There's certain books I find myself pulling out and re-reading every year: Waking the Moon, Year of the Unicorn, the original Elfquest series, The Book of the New Sun. At one point I'd include some non-fiction in there, but I haven't read any of the 'usual suspects' in that category for years.
Anyone else do this?
Current Mood: curious
Looks like I'm the first to bite...
...so to speak.
A few weeks ago I noticed an old paperback on our bookshelf called Grand Obese, by one Cesar J. Rotondi. I'd never heard of the book or the author. My wife then picked it up and read it, and told me, "This is horrifying. You've got to read it."
Never one to resist a challenge like that, I plowed through the novel in a couple of days, which is blazing speed for me. It was fascinating, and memorable, in a train-wreck sort of way.
Grand Obese is the story of a stunningly fat family of three living on the near north side of Chicago (gentrified these days, but in the late 1970's when the novel takes place the neighborhood was getting shabby). Mother Sylvie and her children Gregory and Deborah have one overriding interest in life: Eating. Their entire lives revolve around the acquisition and consumption of food... pizzas, Chinese food, fried chicken, gourmet... in a way that transcends gluttony and goes far into self-destructive territory. In this they are abetted by a trust set up by Sylvie's former husband, and by their live-in maid, Dorothy. Everyone else (neighbors, relatives and the like) treats them with pity or contempt, or both.
Dorothy is perhaps the most sympathetic character, as her life was an increasingly sad journey from one crushing disappointment to another before finally landing in Sylvie's house. For awhile she finds it to be a refuge, as the expectations are so low... as long as she keeps the family well fed, they're unconcerned with her drinking and pot-smoking on the job and her indifferent house-cleaning. It is Dorothy, however, who finally becomes fed up, and her leaving is a dramatic turning point.
After this, the story becomes even darker and more grotesque, and by the end it's a dilemma for the reader: Which is worse, Sylvie and her brood's narcissism, or the outside world's cruelty toward them? I tend to think it's the latter.
(Now that I've finished the book, the Mrs. wants me to get rid of it. An impulse that I completely understand.)