Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Amurph11’s #CBR4 Review #34, Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner

“Regular women carry pictures of their babies, their husbands, their summer houses. Fat ladies carry pictures of themselves at their skinniest.” -Jennifer Weiner

There are times when I read a book, and I can tell immediately that I am not its audience. Such was the case with Good in Bed. I was only a little surprised by this. Surprised because I like Jennifer Weiner – she has a brash, sassy presence that should translate well to fiction; only a little because most commercial literature written for women isn’t really written for me. I tend to like my fiction with a side of crippling depression, so happy endings chick lit doesn’t usually do it for me. This is doubly the case with chick lit that focuses a lot on self-image, of which Jennifer Weiner’s Good in Bed is a definitive example. 

I don’t spent a whole lot of time considering my looks (and yes, I’m aware that that makes me sound like a total bitch. Stick with me, here). I have spent a lifetime staring blankly at girlfriends who complain about how fat they are (note: the ones who say this are never actually fat) and then stare expectantly at me, waiting for me to retort with a litany of my own physical insecurities. It’s not that I don’t have any, necessarily – at least once a month I fantasize about lopping off my unwieldy breasts whilst trying to stuff them into a button-down shirt – it’s that I find them distinctly less interesting to think and/or talk about than, say, politics, or why Star Wars is much better than Lord of the Rings.

This, I realized while reading Good in Bed, makes me incredibly privileged. See, I’m an average-sized lady. I was very skinny in college mostly due to illness, but as an adult I have settled with pleasure into a medium-sized body that looks neither skeletal nor particularly plump. As someone who flies largely under the weight radar, I don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about my weight, which I realized after reading this book is a distinct privilege. It’s a privilege because I’m not constantly reminded of it by society, because no one assumes that I am unhealthy because of my appearance, or condescendingly smarms about my dietary and exercise habits like they’re a medical professional instead of $35K a year cubicle jockey with pictures of Victoria Beckham and Kiera Knightley pasted all over their fridge.

In this way, Jennifer Weiner is both a savvy writer, because she writes with an audience in mind: that of irritated women who are reminded on a daily basis that their bodies aren’t meeting the rigorous standards of the imaginary chart of societally acceptable body fat. And in this way, she’s enormously successful: her frequent asides about the plight of a heavy lady in this day and age were witty and refreshing, and the internal monologue of the main character, dogged by reminders of her weight both by society and her piece-of-shit plastic surgeon father, verges many times on poignant. I’m in no way new to the fat-acceptance movement, but Jennifer Weiner’s main character Cannie brought home to me how pervasive the prejudice against fat people in our society goes, and how damaging it can be to one’s quality of life and self-esteem. And what’s more, she did it with an unflappable sense of humor.

That having been said, though I applaud what this book did for commercial female fiction, I still can’t consider myself a member of its audience. This has very little to do with my weight and a whole lot to do with my fictional preferences. Specifically, I have never been one for escapist lit. Her (spoilers ahead) abrupt reversal of career fortunes, the celebrity fairy godmother, the fact that the book ends with a fucking proposal from her (admittedly very endearing) dream man – all of this proved too much for my cynical self to stomach. The best parts of the book are those that examine the day-to-day  life of Cannie, her family and work dynamics, how she feels about her deadbeat ex-boyfriend; I wish that she had stuck a little more closely to that cynically winning tone, instead of taking an abrupt 180 toward fairytale-land, with a brief rest stop in Lifetime movie of the week. Also, I wish there had been many fewer adverbs. While we’re on the subject, having fictional characters use the phrase “I’ve learned,” followed by a brief summary of their personal journey over the course of the novel, is a fiction writer’s version of cheating.

Still and all, despite my personal distaste for happy endings, I enjoyed reading the book and was glad Cannie got her happy ending – though seriously, every commercial fiction writer needs to sign a pledge to not include any jaunts to Hollywood in any of their books, ever again.

Recommended For: anyone who has ever been put off by an encounter with a personal trainer at a gym

Read When: You’re not in editor mode. I had to control myself from whipping out the red pen to cross out every word that ended with an “ly.”

Listen With: something cheery and inoffensive that’s featured on the soundtrack of many a chick flick. Aretha Franklin, let’s say. Hell, just listen to the soundtrack of Bridget Jones Diary.

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