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Two Girls Fat and Thin Paperback – February 27, 1998

3.4 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This impressive but uneven novel by the author of the praised short fiction collection Bad Behavior makes promises it does not keep. Two women, totally unalike in background, personality and social class, are brought together by a shared fascination with the philosophical movement founded by the late Anna Granite (read Ayn Rand). Justine is a chic journalist who wants to write an article about the followers of Granite's philosophy, Definitism. Dorothy is an obese, nocturnal word processor who answers Justine's advertisement in Manhattan Thing and offers to be interviewed about her involvement with the Definitists. As the two women come to know each other, their dismal life experiences gradually emerge, and their present circumstances are seen as a repetition of past connections and betrayals. This is a hard, edgy book, and Gaitskill's energy and flashy intelligence notwithstanding, the perhaps deliberate lack of polish ultimately detracts. The novel's raw, unsparing view is like that of certain contemporary paintings, and there are extraordinary moments of deeply examined female sexuality where Gaitskill is at her most original. But an underdeveloped and fragmented style has not served her well with the narrative and structural demands here. Thus this distinctive novel falls short of its potential. Major ad/promo; author tour.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


It is a credit to Ms. Gaitskill's prose, with its fine storyteller's pace and brilliant metaphors, that we are drawn along, loath to abandon this grim story. -- The New York Times Book Review, Ginger Danto

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (February 27, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684843129
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684843124
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #563,759 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Mary Gaitskill's Two Girls, Fat and Thin is a brilliantly satiric but nonetheless disturbingly realistic story of how cults appeal to the alienated and confused precisely by providing them with a sense of belonging and simple answers to complex questions. And, given the mixed messages they receive daily about gender, sexuality, identity, empowerment and the body (see any issue of YM, for example, or, for that matter, Cosmopolitan), it's hard to imagine anyone with greater potential for alienation and confusion that the adolescent American female. In Gaitskill's hilariously parodic roman a clef, the two girls of the title, "fat" Dorothy and "thin" Justine, are taken in by the "Definitivist" philosophy of one Anna Granite, in a transparently veiled, hysterically accurate spoof of Ayn Rand's "Objectivism." Anyone who's suffered through Rand's didactic, overwrought novels will be delighted by such details, such parodies within the parody, as Granite's fictional fictions, The Bulwark and The Gods Disdained. And given the essential similarities between Granite and Rand, Definitivism and Objectivism, Gaitskill's novel makes it difficult to see how anybody takes the latter seriously, although the Rand cult continues apace nonetheless (see Jeff Walker's excellent study, The Ayn Rand Cult [LaSalle, IL: Open Court, 1999]). It's funny, and disturbing, beacuse it's true ...
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By A Customer on February 24, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is a dark, nasty novel. I enjoyed the switching of POV and voice (the fat girl, Dorothy, is told in the 1st person while the thin girl, Justine, is told in the 3rd person limited). The voices fit the characters -- Dorothy is a much more forthcoming person, one who's had time and the desire to reflect upon her life, so the pseudo-confessional makes sense. The same can't be said for Justine, so the distance created by the 3rd person is a perfect fit.
The material in here is heinous stuff -- kids/people torturing one another, S&M, incest, childhood sexual abuse, stuff that Jerry Springer might not even touch -- but because of Gaitskill's powers of observation, I just couldn't help but to read and savor every word. I'd put her mastery of the language at about the same level as Franzen.
The main thing that distracted me from the main narrative was the Ayn Rand/Objectivism stuff, especially toward the end when things are really heating up and every peripheral discussion about Definitism (Gaitskill's version) sinks the emotion down a couple of notches. But I forgive her. It's an unpleasant story told with beauty and compassion, and although the ending may be a tad melodramatic, I was glad and thankful for it. After being put through so much pain, it was a relief to bask in the tiny sliver of happiness.
In the end, it really isn't a traditional novel, more like an accumulation of sketches, but I felt a whole lot throughout. For me, it worked.
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Format: Paperback
Just like her short story collection, Bad Behavior, Mary Gaitskill's novel, Two Girls Fat and Thin, left me speechless. The story seemed simple enough: the thin girl is interviewing the fat girl about her time working for the author/cult leader, Anna Granite. They are both wary of each other, the interviewer thinks the interviewee is crazy and the interviewee feels that her entire belief system is under attack by the interviewer. But in the end a strange friendship/bond/understanding will form between the two of them.

But its so much more than that.

While I completely appreciate all the goofy reincarnation of Ayn Rand (can I assume that she's the object of ridicule throughout the book!?), I can't help but be drawn into the actual lives of Dorothy and Justine. Dorothy's affiliation with a literary cult leader seems almost unnecessary, though executed perfectly. However its the `compare and contrast' of these two women's lives that really makes the story - how they are terribly different physically and emotionally, BUT how they are also very similar. They both share strange and horrible relationships with their parents, were both molested as young children and have finally achieved a sense of independence just before their meeting. You get complete character dissections of each of them: what they want, what they think they want and what they already had. Where both women have unresolved unresolved conflicts from their past, its too late to doing anything about them. It seems that their acquaintanceship, while mistrustful at first is their stepping stone to personal redemption.

Mary Gaitskill is yet again justly perverse and sexual, especially through Justine and her trysts through childhood and her current ill-suited lover and sadist, Bryan.
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Format: Paperback
Mary Gaitskill's 2 short story collections "Bad Behaviour" and "Because They Wanted To," were both innovative. Her first novel, "Two Girls, Fat and Thin," while a dramatic and revealing tale, can't seem to leave the short story form behind. Each section is written with grace, but at the same time, seem to be their own individual story, making the plot disconnected and hard to follow. The ending is emotional, but seems to be without resolution. Overall, the idea is a good one, but the short story convention needs to be shed for it to be delivered smoothly.
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