Magazine article The Spectator

Damsels in Distress

Magazine article The Spectator

Damsels in Distress

Article excerpt

Damsels in distress FAT GIRL: A TRUE STORY by Judith Moore Profile, £12.99, pp. 196, ISBN 1861979860 £11.99 (plus £2.25 p&p) 0870 800 4848


by Julie Myerson

Yellow Jersey Press, £10, pp. 115

ISBN 0224073990

Judith Moore's Fat Girl: A True Story is a first-rate example of monumental self-pity at its most riveting. The book is a rare delight. The main gist of the story, the only gist in fact, is that Judith is fat. She was a fat little girl, a fat teenager and (although the cover photograph shows an intelligent, slim face) she tells us she is a fat adult:

I am a short, squat toad of a woman. My curly auburn hair is fading. Curls form a clown's ruff about my round face. My shoulders are wide. My upper arms are as big as those maroon-skinned bolognas that hang from butchers' ceilings. My belly juts out ... I hate myself. I have always hated myself.

Life has never been a bundle of fun for Ms Moore. Growing up in a tiny apartment in New York, she was beaten by her mother who threatened to starve off her fat. Her father ran away when she was four. One-sided conversations with school chums consisted of 'Oink oink', 'Hey fatso' and 'Pig!' The only man ever to have taken an interest in her was a horrible pervert who performed an unmentionable act in a darkened cinema.

Because her fatness prevented her from making real-life friends, her sole way of becoming close to the people she liked was to break into their houses while they were away and eat all their food. She candidly admits to having an unpleasant personality; she is unlovable, self-obsessed and greedy. As a character in a book, however, her ebullient self-deprecation makes her infinitely fascinating. Lurid descriptions of fat-related discomfort litter the text (this book is best taken between meals).

My thighs rubbed together when I walked; friction rubbed my skin raw and the perspiration, raised by fear, a chemically powerful terror sweat, literally rubbed salt into my skin's wounds . . . Open sores festered on the inside of each thigh. The pain was so bad when I walked that to keep from crying out I counted down from 100 or said the Lord's Prayer.

Yet she continued to gorge her way through what seems like the entire Nigella Lawson Forever Summer of creamy, gooey recipes. …

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