's take on life in the fat lane"...notice the pun), he was on there so I suspected that this would be funny. Augusten Burroughs called it darkly funny on the back cover as well. So, yeah, funny fat book. I'm there.

Also, the first line of the book is great. It's unattributed dialogue, and it says "You're too fat to fuck."

Color me enticed. I bought it, new, and I had to read. See, I've been thinking a lot about my whole weight loss issue, writing essays and such when it dawned on me that I don't know if there has ever been a guy weight loss book like I imagine it. I imagine weight loss books as inspirational or about how a fat guy gets hooked on riding bicycles thereby losing weight so I thought that maybe there might be a market out there for my fat experience. A little funny, sad, certainly self deprecating...anyway, so this Judith Moore book and her fat struggle, sure, I wanted to read it, see how it's done. (By the way, if you know of any other weight-related books/essays out there, leave a comment down below please, but nothing inspirational, I don't need inspiration, just experiential).

Turns out, that books is all about her fucked up like as a little girl. Getting beat by her mom. Getting sexually abused once. Just generally feeling unloved by everyone in her life, aside from a few bright spots which she, in turn, fucks up (a little, like when Moore, as a child, is a given the keys to an upstairs neighbor to babysit the neighbor's plants, then Moore winds up eating everything in the house). Also, not funny at all.

I have other issues with the book, too. Like the way the mom character is shown. She's a monster, sure, I get that but the mom keeps saying stuff like about how ungrateful Moore is. And, I get that some people are just bugnuts insane and are abusive like that, but Moore does not write about she does that triggers these attacks. It's like the mom swoops down, unprovoked always to these beatings and verbal attacks. This may very well true, but Moore makes reference to "sassing" her mom and stuff like that without ever actually showing the sass or her directly pushing back against the mom (unless her weight was supposed to be a rebellion, but she always seemed sad and embarrassed about the weight), or any of their interactions, that I remember, beyond mom being abusive, which leaves the mom character to appear only monstrous. True, that may be the case, people are like that, but it just left me a little cold. Moore does describe her mother as beautiful and having a great singing voice, but personality wise, just a beast...though maybe that contradiction between her outward beauty and inner monster is enough, I don't know, I didn't think so.

Moore also had some strange rhetorical quirk about introducing colloquialisms. I don't have the book in front of me, but some of them were obvious, along the lines of "The boys called their testicles 'balls'" or some such, and it made her just seem like some affected alien. Maybe that was the point, to help show how outside everything she felt, but I didn't like that. And there is this one part that just pissed me off. She talked about how she found her gay uncle and one of his lovers nude and in a post-coital cuddle and kissing on her uncle's bed. She first reports them as wearing boxers. Then retracts it a sentence later with "No, they weren't wearing boxers. They were naked." Then goes on for a bit as to why she imagines them in boxers and how it doesn't bother her that they were naked. Well, clearly it does bother her (again, I assume that was the point of the awkward construction), but I didn't like that part either, and the whole extra dance I had to go through to get the information, when it could have been delivered straightforward but in a style that made the uncomfortability felt without all that extraneous stuff. And, while I can't remember another specific incident, it feels to me like she uses that kind of device a couple times throughout the book, backing up on what she just said...and I didn't like that either because it's functionality isn't clear to me, and seems a little unnecessary since what it accomplishes most of all is questioning the veracity of the memoir (but, again, maybe that's the point...after all, it calls itself a "true story" and has an epigram from Kurt Vonnegut that says "All this happened, more or less" which is in Slaughterhouse Five, right?).

Anyway, there's all that. I go in thinking there's a funny book about a fat girl here, but Noooo, I get to read 190 pages about some abused girl who liked to eat and didn't laugh once.

All this is to say that I went into this book with wrong expectations so it was hard to enjoy for what it really is. It's not a bad book, funky artistic choices and the shallow-seeming mom aside, so it's worth reading if you're into stuff like what was described above.

So, this got me thinking about the whole weight loss book idea in the first place. There probably isn't one there, at least for me. Essay or two, sure, I could see that. But book length? Well, I don't know how interesting it would be to write a few thousand words about playing Baseball Stars and drinking Pepsi would really be. I lived a comfortable, air-conditioned, video-game and potato-chip lifestyle. Just got fat in the boring American way, now, don't want to be fat, in the boring American way. That simple, really. Emotional strife, sure, sure, probably some existential drama as well, but really, fat life for me has been self-hating more than any outside pressure on me.

This Judith Moore book really made me appreciate not being a fat girl because that would have been so much worse for me. As a fat guy, you're jovial, you're year-round Santa, here have a deep fried donut sandwich, but, um, stay off the plastic lawn furniture, please. Fat woman though, well, the fuck is wrong with you? don't you see how wrong that is? get on that elliptical, tubby and get on your air and morning dew diet, quick before someone on CNN catches you on camera for a fat story and shows your waddling ass penduluming down the sidewalk, haven't you seen the cover of EVERY woman's magazine about losing 500 pounds in a month? what's wrong with you?

Okay, that's it. I need to work out.

viva el mustache

post script... I forgot to mention this in the above business. In the last chapter of Fat Girl, Moore says how she'll never date or have a fling with a skinny guy again. She wants a fat guy. Her definition of a fat guy who she would like to have a fling with: "...someone who stands at or over six feet, weighs 225, maybe 250." Right now, I'm ten pounds fatter than the upper-limit of the dream fat fling of the author of Fat Girl. Either she don't know fat, like real fat, or then I'm, well...shit...I want to get back on the exercise bike...


Philly Baby said...

Have you read Mike Magnsun's "Heft on Wheels"? It, basically, is a memior of a drunk, overweight dude jumping on the bike and losing some 100 pounds in a year and quitting drugs and drinking in the process (plus, Magnasun studied under Crews at Florida, so the voice is nice and profane). But you've got a point about the sexist taboo of fat in the media between men and women, however, there is certainly a push for men to be mega-ripped with bicpes like tires and all that, so it cuts both ways.

Bryan said...

It does cut both ways, and I have read Magnuson's Heft on Wheels (I linked to it in the post actually). I tried to find my copy of it today, but I couldn't locate it because now I kinda sorta want to read it again.