Review of “Fat People” by Michael Prager

“Fat People”

Submitted by Michael on Wed, 04/20/2011 – 10:42.

One reason skeptics scoff at the notion of food addiction is that they eat, and so they think they know. And they do know their own experience, but they don’t know mine or others’ like mine. It’s one reason I write on these topics.

Well, I’ve just completed a collection of short stories by someone who does understand, and whose wider distribution will achieve the goals I’m pursuing — to help people get it.

“Fat People,” like “Fat Boy Thin Man,” is self-published and not in wide distribution; author Bill Schubart lives in Vermont, and someone I know passed on a story about him in a local weekly.

His story is not unlike mine. Not only does he self-identify as a food addict, but he was fat from a young age; has been up and down the scale repeatedly, sometimes in prodigious swings that reached unthinkable numbers; and he has sought out remedies great and small that included eating-disorder rehab. In other ways his story isunlike mine, just for today — the story says he’s about 350, which was near my top weight, though he almost hit 500.

The portraits Schubart draws in his 14 tales are not often pretty, but that is part of the experience; no one driven to self-abuse through means that others can handle finds much to like about it.

Among the people Schubart introduces is Virginia, an angry rehab patient who eats cornstarch straight from the canister. Another narrates “Dear Diary,” in which she records her teenage schemes to get food while touching on all the dysfunction around her — Marcy cuts herself, Jenny burns herself, and Janice can’t decide whether to taunt or patronize. “Cliff at Deane” tells of a fat kid sent off to boarding school and the horror of of the routine physical:

“He’d never been naked among his peers, but had been terrifyingly humiliated at the lake when Brent Gould ran up behind him and snatched his towel off him as he was drying off after a swim. … Cliff stood there paralyzed with fear, trying to swaddle himself in his own arms, unable to hide the rolls of fat brimming over his trunks and the breast-like deposits of fat on his chest. Within a minute, half the kids on the beach had surrounded him, some shouting taunts while others just gawked at his fatness. … That was the last time he ever went to the lake beach.” 

 

Yes, that is what it’s like.

Not everyone comes out of Schubart’s stories fat, but no one comes out unscathed. That’s also what it’s like.

I concede that skeptics may not be willing to pick up this book; my experience is that they not only think they know, they don’t want to know. But this is good stuff. I was struck not only by the strength of Schubart’s broad strokes, but by dozens of little dashes that make his stories deep and rich.

If you want to buy a copy, go here.

 

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