Eat Fat

Stephanie Zacharek reviews Richard Klein's book "Eat Fat".

By Stephanie Zacharek

Published October 15, 1996 7:00PM (EDT)

leave it to Klein, the author of "Cigarettes Are Sublime," to give us a "postmodern diet book," one designed not so much to help us accept our fat as to love it. "Eat Fat" is partly a cultural study of our historical fascination with fat (Klein's clutch of references includes the Venus of Willendorf, the flushed fleshpots in Peter Paul Rubens' paintings, Anna Nicole Smith, and erotic special-interest 'zines like Fat Girl) and partly an exhortation to change our attitudes toward it. He marshals facts, statistics and hearty opinions to convince us that being overweight isn't the big health risk the media and the medical profession have made it out to be, noting that many people who are statistically overweight are not necessarily unhealthy. He also builds a pretty solid case about the dangers of yo-yo dieting and strange new weight-loss drugs. Even the word "fat" enchants him: "It's as if the word itself is always wanting to double itself, or f-f-f-f-at, to stutter in order to expand itself, to grow itself fatter as a word, already a little tub."

But even if Klein almost manages to convince us that those little dimples on our thighs aren't so horrible after all, he repeats his favorite themes and theories so often that he only wears us down. He keeps hammering at us, for example, with the idea that standards of beauty are bound to change soon, as they have throughout the course of history, and that "fatties" will again have the advantage. Klein assures us, in his own puffy, florid style, that his repetition of ideas is intentional: "You will note a certain repetitive intonation in the style of this book. It is intentionally intended to serve the same subterranean effect as prayer, which achieves its liberations through repetition. If it succeeds, it works like prayer to engender a repeating rhythm that frees the mind from its infinite distractions and allows other thoughts to form." What that means in plain English is that "Eat Fat" probably would have made a pretty good long essay, but needed lots of extra words to actually become a book. That kind of padding we can do without.

Stephanie Zacharek

Stephanie Zacharek is a senior writer for Salon Arts & Entertainment.

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