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You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine: A Novel Paperback – August 9, 2016
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An Amazon Best Book of September 2015: Alexandra Kleeman’s mind-bending debut, You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine, is intoxicating and hallucinatory, full of meditations on food, beauty, relationships, TV and above all, the human body. Get ready to read exquisite, disquieting sentences about your body – “a mouth was a means into a person, but it also offered one of the neatest ways out” – and explore how our consumerist culture dissolves our individual boundaries and makes us hunger to be the same. It’s a strange, surreal world that the three main characters live in – a sort of hyper commercialized and flattened pop-culture world, where employees at the grocery store wear foam heads to appear like their mascot and dads disappear, where TV is watched for commercials and cults run by franchises “believe the quickest route to self-improvement is self-subtraction,” and where food takes on a whole new meaning. The co-opting of identity is at stake in this trippy, incredibly smart novel, yet never has the human body been explained with such intensity, acuity and revelation. Alexandra Kleeman’s ambitious debut will make you crave whatever she writes next.--Al Woodworth--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
“The smartest, strangest novel I’ve read in a while.” (Paris Review, Staff Pick)
“This debut novel by future superstar Alexandra Kleeman will be the thing to be seen reading this summer. Pick it up if you want to up your summer cool factor . . . . .Very funny, perfectly weird, a hyperintelligent commentary on a culture obsessed with you and fame.” (Vanity Fair)
“A clever satire of our culture’s ever intensifying obsession with health, diet, and body image.” (Los Angeles Magazine)
“Alexandra Kleeman has written Fight Club for girls.” (Vogue.com)
“You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine is a powerful allegory of our civilization’s many maladies, artfully and elegantly articulated, by one of the young wise women of our generation.” (New York Times Book Review)
“The symbols of modern anomie in this novel are familiar (soulless supermarkets, insane mass entertainments, etc.), but Ms. Kleeman has a singular, off-kilter style, and a distinct vision of the absurd horrors that can come with being trapped in a body.” (New York Times)
“Kleeman’s debut novel is a fever dream of modern alienation. . . . not really like any other, but could be described as a blend of the nightmarish disassociation of DeLillo’s White Noise and the phantasmagoria of Bergman’s Persona. A challenging novel, but undoubtedly one with something to say.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
“Excellent . . . Sprinkled with detailed summaries of invented advertisements, the book describes a consumer landscape just on the far side of plausible. You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine is a story about realizing you’re hungry and trying to find out what for.” (Slate)
“Her darkly satirical debut lays bare the ravages of advertising-fueled culture and consumerism, through a purposefully distorted version of our reality. Fans of DeLillo, Pynchon and Shteyngart are advised to take note.” (Huffington Post)
“This is not a breezy summer read, but it’s cerebral, sharp, funny - and worth the ride.” (New York Post)
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I consumed it as an audiobook. For the first time in my history with audiobooks, I had trouble with an excellent voice actor's performance. Kleeman's novel has an especially difficult narrative voice. The actor performed the book in a youthful, guileless, and rather sweetly cheerful voice. Somehow that tone always sounded a bit "off" in relation to the often stunned, disembodied, desubjectized written narration. I guess the concept at work is that even in the midst of what used to be called a "nervous breakdown" --brought on by anorexia, body dysmorphic disorder, US postmodernity itself?-- the narrator/protagonist still addresses the world in the cheery sweet feminine voice that she's been trained to hear as her "natural voice." Basically, the voice actor's performance raises the discomfort by stressing the distance between the actual words written and the vocal affect. It makes things even more uncomfortable, so be prepared.
Finally, at 304 pages (which is not incredibly long), the novel felt too long for me. Either it ran out of gas at least 50 pages before the end or I ran out of the brain RAM needed to absorb its evergrowing web of allegorical invention and dystopian escalations. Also, because "realistic" characterization is simply not a goal of such surrealistic novels, it's harder to remain invested over the long haul. I'm not surprised the author followed it up with a book of short stories.
Underneath this peculiar world and A's struggles in it you read presenting the postmodern dystopia. It is truly a novel tackling a questions in what direction are we going, how much consumerism and conformity are taking over individuals and their individuality. A's world is our world. We buy things we don't need. We watch the mind numbing entertainment. We try to look like the beautiful people on TV. We try to look like someone else. We try to be someone else. Where are we, where we start and where we end? Do we really want the stuff we buy and do? Who are we?
The book is food for thought. It must be read carefully. Choose the time when you read this book wisely. If you're not ready to take such a strange story in, and see beauty in it, don't read it just yet. Wait for the right moment. Read it when you most vulnerable and welcoming of new ideas wrapped in a strange paper.