Saturday, October 27

Stuffed - Gordon Graham

Buff young Garvey Quinn's an actor with a role on one of Australia's favourite medical dramas. He's happy with his career, and thinks those actors who talk about 'method' and 'inhabiting their character' are full of it. His style is to front up, read the lines, and go home. But his girlfriend, fellow actor Madeline, believes acting is an art. When renown director Stirling Seagrave approaches Garvey to star in a feature film about former Olympian Bryan Mars - a champion swimmer who, almost overnight, ballooned in size and lost the plot - Madeline strongly encourages him to accept, despite Garvey's concerns about the contractual obligation to pork up for the role. After all, all the greats have suffered for their art - does he think he's better than De Niro? And then, art imitating life, she gets the role as Bryan's girlfriend and fellow swimmer Vicki Michaels.
Garvey and Madeline train for hours, and as their bodies become tighter, leaner and more defined, their sex lives wane through sheer exhaustion. Then Garvey has to start gaining weight and, despite his initial concerns, he finds the act of eating to excess satisfying, the increasing softness of his edges comforting. He gains weight faster than the shooting script dictates, and revels in high fat foods and the newly-discovered joy of cooking.
Madeline's still toned, she spends more time than ever at the pool, and Garvey's body disgusts her. Although she appreciates the artistic aspect she thinks they should take a break until he gets back to normal. And Garvey doesn't really care.
This is billed as "a poignant comedy about... what it's like to be fat. Really fat." I think it had the potential to say something interesting about how our society sees size above all, how easily the lauded can be brought down, and the multitude of size discrimination issues including the depth of irrational revulsion fat can trigger in some people. These themes were briefly touched on but not explored in any depth. Instead Graham went into great detail about gluttony, in a way that made me both uncomfortable and a little angry, and not in a way that made me think that was the author's intent. It was interesting that the fat involved was men, as most size acceptance literature, diet information etc is targeted at women, but this was not enough to redeem the book for me. - Alex

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