...and then

Monday, 22 February 2010

How to cook your own big fat chick lit

Ingredients: One part favourite teenage Mills and Boon (however corny); two parts bad body-image issues from Bridget Jones's Diary; one-third parts each of forced situations, some wit and a happily-ever after.

Method: Put it all together and stir till you get sufficient word count, throw in windingly random chapter-heads, misquote the epigraph (a quote from Anais Nin, no less),find a dogged agent and you have Liza Palmer's Conversations With The Fat Girl.
Okay, so we all know about America's obsession with looking good and, more importantly, being thin. There is nothing new there. And there is nothing new in Palmer's attempt at exploring it either.
Palmer's protagonist, 27-year-old Maggie has always been fat. At 12, she found her soul mate in fellow fat girl Olivia. And now at 27, Olivia is a coveted size four -- thanks to surgery -- and about to get married to the perfect Ken doll while Maggie still shops in the section for large women. Maggie, however, has also graduated in art history, works at a local barista and lives with a dog. Cute.
But wait. If she has an art history degree, a supportive family, is good at what she does and is fairly intelligent, what is Maggie doing in the speakeasy pining over a good looking waiter who moonlights as a sculptor? The answer, then, is what Palmer's self-flagellating novel totters on. And on.
Maggie's story is all about how she realises she has outgrown Olivia's friendship, and learning to be comfortable with being "fat". The problem is that at 27, Maggie's reactions, logic and life are at best adolescent, at worst, plainly stupid.
With a narrative that swings between days at a San Francisco school where Maggie was avoided because she was fat and the present where Maggie avoids everyone else because she is still fat, Conversations is one long chasing-its-own-tail tale. Instead of a regular progression of her growth, there's just this one iteration, reiteration and further annoying reiteration of a singularly simple fact: Maggie is living like a loser because she is fat.
That, incidentally, is another dichotomy on its own, because the book is peppered with instances that suggest that Maggie only thinks she is fat and is not actually so.
To cut a short story shorter, this book has nothing new to offer. In the end, Maggie breaks free of Olivia's friendship, gets a job at a prestigious art gallery, a kiss from lover-boy and a weight-loss membership at the gym. Heck, why didn't she do all that right at the beginning?


Blogger deepa ravi said...

*Giggle* Happy I din't read this one. Actually outgrew chicklits ages ago! Whew. They do make women sound like birdbrained chicks don't they? And if being fat was a sin - dammit I've been guilty of it since I was 12 too! Is there no redemption??

8:05 am  
Blogger Judy Balan said...

LOL. I read 'Almost Single' which is a sad Desi version of Bridget Jones. How it managed to get published (by Harper Collins) and got lapped up at the speed of light, completely beats me.

Bridget Jones was something else.

8:46 am  
Blogger The Restless Quill said...

Deepa: I don't think I've outgrown ANY kind of reading. Maybe I should. I mean, I still love reading my daughter's book of fairy tales! If you're in America being fat is as good as wanting to kill the president. Ironic because obesity is America's single largest health issue. And you know, I don't all chick-lit is bad. Bridget Jones was so nice.

Judy: I am happy to say I give the Indian chick-lit section a miss every time, must be that reader's instinct working. But maybe I should give it a shot. Just so I know what not to write :P

11:24 am  
Blogger shai said...

The one chick-lit book that transcends the genre for me is Anuja Chauhan's The Zoya Factor. Oh so frivolous, but so much fun. But then may be the advertising setting has me biased!

11:58 am  

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