Hilary Mantel is the first woman to win two Man Booker Prizes, first in 2009 for "Wolf Hall," and then in 2012 for its sequel, "Bring Up the Bodies." Mantel also suffers from a condition known as "Endometriosis," a debilitating disease in which cells usually found in the womb grow in other parts of the body.
Yesterday, the writer gave an in-depth, uninterrupted description of her life-long struggle with the disease, which became "a crisis" for her. But what NPR's Terry Gross was most fascinated by, it seemed, was Mantel's weight.
She broached the subject awkwardly, at first:
GROSS: So correct me if I'm wrong here. But because of the steroids that you are on to help with your condition...
GROSS: ...and I think because of a thyroid condition as well, your weight just about doubled.
GROSS: And you ended up with a completely different body...
MANTEL: That's right. Yes.
GROSS: ...than the one you used to have. How did that change the sense of who you are?
After Gross finally got to a question, Mantel conceded that she was, in fact, "a fat woman" and it took her a while to get used to that:
MANTEL: Well, I live my life as a skinny little thing and that's the body type in my family. And, you know, I thought I'd get old but I never thought I'd get fat. And I was given a particular drug - and I'm going back 20 years now - where my weight just went crazy and I had to, my size changed every week and I ended up , as you say, doubling my body weight and a lot of that gain took place over very short period of about nine months, so I didn't recognize myself and I still have trouble. When I see myself in dreams now I'm a fat woman, but for the first 20 years, I should say, I saw myself as I used to be and then I'd wake up and I'd think, who is this? What is all this flesh?
The awkwardness continued, as Gross then piled on to Mantel's descriptions, calling Mantel's body "this alien thing that you ended up in."