After feeling rejuvenated by the re-reading of A GLIMPSE OF STOCKING by Elizabeth Gage, I decided to aim my focus on what looked like another sure bet, 1976 THE NEW BODY by James Fritzhand (Avon). Coming to this paperback original is a story in itself. As you probably figured out, I have an impressive collection of trashy novels. You name it I own it, except for this featured title, which finally came my way during my last visit to the States. I was checking out a huge used bookstore thinking coming across that novel would never happen but there it was waiting for my eager hands to pick it up. I was so happy. I have been dying to find a copy at a decent price but since it’s almost impossible to do so when one is from Canada I had almost given up on my quest.
So you can imagine how eager I was to start this one since I thoroughly enjoyed Fritzhand’s other showbiz-related novels over the years. THE NEW BODY isn’t really a showbiz novel per se but it does dabble in it since the central character eventually gets famous when she becomes a Weight-Watchers-like guru à la Oprah who travels across the globe to give seminars on how to win, like herself, the battle of the bulges. In other words, this bitch is really loaded, all thanks to dedication, self-reliance and a lucrative empire she had help build from the ground up.
The novel begins in 1975 when an unauthorized biography of our busy as a bee gal is scheduled to appear. Of course she’ll have none of that since it would reveal things she’d rather keep quiet, like how a fraud she sometimes feels when hiding behind a girdle or a week-long stay at the spa to keep her svelte image, well, svelte. Not to mention the many problems of her two grown up children, one of whom would rather eat glass than be around her. Then it’s flashback time for hundreds of pages in which our heroine is still an overweight housewife who slowly but surely manages to slim her way to the top without avoiding the pratfalls that come with success: a failed marriage, an ungrateful family, a partner from hell, users and abusers of all sorts... Until we finally come back to the present time to support the woman behind the brand who deep down, this reader feels, will always struggle to overcome this guilt of having lost her family—and herself—over fame and fortune.
THE NEW BODY also focuses on homosexuality (properly brought up), drug addiction, food addiction, rotten business deals, disastrous affairs... All wrapped up into one page-turning experience you’ll likely never forget. The author clearly knows what he’s doing. Whether it’s his strong narrative, or the swift pacing of his plot, or simply the keen-eyed way he portraits his imperfect but likable protagonist, one thing’s for sure, this is truly a delightful read. One I would have taken more of had I had the choice. I have no idea if it was a best-seller back in the day but if it was not, it sure should have been. Easily the best novel of the year for me.
Until next post—Martin