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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's funny, and disturbing, because it's true ...
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...
Published on 5 Jun 1999

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Shows the weakness of Rand's view of sex...
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,...
Published on 16 Jun 1999


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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's funny, and disturbing, because it's true ..., 5 Jun 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Two Girls Fat and Thin (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
4.0 out of 5 stars Like Mary G.'s short stories, you'll like her first novel, 18 Feb 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Two Girls Fat and Thin (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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4.0 out of 5 stars TWO GIRLS, FAT AND THIN: a caricature of Rand's Objectivism, 26 Feb 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Two Girls Fat and Thin (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. Ludlow is betrothed to another, but Dorothy believes (as does Granite/Rand) that an honest love justifies unfaithfulness.
Gaitskill's venture into the sordid details of rape, masochism, and malignant sex, might be enough to disgust and turn away the faint hearted. The story, by itself, seems nothing more than a vehicle to sell the lives of two sick girls. But, a reader familiar with Ayn Rand's novels and the philosophy of Objectivism, will find redemption in Gaitskill's observance of Rand's ideas and the cleverly drawn parallels between the fictional and the real.
Anna Granite - a rock solid name for the solid as a rock Ayn Rand. Granite's books THE BULWARK and THE GODS DISDAINED are Rand's FOUNTAINHEAD and ATLAS SHRUGGED. Objectivism becomes Definitism. Nathaniel Branden, with whom Rand had an extramarital affair, becomes Beau Bradley. Even Alan Greenspan, a one time follower of Rand, is depicted as financier Knight Ludlow. The characters' lives follow the pattern of their real life counterparts.
The reader's hopes of a Rand-like character, evolving in the story, are buoyed by the exhortations of a Definitist named Bernard: "I am taking as my model Jesus Delorean Dilorenzo Michaelangelo in THE GODS DISDAINED. Maximum achievement, the highest you are capable of. None of this 'well, maybe I can't.'" But, hopes are dashed. Bernard disappears into the story. And none of the other characters become super heroes or super achievers. Perhaps that is the nature of a caricature - distortion of the truth. Dorothy and Justine are victims of their past and of society. They are misfits made for each other. Was the discovery of their true selves "the highest they were capable of"?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and well-drawn, but with a clunky resolution, 25 May 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Two Girls Fat and Thin (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
3.0 out of 5 stars Shows the weakness of Rand's view of sex..., 16 Jun 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Two Girls Fat and Thin (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. The problem is that women are powerfully attracted to her and her ideas, but are left hanging when it comes to sex (they are in effect taught to accept rape as great sex!). The book attempts to address this point, and I think it really has something to offer in this way.
The book is a naturalistic book in that the characters are not consistent but rather imperfect and irrational at times. Ayn Rand would point to this as a reason to not like the book and for women not to read it. In fact, she herself bears responsibility for similar states of confusion and irrationality in many women due to her absurd philosophy of female sexuality. I applaud Gaitskill's attempt to show some compassion toward these women and think that the main value of her book is to show the weak points and inconsistencies in Rand's view of sex and how it often results in harm for women.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amusing Parody of Ayn Rand + Honest Female Analysis, 14 Jun 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Two Girls Fat and Thin (Paperback)
As disturbing as this book was, it held my avid interest throughout. It is one of my favorites.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent not for those with digestion sensitivities, 4 April 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Two Girls Fat and Thin (Paperback)
A meticulous graceful and merciless exploration of the inner worlds of young women coping with an abusive past is connected to the wider reality in the context of Ayn Rand's objectivism. This is an ingenious chimera and it definitely adds to the eerieness of the novel. Gaitskill has a microscopic scrutiny of human behvior and emotions combined with unique lingual ability to render them in full force. Her treatment of what is apparntly Objectivism by Ayn Rand is not unsympathetic (in my view). She approaches well trodden fields such as individuality, social convention and power relations in a fresh way. It does not detract from the psychological aspects of the novel and its protean literary auqlities. The degree of lonliness depicted seems unrealistic unless taken metaphorically for alienation. As a male reader I find it difficult to accept the role relegated to my sex in the novel. Few readers will look at their own childhood the same. One need not be a survivor of abuse. To the contrary. A familiar, yet well suppressed, experiences such as witnessing one's mother farting is reconnected to all the hidden mesh of one's intimate and unavoidable reality.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars So bad, I threw the book away., 6 Mar 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Two Girls Fat and Thin (Paperback)
I really disliked this book. I think the only reason I finished it is because I hoped it would get better at some point. I'm not sure what I was expecting, perhaps something as engaging as She's Come Undone. This one really disappointed. I threw away the book because I was embarassed to have it on my book shelf. I guess I've had it with these contemporary characters who can't get their lives together and spend their adult years wallowing in self pity blaming their dysfunctional families for their problems.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars TWO GIRLS, FAT AND THIN: a caricature of Rand's Objectivism, 26 Feb 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Two Girls Fat and Thin (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. Ludlow is betrothed to another, but Dorothy believes (as does Granite/Rand) that an honest love justifies unfaithfulness.
Gaitskill's venture into the sordid details of rape, masochism, and malignant sex, might be enough to disgust and turn away the faint hearted. The story, by itself, seems nothing more than a vehicle to sell the lives of two sick girls. But, a reader familiar with Ayn Rand's novels and the philosophy of Objectivism, will find redemption in Gaitskill's observance of Rand's ideas and the cleverly drawn parallels between the fictional and the real.
Anna Granite - a rock solid name for the solid as a rock Ayn Rand. Granite's books THE BULWARK and THE GODS DISDAINED are Rand's FOUNTAINHEAD and ATLAS SHRUGGED. Objectivism becomes Definitism. Nathaniel Branden, with whom Rand had an extramarital affair, becomes Beau Bradley. Even Alan Greenspan, a one time follower of Rand, is depicted as financier Knight Ludlow. The characters' lives follow the pattern of their real life counterparts.
The reader's hopes of a Rand-like character, evolving in the story, are buoyed by the exhortations of a Definitist named Bernard: "I am taking as my model Jesus Delorean Dilorenzo Michaelangelo in THE GODS DISDAINED. Maximum achievement, the highest you are capable of. None of this 'well, maybe I can't.'" But, hopes are dashed. Bernard disappears into the story. And none of the other characters become super heroes or super achievers. Perhaps that is the nature of a caricature - distortion of the truth. Dorothy and Justine are victims of their past and of society. They are misfits made for each other. Was the discovery of their true selves "the highest they were capable of"?
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1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Run, don't walk away from this book, 7 May 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Two Girls Fat and Thin (Paperback)
This book was dreadful. I figured a book that got so many flattering blurbs from reputable reviewers couldn't be all that bad, but I was mistaken. Awful. Just awful. Aside from the passages on Definitism, which were just dull, the rest of this book is descriptions either of childhood cruelty, garish teenage fashions, girls' faces covered with zit cream and bad makeup, or hideous, numbing incest and sadomasochism. The only reason I kept reading was that the back cover suggested something surprising was going to happen at the end. Yet page after page the story line meandered along, not really headed anywhere. At no point was I surprised. Disgusted certainly, but not surprised. Two thumbs down, way down.
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Two Girls, Fat and Thin
Two Girls, Fat and Thin by Mary Gaitskill (Paperback - 18 Jun 1992)
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