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LiterarySara

Literary Sara

What I've been reading on the trolley. 

Currently reading

Salt Fish Girl: A Novel
Larissa Lai
A Place of Greater Safety
Hilary Mantel
Make Art Make Money: Lessons from Jim Henson on Fueling Your Creative Career
Elizabeth Hyde Stevens
Moby Dick: or, the White Whale
Herman Melville

The Middlesteins

The Middlesteins - Jami Attenberg I was wary of this book. I do wish there were more characters of size in novels--everyone is wish-fulfillment slender or appealingly plush, no monumental Mrs. Mingotts these days. But in a wearying culture of obesity panic, I was understandably worried when I heard that one of the main characters is depicted as obese because she eats too much. That is THE story we tell about obesity, even though there are many other reasons why a body might be obese.But it is a true story for some folks, so I decided that wasn't a good enough reason to shun. Then the opening chapter began with a girl who'd tried and failed Teach for America, and I was sold. Personal experience aside, I could see that this was a book that loved its characters for their strengths but didn't flinch at their weaknesses.That remained true all the way through. There were a few false notes, usually when the narration introduced bit players and tried to sum up their past-present-and-future instead of alluding and letting a little tell a lot. But the main characters--the whole Middlestein clan--were fleshed out in pulsing, courageous, cowering detail, and I appreciated that complexity of their family relationships. (SO glad we're all over the Freudian family romance at this point in literary history.) As a food writer, I appreciated that Edie Middlestein's eating was given some dignity and depth. Edie is no bestial overeater or lazy slob, the spectres most feared by obesity panickers. Her eating is mindful, purposeful, sensual. She loves the way food tastes, loves to disappear into the pleasure of taste, thinks about it all the time. And she is good at it: she can be as busy and efficient at eating as she is at her legal work or volunteerism. That's interesting, not the story we usually tell, and for me this portrayal pulled the book up from "I liked it" to "I really liked it" and "I will be mulling this over for awhile."