Bookshots: 'You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine' by Alexandra Kleeman
Bookshots: Pumping new life into the corpse of the book review
You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine
Who wrote it?
Alexandra Kleeman, PhD candidate in Rhetoric at UC Berkeley. Her fiction and non-fiction has been widely published in all the right places. This is her debut novel. More info at her website.
Plot in a Box:
Life glimpsed through reality TV, giant foodstores, secretive cults and adverts for a terrible confection called Kandy Kakes.
Invent a new title for this book:
Let Them Eat Kandy Kakes
Read this if you liked:
Binary Star by Sarah Gerard, The Orange Eats Creeps by Grace Krilanovich, Dietland by Sarai Walker
Meet the book’s lead(s):
Character duties are split between:
A – female, confused, sad, lonely
B – roommate of A. Possibly actually A
C – boyfriend of A. Possibly also boyfriend of B. Possibly also someone called Chris.
Said lead(s) would be portrayed in a movie by:
To fully capture the suffocating inwardness of this book, A, B and C should all be played by the same character. Chloe Sevigny and Jared Leto both have the fluidity of gender you’d need. Why don’t we have both of them, randomly exchanging roles as the story progresses.
Setting: would you want to live there?
If I knew where this book was set, I could answer that question.
What was your favorite sentence?
You could tell Wally customers by the confused, placid look on their faces as they came to a full stop in the middle of the aisle, gazing wistfully at nothing in particular.
This is the third time I’ve read a novel described as ‘Fight Club for women,’ and while in the case of Dietland the description seemed appropriate and deserved, I’m now beginning to see that the publishing industry has a sexist and lazy habit of taking a book written by a women, finding a popular book written by a man with a superficial similarity, and comparing the former to the latter as if this will legitimize it in some way.
Stop doing this publishing industry. We don’t call every book featuring a female vampire ‘Dracula for women’. Nor do we call every book featuring a female sleuth ‘Sherlock for women’. Stop it at once or I am going to start calling Nicholas Sparks books ‘Jane Austen for men’ and we will all be sorry.
Or maybe Kleeman suggested the comparison herself. I hope she didn’t because it doesn’t do her book any favours. You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine is every bit as layered and intriguing as Fight Club, but the emotional tone and the angle of attack are entirely different. The character arcs in Fight Club and in Dietland run from numbness to anger. Both books possess a sense of beginning and end, of progress from one state to another. The processing in You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine resembles the kind you experience in a dream; a working out of puzzles at a level just below that of awareness. This is a book of ideas, some of them stand outs like the sinister Kandy Kakes, sold through adverts in which a starving Kandy Kat repeatedly tries and fails to eat them, or the Wallymarts which sell them, staffed by employees who wear giant foam Wally heads. Ultimately no one goes anywhere in You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine. It’s not even clear if the people we meet have a separate identity or if they are all facets of the same personality. This is a journey from A back to A again.
And there’s nothing wrong with that. I enjoyed You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine and so will you if you approach it with the right expectations. Think about a book which digs beneath the surface to our subliminal panic as we wait for a lover to call, count the hours we’ve wasted on banal entertainment, or gaze at the list of ingredients on the side of a package of Twinkies and you’ll go into this ready.
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