Monday, 19 November 2018

‘THE NEW BODY’ BY JAMES FRITZHAND




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

Sunday, 4 November 2018

‘A GLIMPSE OF STOCKING’ BY ELIZABETH GAGE


A strange thing happened on the way to our well-deserved vacation.  After completing the 42.2K Marathon in Montreal and heading the same day to the Tropics I suddenly had the urge to read a ‘80s book.  Not the kind of simple urge one gets when the itch beckons, but like a desperate now-or-never need to appease my craving. It didn’t matter which book, just as long as it was of the rich and the rotten and riveting as fuck. In came a hardcover copy of Elizabeth Gage’s A GLIMPSE OF STOCKING (1988, Simon & Schuster) from the ship’s library. It was sleeveless, heavy, and it had spots of sunscreen oil on its red stiff material but it barely mattered, for I had found my savior. From that moment on I didn’t care where we were or how many unread current titles were waiting to catch my eyes on my Kindle. This was the book that I was going to read—or re-read since we did cross paths in 1990—for the next 14 days.   

The things that A GLIMPSE OF STOCKING did to me on that trip, I will forever be grateful. I kid you not on this. I was stuck in a rut reading wise. I had spent the last few months wondering where my reading choices were heading, since I felt like nothing really stroke my fancy anymore. After all these years of reading and reviewing maybe it was time to finally throw in the towel and move on. I wanted to reconnect with this passion of mine but didn’t know if I still could since everything was all becoming so bland and uninspiring. It took exactly 10 pages of A GLIMPSE OF STOCKING to cure this itch of mine.  

Every day like clockwork, in between visiting islands, going to the gym, and eating fine cuisine, my nose was stuck in that book, revelling in the tumultuous lives of these two glorious but so different women. In a Hollywood setting that starts in the 1947 and ends in 1974 during the Academy Awards ceremony, readers who dig Jackie Collins but with an edge will definitely have their fill of sexually-charged situations and nail-biting plot twists. They may even come to care about either leads or some other secondary characters. It’s a long book, over 700 pages and not once did I feel the story dragging. Indeed, what a fun and remarkable piece of pop culture art that novel is. Not only did it turn out to be exactly what the doctor ordered, it also made me realize how much in the zone I still was regarding sleaze. And it only took the right novel for me to figure that out. And not any novel, mind you, but one that delivers the goods with its impressive narrative, well rounded characterization and an extra shot of intellect. 

I dare anyone who loves a good trashy book not to get caught up in the swirls of her two main characters. If the reader is not too prude, that is, because it is very bold in its description sometimes. I’m telling you, if you want to tackle a strong and clever, and sometimes moving, story of sins and redemptions, give A GLIMPSE OF STOCKING a try. I’m sure you’ll be impressed as I am. Now, how the twenty-something gay dude that I was could be able to catch all these notable traits the first time around, I’ll never know. But one thing’s for sure, I’m so glad I revisited it and had the chance to praise it yet again. And in exchange get this second wind so desperately needed. Isn’t life a trip?!





Until next post—Martin  
UK Hardcover