men_in_full: (opera goers)
A reader sent this link to a graphic novel version of James Joyce's Ulysses. This sprawling, dense, linguistic fruitcake of a novel thwarts most people who try to read it. Some make their way through with Spark or Cliff notes. Robert Berry's' graphic novel adaptation, Ulysses Seen not only clarifies the first chapter, but helps us visualize (and thus keep track of) this complicated story.

The first sentence introduces "stately, plump Buck Mulligan," a golden-tongued medical student who seems to exist mostly as a foil to the introspective, melancholic, and oversensitive protagonist Stephen Dedalus. Below the cut are some of the drawings; one is NSFW.

Ulysses Seen: Buck Mulligan (one NSFW) )

men_in_full: (daniel lambert)







A Mughal man of rank comports with a bevy of concubines.



In which I frankly and openly discuss an old Arabic sex manual, and the NSFW joys of sex with fat men. )

All ways of sexual coming-together flow from love of variety, flexibility, stamina, and imagination - but most of all from the concern and respect the people involved show one another. Fat sex isn't a series of obstacles to be overcome, but rather a physical way of being to be enjoyed and enthusiastically embraced, a positive source of delight and pleasure.
men_in_full: (hi honey im home)

[livejournal.com profile] serenejournal, in first with this quote by English novelist and essayist Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936), via Ask the Food Fairy:
“You can look down on a pig from the top of the most unnaturally lofty dogcart. You can examine the pig from the top of an omnibus, from the top of the Monument, from a balloon, or an airship, and as long as he is visible, he will be beautiful… In short he has that fuller, subtler and more universal kind of shapeliness which the unthinking… mistake for a mere absence of shape. For fatness itself is a valuable quality.”

The quote comes from "Rhapsody on a Pig", an exposition on pigs, fatness, and how Chesterton would have rather seen Hampshire hogs crouched around the base of London's Nelson Column, instead of lions.
"The actual lines of a pig (I mean of a really fat pig) are among the loveliest and most luxuriant in nature; the pig has the same great curves, swift and yet heavy, which we see in rushing water or in rolling cloud ... Now, there is no point of view from which a really corpulent pig is not full of sumptuous and satisfying curves."

This compelling, sensuous description applies doubly to the beauty of fat men. And Chesterton was no light-weight himself. From one description:
Chesterton was a giant in every way ... [who] stood at a towering six foot, four inches, and weighed 300 pounds. His weight was the subject of many jokes, most of which he told himself. For instance, he said he was one of the most polite people in England. After all, he could stand up and offer his seat to *three* ladies on a bus. ...

... Dressed in a huge cape and wide-brimmed hat ... the giant made his way down the street, squinting through tiny glasses pinched on his nose, blowing laughter through his moustache and a cloud of smoke from his cigar.


Some G.K. Chesterton images, all SFW )

Hat-tip to [livejournal.com profile] supergee, too, for added incentive.

men_in_full: (Default)
Remember when the scenery started fading?
I held you till you learned to walk on air
Don't look down, the ground is gone
There's no one waiting anyway
The smokey life is practiced everywhere ...

- Leonard Cohen, "The Smokey Life"

In G.K. Chesterton's fantastical novel, The Man Who Was Thursday, the mysterious character Sunday brings six men together and appoints each as a kind of representative of each day of the week, signifying each by each their respective days of creation. Then, mysterious task given, Sunday leads them on a merry chase through an otherworldly London. One sign of Sunday's extraordinary powers is that even though he is massively fat (like his creator Chesterton himself), he floats, bounces, and bounds across the landscape like a mountainous gazelle.

The "Saturday" character, Dr. Bull, says this about Sunday:
"Shall I make it clear if I say that I liked him because he was so fat? ... It was because he was so fat and so light. Just like a balloon. We always think of fat people as heavy, but he could have danced against a sylph ... Moderate strength is shown in violence, supreme strength is shown in levity. It was like the old speculations—what would happen if an elephant could leap up in the sky like a grasshopper?"

"Our elephant," said Syme, looking upwards, "has leapt into the sky like a grasshopper."

"And somehow," concluded Bull, "that's why I can't help liking old Sunday. No, it's not an admiration of force, or any silly thing like that. There is a kind of gaiety in the thing, as if he were bursting with some good news. Haven't you sometimes felt it on a spring day? You know Nature plays tricks, but somehow that day proves they are good-natured tricks. ... Why do I like Sunday?... how can I tell you?... because he's such a Bounder."

A "bounder," here, is of course not only he who bounds, who despite his huge size can leave the confines of gravity and dance on the air, but one who also acts "out of bounds," outside the normal rules and strictures of society.

Walking on air, SFW )

men_in_full: (Default)



It's not too often that a book casts a spell over me, but Wilhelm Raabe's Tubby Schaumann did. I first heard of the 1891 novella in Sander L. Gilman's Fat Boys: A Slim Book, which takes on the "fat boy" representation in literature. Fat Boys is a study in and of itself, but not now. Instead, I picked up a translation (see ETA below) of Raabe's work and sat down to learn about the fat German farmer who solves a murder with his powers of intuition and observation.

Heinrich Schaumann grows up in a small town, and has been christened with his unfortunate nickname in school, where he was at the bottom of his form. (In the original German his nickname is "Stopfkuchen," or "Cake stuffer," which if anything is even more insulting.) Spurned and teased by his classmates, he retreats into an intense inner life of his own, cultivates his intent powers of observation, and literally becomes "the man who sees."

Tubby Schaumann, with spoilers )


ETA: "Tubby Schaumann" is found in English in Novels, by Wilhelm Raabe. I originally borrowed it from a university library. Amazon occasionally has very cheap paperback editions for sale ($0.01 plus shipping; it's pretty obscure.)

men_in_full: (iz and marlene)

I finally got ahold of a copy of Helen Dunsmore's Love of Fat Men. It was a bit disappointing because it wasn't really about fat men at all. Instead, it followed the non-synchronous meanderings of a young Finnish woman, Ulli; her life history, etc. I'm old fashioned, I suppose, in expecting a novel's title to actually reflect its contents.

However, there was this lovely small passage,
... She likes fat men ... fleshy men with no deceptive hollows. Men with thick, springy flesh which makes space for her, folds her away, eases her bones. Men who are so heavy on top of her that her breath is crushed to the top of her lungs. Men whose flesh she can wallow in, playing and swimming ...

Fat men asleep give out heat like furnaces all night. And often they wheeze a little, so that whatever time you wake, however sick and singing your head feels, you know you have company. All night the mattress gives way under their weight and you roll against the elastic warmth of their sides. You know you cannot roll off and away into space. Whatever the bed advertisements say, Ulli knows that there is nothing as sleep-giving as the shoulder and breast of a fat man ...

Happy Valentine's Day to all the fat men out there, and their lovers.

Photography credit: Caelen, "Dream a Little Dream"
men_in_full: (Default)
Novelist and restaurant critic Ann Bauer has a novel in progress, about a love relationship between a food writer and a fat man. She says:
The plot of my novel hinges around the fact that in high-falutin' foodie circles, fat is simply not acceptable. Oh, the people who attend restaurant openings may talk about food constantly, describing as if it were sex, longingly and with hungry eyes. But they don't eat much. And they do not care, as a group, for people who do ...
Sounds intriguing. But when Bauer went to look for an illustration, she found:
... My new novel is absolutely chock-full of sex. Really good sex. Only the person who's having it happens to be an attractive but very, very large man — and I do mean that, in every way.

So you should know that I spent my entire morning searching for a photo of a sexy fat man for this blog. Finally, I gave up and e-mailed our web guru who spent her entire afternoon searching. And what did we find? Well, what's above is the best by far.
That illustration isn't much; I'll agree. (ETA: I'm not fond of headless torsos, personally - I would rather see the whole man. I didn't mean to imply that there was anything "unacceptable" about the model's body. -MIF)

She also remarks that women must not want to look at pictures of fat men. That's not entirely true - although many women don't have the same interest in visual sexuality as men. However, aesthetically pleasing and sensually appealing photos of fat men *are* out there; it just takes some digging. But I've tread the same weary path through the stock photo sites, and there's nothing there which isn't largely insulting, ugly, or both.
I sorted through photos of fat men wearing baseball caps and stuffing enormous hamburgers into their mouths; clinical shots of obese men with pendulous fins of flesh hanging off their 1,000-pound bodies; pictures of sumo wrestlers in diaper-like garb. The closest I could come to a stud with a little meat around the middle was a stock shot of John Goodman, back in the Roseanne years. Yet — and I find this interesting — when I looked for cheesecake photos of hefty women they were in large supply.
I've noticed the same, that whether it's fashion photography (like Torrid catalogs, or the discussions in the Judgment of Paris forum), softcore, or size acceptance sites, lush photographs of beautiful fat women seem to be flourishing. (I would especially love to see a male-oriented version of the Adipositivity project.) It's interesting to me that women find other women's fat - and often fashionably-clad - bodies to be more interesting than men's.

Bauer's as-yet-unnamed novel is slated to come out in 2009. I'll be watching for it. Meanwhile, I gave up on finding a suitable illustration for this post ...
men_in_full: (Default)
What is the meaning of all this gluttony, this waste, this self-indulgence?

-- The White Witch, from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

In the Chronicles of Narnia, The White Witch of Narnia made it "always winter and never Christmas." She was crafted by CS Lewis to represent the 17th century Puritan revolutionary Oliver Cromwell, who outlawed Christmas in England for the very reasons the White Witch spouts above. Our own US Surgeon General seems to be stepping into her Cromwellian white robes when he complains that Santa is too fat.

I thought this was just a British and Australian obsession, but I guess not.

Because the SG wants to use Santa for propaganda purposes, it's a red herring for the article to bring up the putative "health risks" to the men who dress up in Santa costumes. Nor do I think the SG would accept thinner men in padding or fat suits. What seems to bug him is that the *iconic* Santa, the Santa of imagination, is himself is fat.

However, archetypes have a life of their own, and the shape they take says important things about their nature. Santa is fat because fatness is iconic for generosity and plenty. Never mind that there are very generous thin people, and miserly, selfish fat ones. The point of Santa's fatness is to remind us that whatever plenitude we experience is a gift to us, and one that's to be shared. That's why Dickens showed the Ghost of Christmas Present as a traditional "Father Christmas" dressed in Yule green.

Most of our Christmas symbols come from the old pre-Christian European cultures: the phallic pine cones and red candles; the fertility of the mistletoe; the life-giving symbols of nuts and berries; the glow of warm sweet wine; the burning log which is like a spark of life itself.

In John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men, the two lost, homeless men (as much in need of a manger as any wandering Holy Family) repeat the beautiful phrase to themselves like a mantra, the sum of their hopes and ultimately dashed dreams - "The fat o' the land. We're gonna live off the fat o' the land."

Santa represents the "fat of the land" in a vivid and visual way. While Santa has not always been represented as fat, it's the fat Santa image which has cultural "stickiness." It doesn't matter if the modern representation came from Thomas Nast's Victorian illustrations, the 1920s White Rock seltzer ads, or Haddon Sundblom's luminescent Coca Cola representations. They all descend from an archetypal image from deep in our past.

Not only that, fat Santa is a statement that intrinsic qualities matter. Not everything is deconstructable, interchangeable, replaceable. Icons may evolve over time, but tweaking them for propaganda purposes can destroy their fundamental meanings.

So here are some fat Santas to enjoy. )

Next time: the king of Santa painters, Haddon Sundblom, and his Coca Cola pictures.

Happy St. Nicholas's feast day, everyone!
men_in_full: (pensive)
Marc Drummond has a story in the sci-fi archive Dark Planet called Farewell, Obesity.

Since fat can be eliminated by nanobots, what happens when the "Obesity Act" takes effect, and any resisters go to prison? What could make "the last fat man" want to hold out?
men_in_full: (Default)
While I have never read Helen Dunmore's short story collection, Love of Fat Men, I've always been haunted by this evocative quote, "There is nothing as sleep-giving as the shoulder and breast of a fat man."

But many fat men don't see their breasts as "sleep-giving," or sexual - instead, they're a source of shame, a problem requiring surgical solution. Of course, men don't have to be fat to have larger breasts (gynecomastia, as it's called, can be caused by hormones, medications, or probably just genetics.) Larger breasts, though, seem to be almost universal in fat men, at least from my casual swimming-pool and art viewing.

Personally, I think it's time to take people's tender breasts away from the coarse manipulation of gender categorization ("Big = feminine," "Small/flat = masculine"), and treat them with a little more consideration. Outside of nursing a baby, which is exclusively a female feat, breasts pretty much serve the same function in men and women - to provide intimacy, comfort, and pleasure. The question Why Do Men Have Nipples? seems to reveal a certain lack of worldly experience. ;)

Just as each person has his or her own individual face and body, so will he or she have his or her own breasts. Women shouldn't be made to feel "wrong" if their breasts don't match certain socially-defined shapes - and neither should men.

Even though "More men busting out with 'man boobs'" is an insulting title, this interview with Los Angeles specialist Dr. Glenn Braunstein actually ends on an up beat:
Fortunately, except in patients with a rare genetic abnormality called Klinefelter's syndrome, there doesn't appear to be an association between gynecomastia and breast cancer, Braunstein says. ....

Braunstein says many men are embarrassed. Others, he says, just don't care.

"They're either in no relationship or stable relationships and this is where they are, and as long as they don't have breast cancer and as long as I can tell them they don't have anything serious going on, they'll just forget about it."

The Yahoo group Male-breasts doesn't think it's abnormal, and the information website www.gynecomastia.org has an Acceptance section.

I think it's good to see men not worried about something which, Braunstein says, can affect over a half of all men. This makes me wonder, though, if larger breasts are that common in men of a wide range of body types, why is it given a medicalized name and even considered an "abnormality" at all?

(Thanks, [livejournal.com profile] shryve, for the idea.)
men_in_full: (iz rainbow)
To those who've added me to their f-lists, or (like Winnie) who've stopped by, welcome. I'm trying to get back into the rhythm of writing here.

I just finished Laura Fraser's An Italian Affair. I read somewhere (can't remember where) that it actually had a positive reference en passant to the large man as lover. So I approached the book like a box of mixed chocolates, where I'd planned to just bite into each piece and toss out all except the chocolate covered nuts (because those are the best.) Then I ate the whole box.

IOW, the book isn't that bad. Normally I don't like romances, but this one doesn't follow the romance-novel format. It concerns an American woman, recently divorced, and heading rapidly towards the wrong side of thirty, who vacations in Italy and has an affair with a married French art professor. (Is there any other kind?) The relationship felt believable - and what a novel concept, a genuine old-fashioned affair.

What made me laugh with delight was this brief interchange. Laura has just landed in Florence and is having lunch with her Italian friend Nina. (The narration is a bit odd; "you" here refers to the narrator's perspective.)
You ask Nina if she is seeing anyone herself, and Nina waves away the question, too silly to consider. Then she confesses that she's been dating a musician, and starts laughing at herself.

"He's fat!" Nina bursts out. "I've never been with a fat man before!" She leans closer and whispers. "It's like riding waves," she says. "Wonderful!"

You like that image, and the way your Italian friends appreciate sensuality in all types, forget the ideal...
Sadly, Nina's lover never makes an appearance, but I like that image too, even if Fraser chooses not to pursue it.
men_in_full: (daniel lambert)
The incomparable fantasist John Crowley in the short story "Novelty" (in this collection) has a character say, in essence, there are two kinds of poems - the kind you talk about in bars, and the kind you write.

Stories come that way too - there are the kind you talk about on your LJ, and those you actually write. A modern retelling of Phantom of the Opera with a fat Phantom keeps tugging at my skirts for attention. It might be the first kind of story, but I hope not, because it's a pretty compelling idea - and one which I think could preserve the themes of POTO as laid out by its original creator.

I think I could even write it with an Erik/Christine pairing outcome. But one critical theme from Leroux would have to be preserved - and I think it would translate well - the "Raoul" character still has to suspect that "Christine" hides a love in her heart for "Erik" that's "like sins" - he has to experience that cold creeping dread up his back that she may actually *love* this man, and even on some level find him sexually attractive. Because the reader is (probably) going to be creeping out right along with him.

It puts "Raoul" back in the driver's seat of the narrative, as Leroux intended, too - because we see Erik through "Raoul's" eyes - that is, the condemning eyes of "society" as well as the eyes of an almost-jilted lover who really doesn't understand or sympathize with what the "Christine" character is experiencing. This does NOT make him the "bad guy" in any sense, but it does make him as baffled as the reader - who (as in Leroux's day) really should be shocked at "Christine's" gestures of generosity at the end.

There simply is no way to do it with a facial deformity, which has totally been evacuated of its symbolic meaning - especially not since movies like Mask and Man Without a Face. But just as skeletal men in evening dress were sometimes used in 19th century French magazine illustrations to symbolize evil and decadence, so do we use the image of the fat man as representative of our own ideas of self-indulgent evil (Baron Harkonnen in Dune, or the fat programmer Dennis Nedry in the film Jurassic Park) or absurdity (www.dumpcupid.com, anyone?)

Parenthetically, I think one reason Erik is so loved w/in the fandom (especially Kay!Erik) is *because* he's thin and looks fashionably lean in basic black. This is a reversal of the 19th century ideal, which favored the bigger and broader man as the ideal.
men_in_full: (ali baba)
... with the announcement of a possible film version of John Kennedy Toole's novel A Confederacy of Dunces.

This romp through New Orleans stars the irrepressible Ignatius J. Reilly (pictured left), a gargantuan lover of medievalism, masturbation, and Stoic philosophy, whose perpetually indignant heart is matched only in size and enthusiasm by his permanently spasmodic gastric valve. Ignatius harasses the New Orleans "po-leece," shows us a remarkably efficient business model in his office job (don't file the papers, just toss them), and tries to launch liberation movements for the oppressed, such as the Crusade for Moorish Dignity and a similar effort among the screaming queens of the French Quarter. (It was written in the early sixties, after all.)

I tip Ignatius's green earflapped hat to Rod Dreher of the Crunchy Con blog, who linked to this Slate Magazine article about how attempts to bring this novel to the screen have been as spastic as Ignatius's valve. But mine almost closed shut permanently when I read that they plan to star Will Ferrell as Ignatius.

Will Ferrell. In a fat suit.

This is one of my favorite books, ever. (I only didn't put Ignatius J. Reilly down on the list of "fictional characters I'd do" meme because he's so resolutely anti-sexual. It just wouldn't be fun ...) I don't expect the film to be anything like the book. But this is so wrong, I don't know where to begin.


First, there's the fat suit. I admit that in a film like Shallow Hal it was necessary, given the story line. But Ignatius doesn't magically switch between thin and fat. Ignatius is always fat. So there is no dramatic need for one.

Fat suits are a caricature of fat people, just like black-painted faces and exaggerated cornrows on white actors at the turn of the century grotesquely caricatured African-Americans. Portraying black people as ugly just reinforced the rampant racial prejudice of the time. Showing thin fat-suited actors is not the same as casting a real fat person, because the ugly and artificial fat suits don't look anything like a fat body.

They also send the message that just as black actors needed to be segregated from whites (even in separate entertainment districts, like New York's Harlem), fat people are somehow so "tainted" that they can't be given a starring movie role, even for a fat character.

Nor does a fat suit do justice to this character. Ignatius needs to be played by someone fat. Really fat, someone with the walk, the moves, the voice. He can't just lumber around like Fat Albert, under 100 lbs. of latex foam.

You know who would make a great Ignatius? Jorge Garcia from the TV show "Lost" (pictured right.) In that case, I might add Ignatius to my "fictional characters I'd do" list anyway...
men_in_full: (Default)

In A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, the Ghost of Christmas Present appears in Scrooge's room and transforms it:

The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked a perfect grove; from every part of which, bright gleaming berries glistened. The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney ...

Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes, and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam.

In easy state upon this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see:, who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty's horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door.

'Come in.' exclaimed the Ghost. 'Come in and know me better, man.'"


The image on the right is from the rare 1971 Oscar-winning animated version directed by Richard Williams (of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? fame.) In Williams' interpretation, Christmas Present's generosity of form also reflects the expansiveness and charity of the season that gets left out in so many adaptations, for this Christmas Present takes Scrooge not just to Bob Cratchit's and Fezziwig's homes, but to the home of the miners, the lighthouse keepers, and the ship at sea as well. So his fullness of body (rather than reflecting gluttony) serves as an emblem of the generosity, openness, and hospitality Dickens wishes us to associate with the season for those in all walks of life and circumstances. And he uses a "jolly giant, glorious to see," full in body and spirit, to do so.

The Ghost of Christmas Present wasn't cut from whole cloth by Dickens. Before there was the commercialized "Santa Claus" as we know him, there was "Father Christmas," whom Dickens appropriated for his Spirit. He's middle-aged, not old, with the wideness and solidity that some men grow into with time. With his green fur-trimmed robe, his crown of holly, his "capacious breast" that disdained "to be warded or concealed by any artifice," his hint of wildness and phallic torch, he perhaps hails from the Green Man of pre-Christian England.

Today we are cautioned against the season as a mortal threat to diets. That sounds similar to the Puritan disdain for Christmas, where fear and suspicion of the twelve-day long season peaked during the ascendancy of Oliver Cromwell. The 17th century Puritan parliament's "Godly Party" embarked on a twenty-some year attempt to snuff out the celebration, seen as sinful, luxurious, wasteful, and a harbinger of pre-Puritan days. But in older Catholic and Anglican celebrations,

... there was also the concept of a ‘Father Christmas’, more as a figure that oversaw the community celebrations than as someone who gave presents to children. ... It was a period of leisure, of eating and drinking to excess, of dancing and singing, gambling, gaming and stage plays (though modern-style pantomimes did not emerge until the eighteenth century), of drunkenness and sexual immorality, a period when normal rules and self-control did not apply, a period of deliberate inversion and ‘misrule’. (Ref.)

C.S. Lewis had his Cromwellian White Witch in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe enchant Narnia so that it was "always winter and never Christmas," and it's the coming of Father Christmas that signals the end of her ascetic and bitter reign.

The Spirit stood beside sickbeds, and they were cheerful; on foreign lands, and they were close at home; by sruggling men, and they were patient in their greater hope; by poverty, and it was rich. In almshouse, hospital, and jail, in misery's every refuge, where vain man in his little brief authority had not made fast the door, and barred the Spirit out, he left his blessing, and taught Scrooge his precepts.

As he might us. God bless us, every one, and hold us fast in the embrace of Christmas Present in this upcoming season.

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