“I’d spend hours hunting for something—anything—that would render me moderately fuckable. And if not fuckable, something in which I could grieve over the fact of not being fuckable with unbaubled dignity.”
This is not, precisely, a novel. Rather, it is a collection of short stories, arranged chronologically, centered around one main character.
Elizabeth, the fat girl, was everything when I first started reading this. I devoured the first 4-5 chapters in one sitting saying Yes Yes Yes to myself throughout. Finally, a book that really understood my personal struggles with body image. Finally, a fat girl giving me a voice in the world of the ever-thin, perky-breasted female main characters.
How utterly honest it all was. Honest, and heavy. There was never any reprieve, never a moment of real triumph for Elizabeth. It was both heartbreaking and a relief to read this and realize there would be no happy ending.
13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl is a profound exercise in self-examination by a main character. Elizabeth, Beth, Lizzie, Liz diagrams and dissects every part of her body and her psyche for us. Yet that constant self-reflection yields no actualization.
This book is masterfully conceptualized, but I’m not sure all readers will be able to appreciate or connect with it. It lacks a traditional plot with triggers, reprieves, problems and solutions. There is no climax or falling action. There is relentless pressure, relentless negativity, relentless analysis to the bitter and lack-luster end.
But I always found myself rooting for Elizabeth, for all fat girls, for humans — that they find a way to be comfortable with and love themselves. That they discover what Elizabeth never could — there is no secret to happiness. No magic pill. No amount of counting, parsing, starving, or exercising will ever fill a black hole inside you. And sometimes, even those of us with magnificent powers of self-observation, can’t pull ourselves off the hamster wheel.