Published: August 25th 2015
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Genre(s): Literary Fiction, Surrealism
Length: 9 hrs and 17 mins
You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine is a catalog of the mundane made nightmarish and surreal. Eating an orange is a visceral act of destruction and consumption. Applying makeup is an absolute negation of the self.
Sex is dissociative and alien, a study of individual body parts joining and separating in feverish dispassion. Commercials are bizarre tragedies populated with gruesome cartoon imagery.
Your favorite game show ruins lives and breaks up marriages. The neighbors dressed themselves in bed sheets with holes for their eyes and checked out of society to join a new cult. Your roommate wants to become you so thoroughly that you might no longer exist.
You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine is a bit difficult to summarize in any kind of concise fashion, but the back copy certainly tries. The main thing you need to know before reading it is that it isn’t particularly plot-driven and the characters aren’t much more than archetypes.
The first three-fourths are an episodic, anxious meditation on body image, consumerism and food issues. The last quarter changes gears a bit when the main character decides she has found a solution to her general malaise, and the book loses a bit of its odd, surrealist charm. That last quarter also suffers from a sudden influx of jargon, but the end still mostly sticks the landing.
My favorite parts were Kleeman’s descriptions of terrifying commercials for a chemical-filled brand of snack cakes. Imagine an existentialist Wile E Coyote who doesn’t just fall but breaks at a spiritual level thanks to the machinations of sentient dessert, and you’ve got the general idea.
I also appreciated the author’s horrifying descriptions of food and eating even as they made me cringe. Eating is basically never pleasurable in this book; instead, it’s an act of violence against both food and eater.
I’m honestly not entirely sure why I enjoyed this book as much as I did. I’m not usually patient enough to read weird, arty books, and it was definitely a bit pretentious and overwritten. It’s possible that listening to the audiobook was a big part of why I liked it; in fact, I’m pretty sure I would have gotten bogged down trying to read it in print.
Accordingly, I’d rate this one as a qualified recommendation. If a rambling, slim story about body image and food issues sounds like it might be worth your time, you’ll probably get a few laughs and/or shudders out of Kleeman’s début.