Two Reviews

1. Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross. I thought it was very well written, but I hated it. Sometimes things just strike me as implausible when I’m reading and I can’t get past it to enjoy the book. Like A Map of the World revolves around the conceit that a Midwestern woman with small children and a screen door that doesn’t latch properly wouldn’t automatically slip the hook lock the second she shut the door behind whoever was out it last. I have known Midwestern women my whole life, been in many, many houses with screen doors that only stay shut if you slip the hook into the eye, and I never have seen them not lock that door when there are children. And I have known some fucked up, dumbass women. If the book had had the child push through the screen or a dog rip through the screen or something so that the child could have gotten out, I would have bought the whole rest of the book. But that one moment just seemed so implausible that I never could buy the rest of the book.

And it’s that way with Mr. Peanut, the central conceit of which is that the main character has an obese wife who dies. And yet, I never bought, for a second, that Adam Ross has any actual experience with fat women. People, she’s 5’9″, built like a softball player, and Ross posits that, when she gets up to 288, that would be so fat that people would gawk at her. Not just the occasional person, but lots and lots of people would turn to stare at her.

He doesn’t establish that she’s become less active. They live in New York City and she’s constantly flitting about. So, 288 lbs on a stocky, athletic 5’9″ frame? I’m not saying she wouldn’t be fat, but she wouldn’t be as large as Ross thinks she’d be. And then, at the end, Ross has the husband imagining her weight stabilizing at 133. On soft-ball player athletic 5’9″ frame. And that this would be beautiful and not sickly looking.

I know it’s a minor thing, and I know it’s not like women go around announcing our weights, so I’m sure it can be very difficult for men to actually know what 288 lbs. would look like on a 5’9″ woman. So, he wants a way to signal that she was so fat, the kind of fat that everyone notices, and he pulled a number out of his butt. Fine.

But it made me feel that I had two choices in reading the book. Either this is a book for men about women and marriage, so I’m not the main audience, so my inability to overcome that detail isn’t a problem (though bleh, for that not being a problem), because it only needs to seem plausible to men, which, I imagine, it will, at least to a great many, or the book just has this one huge fundamental flaw, in that Ross is writing about something he apparently doesn’t know much about–women and our bodies–and it just gets in the way of me being able to enjoy the book.

Plus, at one point, he talks about the folds of a woman’s vagina, and I think he means vulva, which is weird. Are we just losing the linguistic fight to have “vagina” mean “the inside part” and “vulva” mean “the outside part.”

2. The bookshelves I’m staining. I suck at staining bookshelves. Also, as the finish dries, it’s like the wood is somehow becoming rougher. And it hurts my back, so I have to make myself stop every twenty minutes and stretch it out. Because I am old. Also, there are a fuck-ton of depressing country music songs out right now, but that’s all the radio in the garage gets.

I would just like to once again reiterate my offer. I will marry a handyman who will give me free labor in exchange for health insurance. Start by figuring out how I fucked up the bookshelves and fix it, please, dear.

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5 thoughts on “Two Reviews

  1. I couldn’t get past it either. I had to put the book down. 5’9″ and 165 is “big”? Um. That’s a size 8, which is still smaller than the average American woman. It’s a pound or two into “overweight” territory using BMI.

    It’s hard for me to be taken along for the ride when I can’t trust the author on a basic detail like that.

  2. You read it, too? Thank gods. I have been dying for someone to talk about it with, because it really did make it impossible for me to really immerse myself in the book. I kept reading in hopes that it would become clearer if the problem was the main character’s or Ross’s, but by the end, I still didn’t know. I mean, I feel like he left himself the out of “But my main character is a douche and the fact that he’s wrong about this just confirms his doucheyness.” But I’d rather he just got the details right, rather than leaving himself the douche loophole.

  3. I really had to stop within a page of that. That was as far as I could get, which I felt awful about, because the author is a Nashvillian.

    When I was twenty, running 20+ miles a week and vegan, those were my “numbers.” I am a hair under 5’9″. That is what I weighed at my peak fitness. And this dude would have considered me big at a time when I had male friends, straight and gay, asking me if I was actually eating.

    Maybe that’s supposed to be the douche signal, that the lens that the protagonist views the world through is warped, but I couldn’t keep following.

  4. I honestly got caught up in the writing, which I thought was excellent, but damn, if ever there was a book that signaled so much “about women but not for women to read” I think it’s this one. And, yeah, if the author wants me to believe that the weight fuck-up is the protagonist’s and not the author’s, he needs to do a little more to signal that this is the case.

    Also, I kept reading because so many people I respect raved about it.

    In the end, he mentions Calvino, as if to draw a comparison between what he’s up to and what Calvino gets up to. And that also threw me, because, when I read Calvino, I feel like I’m reading the work of someone who delights in writing.

    I didn’t feel a whole lot of delight in this book. A shit-ton of talent, but not much delight.

  5. Yeah I know what you mean about not being able to get past a flaw in the central conceit of a story. I’m that way with movies. If I see a flaw in the logic or a plot twist that doesn’t make sense, the movie has lost me completely.

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