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Author Archive: "Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby"

Friends in Low Places

Last week, Robin Abrahams, etiquette columnist for the Boston Globe and author of the new book Miss Conduct's Mind Over Manners, wrote on her blog that she was asked three questions at a recent speaking engagement:

1. Has anyone told you that you look like a female Spock?
2. Can you explain why you don't want to have children?
3. Are you going on a book tour?

As an etiquette maven, Robin was bound to declare that generally speaking, the first two questions are rude and the third perfectly appropriate — even a thoughtful expression of interest in another's life and work. But as a regular person, she says, "The first two questions delighted me beyond all measure, and the third made me miserable." Why? Well, like many first-time authors, Robin found that her publishers didn't think a tour would "make sense," and like many authors at all stages of their careers, she doesn't have "the temporal, financial, or organizational resources" to arrange one herself. Thus, the seemingly innocuous book tour question only reminds her of "the discrepancy between [her] ...


No One In Romance Novels Is Ever Fat

So, fat people have sex, too.

That might seem like a pretty out of the blue statement, but I just wanted to let you know. If you've ever read romance novels, you'd probably never know it.

I do read romance novels — I read the big historicals and paranormals and all that stuff, but what I really love? Are the Harlequin Blaze 4-titles-a-month novels. I don't judge you for what you read, so bear with me here. *grin*

After you've read a chunk of these a month for several years, certain patterns make themselves kind of obvious. And one of those patterns is that, perhaps in pursuit of realism, romance novels are touching a lot more explicitly on body hatred. Sometimes this is okay. Most of the time, this is a disaster.

If you're not familiar, let me describe the heroine to you. She is white. On super rare occasions in the Harlequin variety, she is half Asian. In some historicals, she is half Native American. She is either incredibly slender and self-conscious about her lack of breasts or she is super curvy and self-conscious about her "ultra ...


Size 24 Is Not a Death Sentence

When I was working on a novel as my MFA thesis, I sent a draft to one of my older sisters. Her first bit of feedback was that I needed to change a main character's weight from 300 pounds to 200, because

You and I know what 300 pounds looks like, but most people don't. If you say 200, readers will picture 300. If you say 300, they'll picture a stereotypical representative of The Obesity Crisis — unfathomably enormous, constantly eating, nearly immobilized, and probably mere moments from an ostensibly preventable death. They'll lose sympathy for her.

The worst part was, she was right about all of it. That didn't mean I was willing to make the change (and it's a non-issue now, since that novel went into the proverbial desk drawer), but it's absolutely true that, for many people, the perception of what 200 or 300 pounds "looks like" (to the extent that there's uniformity among people who happen to share a weight) bears only the most tenuous relationship to reality. (For the record, here's 200-pound me and 300-pound Marianne.) And for many readers, ...


Lit Crit Made Me Do It: Crossing the Media Streams of Books and Blogs

When I graduated with a degree in English, I thought I had left the endless acedemic debates about authorial intent and reader response theory behind. The text was the thing, and that seemed overwhelmingly obvious to me. The practical application of that theory served me well in my professional life.

But then I started blogging. Specifically, I started blogging about fat issues, fat activism, and body politics. And, oh, the interpretative tension that emerged!

To be super concise: The theory of authorial intent indicates that the true meaning of a text must take the author's intentions and motivations into account while reader response theory places the burden of interpretation on, as the name suggests, the reader. The principle relationship is between the reader and the text. The author, as Roland Barthes would say, is dead (well, Barthes would probably say a lot more but the tl;dr version is that the meaning of texts can only be seen through the lens of the reader — the birth of The Reader as an entity necessitates the death of The Author ...


The What-O-Sphere?

In an interview that made me want to be her best friend, actress and writer Nia Vardalos recently told US Weekly (as a response to being called "overweight"), "Hey, just say fat. I love the word fat....It's actually not a naughty word. We give it a power it actually doesn't have." Hear, hear! On my blog, in an essay I contributed to a recent anthology, and in the introduction to the new book I co-authored, I've explained in detail why I agree wholeheartedly with Vardalos. The short version is, "fat" is actually a pretty simple and straightforward way to describe folks with more adipose tissue than average; it's only loaded down with a bazillion insulting connotations — lazy, stupid, sloppy, undisciplined, etc. — because of cultural attitudes toward fat people, not because of the fat itself. Just as Vardalos said, we give it a power it actually doesn't have.

But man oh man, do we ever give it that power. Because the F-word can be such a bombshell, I've had to develop a stock stranger-friendly answer to questions about ...


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