Sunday, January 22, 2017

You Too Can Have a Body LIke Mine by Alexandra Kleeman

A woman can't find herself in America’s consumerist culture

A is roommates with B. The two roommates, slight young women with long dark hair, closely resemble each other. Their apartment is located in a completely normal suburban neighborhood, complete with a Wally’s Superstore.  There the workers walk around wearing giant Wally’s heads. A’s boyfriend is C, a borderline abusive guy who loves watching tv and spending quality time with his porn videos. Meanwhile, in America, dads are disappearing. Across the street from A and B’s apartment, a nuclear family "ghosts" - sheets over their head, abandoning their house. A is fascinated by the many inventive commercials for Kandy Kakes, a particularly artificial kind of pastry. B seems to have an eating disorder. She likes popsicles and oranges; she likes stealing A’s makeup. It turns out that, behind the Wally superstore, behind the Kandy Kakes, there lurks a cult, a cult bent on reducing the corporeal body and concentrating on the spirit. This is done by eating Kandy Kakes, twinning with another supplicant, and closely observing your body as it wastes away. Our narrator joins the cult.

This novel was skillfully constructed. Three clearly delineated sections with imaginative themes that repeat. Kandy Kakes, Wally Superstores, “ghosting”, eating disorders. I also love the way that, little by little, the boyfriend is painted is a sadist. My problem was: what does it all mean? This idea would have worked well as a short story, but felt bloated and repetitive as a novel. About three fourths of the way through, I seriously considered giving up on the book. And I was on a plane. This novel reminded me very much of The Flame Alphabet. The stakes are supposed to be life or death, but the stakes to the reader dribble away. The Columbia MFA produces a lot of fabulist type writing which leaves me cold.

Got it –America is weird and corporate and obsessed by appearances and sugar. A and B – Who’s who? The situation in the roommate with the apartment extends into the new cult, in which a candidate is twinned with another slight dark haired girl, Anna, to help her on the spiritual journey. I loved the turn the story took towards the metaphysical, however, I wish the talent evidenced in this novel had been put in the service of a story with more tension.

No comments:

Post a Comment