Reading other bloggers introduces me not just to books I haven’t read, which of course it does all the time, and to books I might never read, but to whole classes of literature I haven’t previously considered. Two of the latter are ‘Gin Lit’ and ‘Fat Lit’.
Gin Lit if you haven’t run in to it yet, is the invention of Kate W at booksaremyfavouriteandbest and of course is the set of books in which gin is drunk. If it isn’t a thing yet then it should be. But if Gin Lit is just a fun concept, the motivation for seeking out Fat Lit is more serious. Melanie at Grab the Lapels offers the following:
This book [13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad] is part of my 2017 search to find positive representations of fat women in fiction or nonfiction, and that positive representation will not hinge on weight loss and falling in love. Thus, books will either meet or not meet my criteria, which will factor overall into my recommendations. I purposely use the word “fat” because it is not a bad word. Using plump, curvy, plus-sized, fluffy, big-boned, shapely, voluptuous, or any other term suggests that fat is bad and thus needs a euphemism.
This is a game I don’t have much skin in. Firstly, I’m not a women, and then, like a lot of older people, if I say I’m fat it’s mostly because I worry (obsess) about my weight – speaking American, I’m 5 foot 10 and 200 lbs. I’ve been a vegetarian and a competitive swimmer for more than 25 years, but my weight keeps drifting up.
A few weeks ago I listened to a book called Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich (the author’s name is an interesting conflation of popular author Linda Evanovich and her most famous creation, Stephanie Plum, but if there is a connection I couldn’t see it) in which a youngish obese woman is brought back to merely large by a handsome personal trainer, with whom she of course falls in love. The author treats fatness sympathetically but I thought the emphasis on training and diet probably excluded it from falling within Melanie’s criteria.
But one series which I thought might, was Kerry Greenwood’s Earthly Delight books ‘featuring Corinna Chapman, baker and reluctant investigator’. Truck drivers are big fans of Greenwood and we have all listened to all the Phryne Fisher mysteries, or at least as many as are out on Bolinda Books. A long time ago I listened to a book of short stories with an Introduction by Greenwood in which she was explicit about wishing to provide women with strong heroines who could perform great deeds without relying on men, and I should have included her in my dissertation on the Independent Woman, but I didn’t and now I can’t find the book.
Once I ran out of Phryne Fishers I listened to a few of the Earthly Delight’s series, though not with as much pleasure, Corinna is a bit too lovey-dovey for me. Corinna Chapman – Earthly Delights is the name of her inner-Melbourne bakery – isn’t independent in the way that Phryne Fisher is, she has a permanent good looking lover Daniel, who may or may not be an operative with Mossad. However, I remember her as large and plain and so thought I would borrow the paper version of Trick or Treat (2007) to review in the context of this new (to me) literary category.
I am sure we all picture and (mis-)remember characters differently both from each other and from the author’s intention. In the end I’m not sure that the big woman I remember is the Corinna Greenwood intends, and in this book Corinna barely describes herself at all. Here she is eating baklava:
We sipped and munched and I tried not to drip onto my nice shirt, and did not succeed. Yanni watched me with a grin.
‘A good woman is one who enjoys her food,’ he said. ‘The generous type. I always liked them generous…’
And here she thinks she is competing for Daniel’s attentions:
Georgie shed her high heels and draped herself over the sofa, long legs and short skirt. She was very beautiful. I sat next to her like a lump. Of what, I had not decided. Granite, perhaps? Or maybe just jelly. Envious jelly.
When Daniel, later, asks, “Surely you weren’t really worried that I might want George rather than you?” she replies:
‘No, why should I think that? … Just because I’m short and fat and dumpy and mousy, and she is tall and gorgeous with baby blue eyes and blonde ringlets?”
The plot of Trick or Treat is a mystery. Or a series of mysteries. In the beginning I wasn’t sure there was a plot. Earthly Delights bakery occupies the ground floor of an apartment building off Flinders Lane in the Melbourne CBD. Corinna occupies one of the apartments above and the other occupants of the building include a witch, some old people, a couple of gay men and so on. Corinna eats, and she eats a lot, at the Jewish delicatessen or the Greek restaurant nearby or with the other tenants in their rooftop garden.
In the back lane behind the bakery strange singing is heard from time to time; young men have to be taken away suffering delusions; these delusions (and the singing) may stem from a bad batch of LSD or may be connected to a convention of witches. Meanwhile, Daniel is on the path of treasure stolen from Jews by a Nazi commander in Greece; some of this treasure turns up in the possession of the ‘King of the Witches’. Daniel does most of the legwork; Corinna, eventually, makes all the connections; we meet lots of colourful characters; and most importantly the gorgeous Georgie is vanquished.
Corinna loves food, but she doesn’t mind a drink either. Here the two Lits coincide (‘intersect’ in set theory), as they do off and on throughout, “[I] poured myself a drink. When a certain tall, dark and gorgeous man appeared, walking like a cat, my pleasure was complete. Daniel and gin and tonic. Wonderful.
Kerry Greenwood, Trick or Treat, Allen & Unwin, Sydney, 2007