Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Books of Fat Hatred #1: "She's Come Undone"

The fictional world can be a danger zone to the fat woman. A Best selling book in the 90s, that I read was Wally Lamb's best selling book "She's Come Undone" which was a fixture of Oprah's Book Club. This is one of my least favorite books on this planet.

The heroine Delores, gains a 100 pounds after a childhood rape, but magically sheds it later, seven years of mental hospital confinement [what insurance program would pay for that now?] works wonders! The proof is a clipboard away, when Dr. Shaw explains how Delores lost seven pounds in a week.

"It was better to let him tell you what you were thinking rather then wasting time having him correct you. Because you're beginning to conceptualize the beautiful person you really are-you are becoming the young woman you deserve to be".

[page 259]
The problem here? Fat women more then anyone need to free their minds and do their own thinking rather then letting others define them.

It's worth noting how Delores makes this goal: by imaging her food with slimy mold [page 260] growing all over it. Though Delores is not a terribly sympathetic character, she mainly seems to exist for delivering one message, that thinness is the surest way to beauty: "My chest rested in a beard of fat. My eyes were small and piggy looking. I'm sorry I look like this Kippy, I've had a bad life." [page 178]

Delores naturally delivers such soliloquies while she chugs mass quantities of candy bars, and candlelit suppers, followed by a sugar binge that would flatten any self-respecting diabetic. It's not surprising then how a newly thin body seems to vaporize Delores's anger with the subplot being that the perfect body will erase all the bad memories: "As I began to drop my weight, I began to drop my prod of hostility whenever Dr. Shaw closed the door.

Even more creepy is an episode in the book where Delores equates herself to a beached whale which leads her to make suicidal gestures. Could the chosen symbol here be more offensive on so many levels? It gets heavy handed when some of her therapy includes water therapy and she goes whale watching at the end of the book with her new boyfriend and tells us she is at peace with herself.

I found the character Delores to be mean, manipulative and submissive despite her never ending Job-like troubles. "She's Come Undone" reads like a primer for fat bigotry in the world, basically be what we tell you to be and all your problems will be solved. What's so uplifting about seeing a beaten down woman do exactly what society expects of her and seeking conformity as her salvation?

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