I kept meaning to write a bigger piece about how when you write a book about fat people, often when you make a public appearance - in a bookstore or a library or a university or community center or wherever - people you have never met give you the once-over when they see you for the first time to see if you are fat, too.
Sometimes they don’t say anything at all, but sometimes people will say, “Well, you’re not fat at all.” To which the only response is, “Thank you?” I never really wrote about that dynamic because I had already written this piece about my weight, which sort of invites at least some sort of conversation about my physical self, although I am pretty sure the people who were making those comments hadn’t read that essay and had a different agenda.
Also I had a lot of speeches left to make and I didn’t want to complain, I couldn’t let myself start complaining because I had a long way to go, and I wasn’t even sure what I was complaining about exactly, except that maybe it made me feel like I better not get fat anytime soon or I’d just be living up to their expectations. (I am not thin, by the way. I am just not fat like my main character.)
But what if I did get fat? What if I was a fat person who had written a book about fat people? Or what if I became a fat person? What would they have said then? “Oh, you are fat, then.” Or would they have said anything at all?
Then I stopped thinking about all of that because I stopped making speeches and I started thinking about my next book and I sort of forgot about people commenting on my weight when they met me for the first time. And I’m only thinking about all of this now because the book is coming out in Europe soon - in Italy this week and in France this fall - and I’ll make some appearances there.
And while I completely adore the cover above because it looks great and also, even better, seems quite aggressive to me, I wonder what the French will expect and I wonder what the Italians will expect of me when they meet me. Surely if I had written the book from the perspective of an old dying man no one would expect me to be that. Surely if I had written the book from a child’s perspective they would not expect a child to show up to autograph their copy.
Is it inevitable anyway though? A woman writes a book about a fat woman. You see her smiling head shot, you wonder what’s happening beneath the frame. Are you relieved when you see what is beneath the frame is not what matches the text of the book? Did your imagination allow for that? What were you afraid of anyway? That you’d see more flesh than you’d like?
Sometimes they didn’t even finish the sentence. “Well, you’re not—.” Not what? I dare you to finish that sentence. I dare you.