Contented Reader

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Book review: Thinner than Thou

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Thinner than Thou

Kit Reed

Tor 2004




Thinner than Thou is part of science fiction’s long and glorious tradition of books about the terrible things that will happen if things go on this way.  I haven’t read one of those books in a long time – science fiction as direct social criticism – and this was a good one.  It’s gone out of fashion a little bit, hasn’t it?   It’s a great use for science fiction, though- as a tool for thinking about ourselves, our world, our priorities.

Here, the focus is on our obsession with having perfect bodies – and our simultaneous obsession with eating huge amounts of crap food.  Reed describes a future in which the social pressure has become a social mandate : you must be beautiful.  The main characters are on a cross-country search for their sister, Anna, shipped off by their parents to a treatment center for anorexia that is a little like a hospital and a little like a prison camp.  There’s also Jeremy, who gives his fortune to get into an exclusive weight-loss center that turns out to be considerably more horrifying than he bargained for, and the dazzlingly awful Reverend Earl, presiding over the religion of Afterfat with an iron fist and a lot of twists and disturbances in his awful mind.

I enjoyed reading it.  It was very funny in parts, and horrifying enough to make me really uncomfortable in parts.  It also made me think about my own ways of dealing with food and with my body… though it also made me think, “Yeah, I really do need to lose some weight” at absolutely the worst possible moments in the narrative.

Food is complicated, isn’t it?  Huge sections of our economy are devoted to food and to weight loss.  First, one side persuades us to spend money on fatty, salty food, not at all nourishing, and not even tasting all that good, more of it than we need or even want.  Then the other side invites us to spend money to lose weight- but not too much weight, and not permanently.  Join the club, buy the diet book, and you’ll lose about ten pounds, maybe fifteen, enough to make you feel you’re doing well, enough to make you feel that it’s your own fault when that’s as far as you go.  The diet plans always leave you ready to spend money on the next diet plan, in six months or a year.  And of course there’s also money to be spent on the doctors and hospitals and drugs, when the rest of it wrecks your health.

Come to think of it, this book is hardly science fiction at all.  It’s very nearly realism.


Written by Contented Reader

July 29, 2011 at 9:07 am

Posted in Reviews


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