The latest addition to my website is Alexandra Kleeman‘s You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine. I was just yesterday reading a story about eating fads. While this novel is concerned with eating and eating habits, it only tangentially deals with eating disorders. What it is primarily about is how the media focuses on what bodies should look like, mainly women’s bodies, and how we are all manipulated by the media and the food industry regarding what we look like and what we eat. However, this is by no means a straightforward critique of the media and food industry but rather a superbly told story about manipulation, religious cults and the increasing alienation of people from their environment. The unnamed narrator and her room-mate, called only B. B. does seem to be bulimic but the novel is mainly concerned with bodies and food, what we eat and how we choose and our bodies.
Kleeman skilfully shows images from adverts, TV and the perception of the narrator, all of which show the body and/or food, and all of which are disturbing, disgusting or both. The main food we see is Kandy Kakes (there really is something of that name – see photo above right) which appear in a series of decidedly sinister adverts, as a two-dimensional cartoon cat (sorry, Kat) cannot eat the three-dimensional Kandy Kakes but, as they are the real stuff, we can. The narrator will later become somewhat obsessed with these cakes. A strange religious cult, involving Kandy Kakes and eating as one, a TV game show where the final episode involves an individual trying to find his or her partner in a dark room, where there are several naked people as well as the partner, and agreeing to dissolve the relationship if s/he fails to do so and a boyfriend obsessed with the eating habits of sharks are just some of the decidedly strange goings-on. Overall, however, Kleeman gives us a first-class novel about the body and how it is perceived and food and how we are manipulated into choosing it and eating it, which makes for a first-class debut for Kleeman.