Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Book Review: 'The Fatness' by Mark A. Rayner


Canadian author Mark A Rayner is a very bright, very intuitive thinker who just happens to have a razor sharp sense of humor and parody when he writes. He is on the Faculty of Information and Media Studies at Western University. THE FATNESS comes out at a time when the obesity epidemic with WEIGHT WATCHERS, SuperDiets, video loops from food faders et al fill the malls, billboards, and television ads. Mark Rayner, in other words, takes a very viable advertising commodity and pushes it to the extreme of making the concept morph one of its byproducts to take over the world – a government weight control agency and the associated socialism and capitalism flaws. Food for thought dished out in one of the funniest novels to come around.

Mark makes this satire ring from page one – ‘The weigh-in was a disaster. Keelan Cavanaugh stood at the mirror in his tiny room, a wad of belly fat bunched up in his meaty hands. He cursed the roll breathlessly. The skin bulged and turned red as his hands gripped tighter, as if he could – through force of will and enough manual pressure – make the band of fat tissue magically disappear. But it just hurt. And for some reason it also made him hungry. Intellectually, Keelan understood that it was more than the obvious roll of pudge around his middle that was the cause of his continued stay in the Uxford County Calorie Reduction Centre (CRC-17). In his mind’s eye, he could imagine the fifty-one bricks of malleable, white, soft butter-like substance that were hidden inside his body somewhere – a pound tucked underneath his liver like cocaine stuffed into a smuggler’s arse; some nestled around the heart and lungs, slowly choking him to death; and the obvious subcutaneous blubber that made corduroy pants a fire hazard … Fifty-one pounds of pure fat that took him from a perfect, Adonis-like body weight, to his current state of crapulence, at 230 pounds. It was his two-year anniversary in CRC-17. He’d spent that time trying to lose enough weight so that his body mass index – his BMI, which was a measure of his body fat, determined by his height and weight – would drop below the magic number. Thirty and over, and you were obese.’ Getting zany? Well, this is just the first page!

Or as Mark’s outline informs – ‘Keelan Cavanaugh is fat. That's why the government put him in prison. They placed him in a Calorie Reduction Centre (CRC), where trained staff work to help him and many others slim down. Well, that was the intention, anyway. The powers that be had decided chubby citizens must either go there or lose their health care coverage. When he meets Jacinda Williams, an activist lawyer researching this new system, Keelan is more determined than ever to slim down. But Keelan discovers losing weight is more difficult than it seems, especially when he also has to fight against a ridiculous bureaucracy and policy wonks with hidden agendas. Can he succeed? Will the CRC-crossed lovers ever dine at love's banquet together?’

Where all this goes is into a space further down the rabbit hole than Alice's adventures and far more hilarious. Rayner knows how to take a current fad that we `think' we use to improve our bodies and turns that around and it is the proximity to possibility that makes the book and the quality of parody and humor work so well. This book will find a pinch of recognition in all of our thinking and that is at once embarrassing, a bit scary, and wondrously entertaining. Grady Harp, September 17
I received a free copy of this book and volunteered to review it.



Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.

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