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Two Girls, Fat and Thin Paperback – 18 Jun 1992


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Paperback, 18 Jun 1992
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Product details

  • Paperback: 326 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New edition edition (18 Jun. 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099908301
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099908302
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 2.2 x 12.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,174,399 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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First Sentence
I entered the strange world of Justine Shade via a message on the bulletin board in a laundromat filled with bitterness and the hot breath of dryers. Read the first page
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 Jun. 1999
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 18 Feb. 1998
Format: Paperback
I must admit that I have been waiting to read this book for some time now, as I have read Mary. G.'s two books of short stories and found them quite enjoyable -- and at times erotic -- so I was pleased that her only novel was finally reprinted. The novel is well written -- and follows familiar themes she has explored in her short stories. Is this book worth investing time with? If you enjoyed The Book of Ruth, or She's Come Undone, you'll enjoy this one too, as the themes are familiar (women who feel out of touch with society). You might also try Harrison's Thicker Than Water (not her latest work). Also note that Ayn Rand shows up in Two Girls..as a fictional character who plays a major role. Even the statue of Atlas with the world on his shoulders from the cover of Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged shows up in a n office here. Rand's philosophy (Objectivism) is also discussed at length in her, as well as thinly disguised books she wrote (We The Living, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged). It's all very amusing, and if you were a fan of Rand you'll get the reference. If not it doesn't detract.
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Format: Paperback
A reader may reasonably hope, in the opening chapter of TWO GIRLS, FAT AND THIN, that novelist Mary Gaitskill, with skillful writing talents, will develop her characters into something more than mere opposites drawn together by a fated interest in the controversial philosopher, Anna Granite. Realizing that Granite is the counterpart of the real-life Ayn Rand, one hopes that Rand's philosophy of Objectivism (or Granite's Definitism) will be the central point and that the 'fat' Dorothy will ultimately thrive as a model Objectivist (Definitist), while the 'thin' Justine will either fail as the antithesis or eventually capitulate in her philosophy and prosper as well. The means to this end could acceptably be serious or comically satirical. As it turns out, the novel is a caricature: an exaggerated portrait depicting some truths of Objectivism yet distorting others. In the end, distortion reigns.
Although Dorothy and Justine seem to be opposites, their differences are less serious than their similarities. We see, through alternating chapters, the backgrunds and stories of each girl unfold. Justine and Dorothy both suffer neuroses developed as an aftermath of childhood abuse, rape, and/or incest. They are socially maladjusted. Misfits. Their keening thoughts and relationships with men waver between hatred, love and fear.
Drawing her emotions into a self hatred, Justine engages in a masochistic affair with Bryan who willingly obliges with her request to be whipped and scarred. Dorothy, on the other hand, lives in a vicarious sex world, wanting sex but afraid of it, afraid of men...that is, until a fellow Definitist and gentle friend, Knight Ludlow, relaxes her into submission.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 25 May 1998
Format: Paperback
Gaitskill is funny and heartbreaking, and her descriptions of the cruelty and sexual confusion of Junior High School struck (uncomfortably) true, but the ending felt forced and totally out of line with the overall tone of the rest of the story. I loved her treatment of Rand and loved the switches from first person to third
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 16 Jun. 1999
Format: Paperback
I'm not part of the "Leonard Peikoff Objectivist Jihad", but I agree with Ayn Rand on 95% of her points. Where I break from her is on the issue of sex, which is the issue which _literally_ broke her herself. Her views of sex were carryovers from her russian psuedo-christian upbringing. She always remained sympathetic toward christianity right up to the end, and this explains her views on marriage, sexual roles, homosexuality, etc. Her main problem came in when she found an attractive young man and she had to weave a creaky bridge of logic to allow herself to sleep with him. In the end, it destroyed her and crippled her message. If she had understood sexuality better, objectivism wouldn't be the giant joke that it is today.
It's for this reason that I eagerly read Gaitskill's book on a friend's recommendation. I expected to find a snide portrayal of Rand and her philosophy. I did not. Gaitskill really shows respect for Ayn Rand and her core ideas. Ayn Rand (Granite) is shown as being powerfully intelligent, compassionate, and violently passionate. M.G. also eludes to Rand's casual use of weight pills/amphetamines, which is well known and adds a touch of honesty without being cruel. Gaitskill's point is that Rand was wrong about sexuality. I agree. In making this point, Gaitskill was honest and not disrespectful in regard to the central values of objectivism and Rand.
The two main girls are really not that atypical. Sexual issues for women are very complex and Rand didn't do them any favors. The fact is, she never wrote for women anyway. She was a man-worshipper (in her own words) and wanted to reach men.
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