This Weight-in-Literature Post Doesn’t Mention Ezra Pound

As we move through the holiday season, our thoughts turn to…weight.

Yes, many people put on some pounds each December. More generally, what people weigh any time of the year can be a personal and/or societal issue — with all the pernicious bias and judgmental-ness against those who are bigger than average.

This of course not only plays out in real life but in various novels. For instance, I just read The Husband’s Secret, and one of the three interconnected storylines in Liane Moriarty’s terrific book involves a woman (Tess) whose husband (Will) and cousin (Felicity) seemingly fall in love after the cousin loses a lot of weight.

Weight is an even “larger” theme in (Ms.) Lionel Shriver’s punningly titled Big Brother, which has a plot focusing on a sister doing what she can to help her obese male sibling lose weight. The ending will surprise the heck out of you (it certainly surprised me).

Then there’s John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, in which Ignatius J. Reilly’s immensity is one reason why he’s a social outcast. Or maybe the social outcast-ness came first…

The nerdish title character in Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is also overweight and not as funny as the hilarious Ignatius, but he’s much more good-hearted than Toole’s eccentric protagonist.

Weight is sometimes (unfairly) used to emphasize the villainous nature of a character — as with the menacing, albeit sort of charming, Count Fosco of Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White.

Or lots of heft can stereotypically convey a Santa-like joviality; Friar Tuck of the Robin Hood stories is one example.

Related to that is the contrast of intimidating size with a not-intimidating personality; “gentle giant” Hagrid of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books fits that description. On the other hand, the unkind-to-Harry kid Dudley Dursley is quite overweight but also unsympathetic until showing a bit of humanity late in the series.

Overweight characters of student age can certainly suffer the slings and arrows of unkind reactions from classmates. That’s what Irie faces in Zadie Smith’s White Teeth. And in Margaret Atwood’s Lady Oracle, Joan as a child gets criticized by her own mother for being overweight. It’s one of several reasons we sympathize with Irie and Joan — weight issues can evoke reader compassion. Yet, on this sexist planet of ours, females often bear much more of the brunt of body-size bias than males.

It’s nice when the heavyset nature of a character (such as Ma Joad of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath) is basically irrelevant. The weight just is.

But it’s not nice when a character’s size plays into nasty racial stereotypes, as with Mammy in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind.

What are some of your favorite works with elements of body weight?

To those who celebrate it, Merry Christmas!

Looking for a holiday gift for family and friends? My 2017 literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time. It’s not only for literature lovers but also for people who couldn’t care less about literature but like books with ridiculously long titles. πŸ™‚

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for The latest weekly piece, which has a weird holiday theme, is here.

115 thoughts on “This Weight-in-Literature Post Doesn’t Mention Ezra Pound

  1. Interesting subject for a post Dave, indeed and great points about Ma Joad and Mammy. Mr Bumble in Oliver Twist, is deservedly weighty in that he’s everything about oppression and the abuse of those who have got to this stage in their lives, ie the workhouse inmates. An abuse he doesn’t even seem to see. Mr Pickwick wasn’t exactly on the slim side either. But in some ways weighty characters have been underrepped in literature. I wrote one in one book as a secondary and yes, I confess I made her dreadful and a bully but despite all the heroine’s thoughts about what a carthorse she was, I had them become friends.

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  2. I’m sure you’ve seen by now that Sue Grafton died yesterday from cancer. I think we were just talking about her in last week’s column, and though I gave up on Alphabet mysteries somewhere around M or N, I’m sorry that she didn’t make it past Y. But I think she made the right decision to not have anyone else complete the novels in her name.

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    • So sad to hear of her death, Kat Lib. You read many of her mysteries before stopping!

      I (belatedly) read the first four of her alphabet mysteries during the past year or so, and enjoyed them a lot. Also, as I might have mentioned before, I posted links to Sue Grafton’s Facebook page when I mentioned her books in my blog posts, and she personally replied in a very friendly way each time.

      I admire her decision not to allow anyone to continue/complete her series, and also admire her for not allowing any of her novels to be adapted for movie or TV productions. She worked in that business, and knew how some novels are not treated well in their transition to the screen.

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        • Sad to read but an excellent obituary, bebe. Thanks for posting it!

          Among the many interesting things in the piece is Sue Grafton’s observation about how she aged a lot faster than her fictional private investigator Kinsey Millhone.

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          • I have not read any of her books as I plan to remedy that Dave. Her books always are in my library shelf and is a very popular author.
            How is your Reacher book going ? I picked up reading again and now he is called ” Bigfoot” in the latest.
            The temperature is brutal with a could of inches of show. Don`t recall temperature
            in the teens for weeks . Taking Pomchi out is becoming an ordeal now.

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            • Sue Grafton’s books are on the short side, bebe, so it won’t take you much time to read one if you get to it. πŸ™‚

              I haven’t started the new Reacher novel yet — am first reading one more library book (due next week): Lionel Shriver’s “The Mandibles.” Really good. Set in the near future — sort of dystopian speculative fiction.

              Glad you’re still making your way through “The Midnight Line.” Called “Bigfoot”? Now THAT’S intriguing.

              Yes, SO cold. I can understand any dog not wanting to be outside for more than a minute or two. 😦

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  3. I would like to make mention of one of my favorite actors of all time, Sidney Greenstreet, a man of great girth and talent, whose movie career spanned all of 8 years, and began when he was 62. In that short period of time, he was featured in four of the best pictures made then: Casablanca, The Mask of Demitrios, The Lady in White, and The Maltese Falcon.

    Pertinent to our theme this week, three out of four of those properties began as works of popular, and well-executed fiction, by authors Eric Ambler, Wilkie Collins and Dashiell Hammett respectively, and one of them was slated, before a kinder fate intervened, as a vehicle for Ronald Reagan…

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    • Didn’t know that Greenstreet’s memorable career was so short! He was (serendipitously?) cast in some amazing films.

      Well, at least Ronald Reagan starred with a chimp in “Bedtime for Bonzo,” which is one step above “Casablanca” (in the alphabet).


  4. Other things I’ve thought of but keep forgetting to comment:

    I saw “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” many years ago and loved it, despite not being a fan of DiCaprio at the time. I had no idea that it was based on a novel. I might have to add it to my list.

    Am so happy for you that you have such a clever wife buying you the latest Reacher for Christmas. I’m sure you’ll enjoy πŸ™‚

    Lastly, congrats on your new kitty. My Missy moving in with me is one of the nicer things that have happened in my life ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Susan, I also wasn’t aware “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” was a novel first. Interesting (and sad) how some novels made into memorable movies kind of disappear from public consciousness.

      I’m definitely happy to now own a second Jack Reacher book. Having them in my apartment might be better than an alarm system; after all, no criminal wants to go near Reacher. πŸ™‚ All the other Reacher books I’ve read (nearly 20) were from the library.

      And thank you for the cat congratulations! I agree — having a kitty is wonderful. I’m glad that Missy has been such a positive in your life!


  5. Speaking of movies about people of weight, Dave, you mentioned John Candy. I just adored him in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” as well as “Cool Runnings.” So sad that he died much too young. But it’s very true that women of weight are not treated as well as men, although it was good to see Melissa McCarthy doing so well in her career in films and TV. Who will be able to forget her as Sean Spicer on SNL?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, John Candy died way too young. Yes also, women of weight are the subject of more bias than men of weight. Great that Melissa McCarthy has surmounted that, to an extent. And her Sean Spicer was AMAZING! (And hilarious.)


  6. I’m listening to a Linda Randstad album before she lost her voice — so sad, as well as Karen Carpenter, one of my very favorite voices ever. If I believed in a heaven, which I don’t, but these two would be in a heavenly choir somewhere, along with Judy Collins, Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell.

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    • Well, I misspelled Linda Rondstadt’s last name, as is corrected here and now I’m listening to the gorgeous voice of Nina Simone, I’m sorry I left her off my list. What a great singer!

      Liked by 1 person

        • That would be quite a choir, Kat Lib! I might add Annie Haslam, Sarah Vaughan, Natalie Merchant, Judith Durham (of The Seekers), and a few others. πŸ™‚

          And, as you know, Nina Simone was recently voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — with the induction ceremony this April! She was of course not really a rock singer, but it’s still great for her to get this posthumous recognition. The Moody Blues also got in, which I’m very happy about.


          • Yes, I did see that and am pleased about both of those selections. However, Dave, I just noticed that I misspelled Linda Ronstadt’s (again!) in my previous correction of her name. Good grief, you’re probably thinking that I’ve been nipping at the egg-nog too much; however, I only tried once to drink that and found it fairly disgusting! πŸ™‚

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          • I’m not sure, but I first heard it on an album of hers at my brother’s home in Rockport (on Cape Ann) in 1967. I now have a CD of her recordings for a certain label from 1960 to 1990, so WITW is noted as having been released in 1960. On that same visit my brother also introduced me to the music of Sandy Bull and Eric Andersen, and also went out to buy Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, in my honor.

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            • Way off-topic here, but it’s a fascinating story about Eric Andersen and how the master tapes of his album from the 70’s, “Stages,” were somehow lost, and weren’t found until 1989 in a vault at Columbia Records. It was finally released in 1991 under the title of “Stages: The Lost Album,” along with a few new songs, some with Shawn Colvin singing backup. It’s truly a great recording, between his earlier songs with backup from Joan Baez, Leon Russell and Dan Fogelberg, and the newer ones as mentioned before. It’s hard to imagine how difficult it would be if one’s records or books or paintings inextricably get lost and it certainly damaged his career.

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              • Devastating to have lost those master tapes, or any piece of art — whether it be music, a manuscript, etc. Nice when the creations are sometimes eventually found, but there’s still all those years of regret and frustration.


              • As I was an archivist in the latter daze of my careen in the music business, I know something about the storage conditions and record-keeping of that record label– there was a story going around years ago that found behind a door after several decades were Robert Johnson masters (probably metal)!– they were so lost nobody remembered having seen them, or noticed the door itself…it’s one of the drawbacks to having given over such responsibilities to a commercial storage facility that mostly made sure corporate business records were kept for the legal time required.

                And I did hear one I liked even better, and I heard it from the librarian’s manager, so I know it’s true: in the 1990’s,a tape library employee happened to also be a jazz enthusiast, and noticed something strange yet familiar about the titles of the Mac Davis masters he was cataloging– they were Miles Davis masters, carelessly mis-labeled and thus, ‘missing’ for years! Guy got a bonus of several thousand dollars from the producer of the resulting release.(In that instance, the fault lay with the label employees and not the storage facility..)

                But that storage facility also housed property belonging to the company that employed me, for which my library was billed monthly. After realizing they had mis-labeled and lied about everything they had of ours for the purpose of charging higher fees, I pulled everything out of there, and never had cause for regret.

                Lastly, I was an acquaintance for a time of Mr. Eric Andersen’s, and spent an afternoon with him and some friends in Woodstock New York on the porch of a damn good French restaurant, playing guitars and singing, being periodically supplied with food and drink by the proprietors. Lovely!

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                  • Yep– and it’s one of the thoughts I can’t entirely shake whenever I see something old and and strange and rare in thrift shops or for sale on the streets.. I could probably empty my apartment by as much as an eighth in volume if I only knew responsible and interested parties to whom I might send such stuff as I find.

                    Collectors and storage facilities do what they do, and well, mostly, but it only takes a season of inattention or calamity and all is lost. A famous rock band had ownership of its masters written into its recording contract, and for many years, the tapes were safe, but then the owner of storage place died, there was trouble over who owned the place and then a flood— nearly nothing but what its record label had kept (all copies) remain, from which all re-releases for the group have originated.

                    My father’s collection of books in his field, now safely housed in a few rooms in his university library, is considered one of the best outside the country from which they came. He rescued things from the street sellers, from attics, from bookstores, etc., and brought them to the US– but he had a leaky basement, and went through a period, around retirement age, when he lost interest in the stuff. For all the care and zeal he had in his youth, his inattention caused damage– ironically, just the sort of damage that inspired him to collect so much in the first place. Fortunately, nearly all was reversible, but it demonstrates how, even among those with good intentions, things can go awry.

                    Humans tend to destroy even their own history over time– nowadays, even a shopping list from 1320 would be worth a dissertation— because nearly everything– 99% I’d bet– is gone forever.

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                    • Great observation in your last paragraph, jhNY. Yes, almost everything — especially everyday items — is going to disappear into the dustbin of history.

                      Sorry about the tribulations your father’s amazing collection eventually went through, but glad a lot of it was saved.

                      I’m a bit of a pack rat, and have kept a number of pretty old things, but a LOT is gone. Many moves, and now in a smaller place than my previous place. Plus my mother years ago threw out (without telling me) a bunch of my things — a nearly complete set of Beatles cards, at least 10 “Bat Day” miniature bats I got at Yankee Stadium with the signatures of 1960s Yankee players, etc. Such a cliche that a parent would throw away a kid’s stuff.

                      I’d LOVE to see a shopping list from 1320 for A&P (Ancient & Precious).


                • Thanks, jhNY, especially because most people I know never even heard of him, although quite a few well-known musicians recorded his songs. However, I’m not surprised that you’d be the one who knew him and even had the chance to play guitar with him. What a wonderful memory!

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                  • Another weird memory about music. Back in the 1980’s I went to a local video and music store to buy David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” CD, and when I went to listen to it, it became apparent that the wrong CD, which was actually by Thomas Dolby, was put into Bowie’s CD jewel case, appropriately labeled, but just wrong even though sealed in plastic wrap. I immediately took it back to the store and got into a minor spat with the clerk, and I remember saying to him, “Look, I know David Bowie’s voice and this is not him.” He finally agreed to give me a new copy of “Let’s Dance,” which I checked out thoroughly before leaving the store. How would that ever happen?

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  7. Merry Christmas to you and your family, Dave, and to all of the readers here who celebrate the holiday.

    The first character I thought of was Ignatius J, but you beat me to it. Am I remembering correctly that his mother was also not stick-figure thin?

    The next character I thought of was Augustus Gloop from Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. (FYI, they changed the title for the Gene Wilder movie. I’m not sure why.) All of the kids who won Golden Tickets had addictions – chewing gum, TV, being spoilt, and in the case of Augustus – food. I highly recommend reading Dahl if you haven’t already. I particularly like “Danny the Champion of the World”.

    Speaking of kids fiction, did you ever read Pullman’s “His Dark Materials”? I’ve just learnt that there is a new book, and so I’m re-reading the first trilogy. I’d forgotten just how good they are.

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    • Thanks for the comment, Susan, and Merry Christmas to you, too!

      I think you’re right about the mother of Ignatius. Heredity is certainly a factor in things like that…

      After you and “Shallow Reflections” brought up/highly recommended works by Roald Dahl, I should look for something by him. So many renowned writers I haven’t gotten to — for years or at all.

      I have not read Pullman (yet). I’m currently reading James Michener’s “Caravans,” set in 1946 Afghanistan. It is a TERRIFIC novel.


      • I’ve not read Michener before. I’m still getting through “The Brothers Karamazov” which is nowhere near as page turning as “Crime and Punishment”.

        Roald Dahl’s very easy to read. You could probably get through a shorter book like “George’s Marvelous Medicine” in a day or so. I wonder if Maria would be interested in them? It might be something you can read together, or is she too old for that?

        In my previous comment I forgot to mention Stephen King’s “Thinner” about an overweight man who mysteriously (does King know any other way?) loses a lot of weight. Maybe too much…

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        • Thanks, Susan! Since writing this column, I read James Michener’s “Caravans.” Wow — it’s great. Shorter than most of his novels (under 350 pages), but riveting. Set in 1946 Afghanistan. I’ll be mentioning it in my next column.

          Yes, “The Brothers Karamazov” is not as page-turning as “Crime and Punishment.” But, overall, still an amazing novel. I’d be interested in hearing what you think when you finish! The scene with the devil is one of my favorites in all of literature.

          Will let you know if I try Dahl. And “Thinner” does sound like another King novel well worth reading! He is indeed a master of the mysterious. πŸ™‚


  8. Ho-Ho-Howdy, Dave!

    β€” What are some of your favorite works with elements of body weight? β€”

    Because I believe people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, I won’t make any jokes at the expanse of the beloved title character of Herman Melville’s β€œMoby-Dick,” who tips the scales at an estimated 125,663.49 pounds. Of course, it is likely a certain amount of this avoirdupois is just water weight.

    (By Moby’s standards, the also-beloved title character of Clement Clarke Moore’s β€œA Visit From St. Nicholas” is clearly a lightweight.)

    Happy Holidays!

    J.J. (Alias MugRuith1)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, J.J.! Greatly enjoyed your comment, and Happy Holidays to you, too!

      Yes, if we expand this discussion to non-humans, Moby-Dick is quite a weighty character (in pounds and symbolism). Of course, anyone drinking too many lattes at an outlet of the Starbucks coffee chain named after the Starbuck character in Melville’s novel will also put on some ounces, but will fortunately not be the target of Queequeg’s harpoon…


      • I will expand on this expansion, by citing the pet of an author:

        Manly Wade Wellman and his wife Frances had a Siamese cat named Jimmy, grown huge around thanks to their generous care,a real temple cat type, with crossed eyes and a kinked tail. When he jumped from the piano bench to the floor, you could feel the shock through the soles of your feet even if you were seated several feet away. Though I never saw in him any signs of the hunter, I doubt, had he wished to catch a mouse, he could have sneaked up on even a deaf one.

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  9. This is about someone very large, strong and heavy, only difference this is a real story of a four legged.

    Looks like Tucker, but don`t know his breed.

    One lady a neighbor, 90 plus a few years ago driving with her daughter and saw him on the highway, the daughter went back and brought him home with them and named him Tucker. Since then, Tucker is Miss. Mimi`s constant companion and now the lady is home-bound with angel-care , after hip surgery and what not.
    Tucker, believe it or not is big and strong and wants to be a lap dog.

    Yesterday I was going to visit Mimi with a box of chocolates, angel-care asked my name from the door and Tucker snuck away. She panicked and so did I, Mimi pleaded with me , please get Tucker back. Tucker trotted along in my neighborhood toward the creek and this handsome man playing ball with his stepson. Was visiting his mom from Seattle.
    He got hold of Tucker, the angel-care woman walked back Tucker home holding his collier. He trotted back with her and did not resist.

    Funny as i was 30 ft behind, Tucker looked back once if I am following.

    I am still so grateful to get Tucker back to Mimi and that young man was godsend,
    I wrote to his mom Cathy with my gratitude.

    It could have been a disaster but we were saved with grace ❀ ❀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing, Bebe. I love animal stories with a happy ending. My feline fur baby has been a bit out of sorts with me being home during the day. I went out the other day and she wasn’t in her usual spot. Assuming she was upstairs asleep, I left without saying goodbye, as I didn’t want to disturb her. I returned home an hour or two later and she wasn’t at the door to greet me. I called out, but nothing. I went upstairs, but she wasn’t on the bed or any of her usual spots. I came back downstairs, starting to worry. I had a better look under the table etc, still calling out to her, but still nothing. It’s been really hot here and I was seriously starting to worry that perhaps she’d gotten really sick – or worse – in the heat. I was about to go upstairs again to have a better look when she walked around the corner looking half asleep. I’m not sure where she’d been, under the bed maybe, but I was so relieved. Such a stressful 90 seconds that I wouldn’t wish on anyone!

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      • Sue and bebe, I know quite well that moment of panic when you can’t find one of your pets, or someone else’s that you feel responsible for. I was pet-sitting a friend’s kitten in my home years ago (an apartment in an older home next door to a bowling alley — not one of my nicer abodes) when they went down to the shore for a weekend. That Sunday, I went out to run some errands and when I got back, my cat was very relaxed, napping on the sofa, but their kitten was nowhere to be found. I was so panicked that I went through every room five times, went out and walked around the block several times, when finally I had to call my friends at the shore and they immediately drove up. We literally ransacked my apartment to no avail, then I got in touch with the owner of the bowling alley, and we made our way downstairs into the basement that I had access to. At last, we heard a very soft “Meow” coming out of the ductwork, and the owner said, “Is this your cat?” and we were saying, well, who else’s could it be? Hugs all around! Afterwards we discovered there was a very small hole in the floor of my bedroom closet, so small that only a tiny kitten could get through into the basement.

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      • I could relate to your panic as you kitty was not in her usual spot.
        More I thing about Tucker more I thank my stars, how Ms, Mimi and so many of us were saved by having Tucker back home. He is so big and strong it would be totally impossible for us to get him back.
        Now terrible frigid winter has set in hope they are all comfortable with Tucker Mimi`s granddaughter is home from TX with three kids and another dog who Tucker hates. So I imagine Tucker is in his own rook with a front view window with a sofa and a large bed πŸ™‚

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        • Speaking of frigid weather, bebe, my new cat Misty is a bit frustrated that I can’t keep the windows open as wide as usual until things warm up outside a bit. My apartment is overheated (I have no control over that) and I can keep the windows open pretty wide in the winter unless it’s as cold as it’s been the past few days.

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          • Misty is so very cute Maria`s I suppose !
            Apartment overheated ? That`s not good at all, why do they do that I wonder.
            Decided not to go anywhere next few days, did some groceries yesterday also hubby did some today,
            Why struggle outside if I could stay in.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Thank you, bebe! Misty IS very cute. (And after three weeks of trial and error, I finally found some wet food today that he absolutely loves. πŸ™‚ ) Maria named him, and he’s sort of her cat and sort of the whole household’s cat.

              Good question about the overheated apartment. Not sure why that’s done; certainly a waste of energy — and it forces me to wear short-sleeved shirts even in the winter. But we get plenty of fresh air with the windows open.

              Great idea to stay in as much as possible. I couldn’t quite pull that off today, but wanted to… πŸ™‚

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  10. Dave, you mentioned the book by Lionel Shriver, “Big Brother,” which was very much about weight and diets, and I was floored by the ending as you noted. Also, I’ve read “She’s Come Undone,” by Wally Lamb that Kira mentioned and was extremely well written and quite interesting.

    Probably the best possible mystery character I can come up with is Nero Wolfe in the series written by Rex Stout. Wolfe, who weighs perhaps between 310-390 lbs., rarely leaves his very luxurious Brownstone in NYC, and spends his time very routinely in his office, reading, tending to his orchids in his greenhouse on the top floor of his home, and conferring with his chef Fritz on the gourmet meals for the day. The series is narrated by Archie Goodwin, who is his assistant and resident “gumshoe,” who does all the legwork in solving crimes, but it is of course Wolfe who always comes up with the brilliant deductions.

    The other one I can think of is Hercule Poirot, by Agatha Christie, while not obese, was portly as portrayed by David Suchet, although I’ve not seen the new movie out “Murder on the Orient Express,” in which Kenneth Branagh plays Poirot. I’m not sure I want to see the movie, because as I’ve mentioned before, Suchet is the perfect Poirot.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Kat Lib!

      I’ve never read any of the Nero Wolfe series, and thus didn’t know he was rather on the large side. Seems like he had a VERY nice arrangement doing the deducing while his assistant did the legwork. We should all be so lucky. πŸ™‚

      The only time I’ve seen Hercule Poirot portrayed on screen was in the 1970s movie version of “Murder on the Orient Express.” Just looked at a photo, and he was perhaps depicted as a bit heavy. Same might be said of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple as portrayed by Margaret Rutherford. Marple and Poirot were defined by their brains and character, not by their looks — a very good thing.


      • Yes, exactly, Dave. My favorite Miss Marple was the diminutive Joan Hickson, and David Suchet as Poirot, and their size didn’t matter at all. Whereas, Nero Wolfe was mostly defined by his weight, otherwise, why would he stay in his home almost all the time and leave the narration to his assistant. Most of the time whenever he did leave home, it had something to do with orchids or most especially food (of the gourmet persuasion). There was a wonderful TV series back in the early 2000’s that portrayed the mysteries as being between the 1940’s and 1950’s, starring Maury Chaykin as Wolfe and Timothy Hutton as Archie Goodwin. I fell in love with the Brownstown, that was so faithful to the books, that if I could buy it I would — ha!

        Btw, the only presents that needed opening today were the stockings for Willow and Jessie, the same stockings for both other than one was pink and the other blue. The fleece balls in each were destroyed within five minutes by Willow. So, there you go…

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        • Great that you’ve seen those Agatha Christies detectives played by various people (of various sizes)!

          Yes, definitely a reason for Nero Wolfe having to mostly stay home. And some of those NYC brownstones are amazing (I’ve been in a few here and there).

          Ha — some presents for pets don’t last long! Our new cat didn’t take to his gift this morning (a long furry thingie for him to play with), so it’s totally intact. πŸ™‚ 😦


          • Now that the balls are gone, Willow has gone back to doing her favorite thing, pulling out the stuffing from her doggie bed, though she’s still partial to her two orange balls (tennis ball size), fortunately made out of a material she can’t destroy. I do feel grateful that she’s not destructive when it comes to anything else, at least not that I’m aware of, because my best friend has a dog who has a thing for chewing up her favorite shoes, or one of a pair, but that really doesn’t matter when it comes to shoes. πŸ™‚ Also, congrats on your new cat!

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            • Thank you for the cat congratulations, Kat Lib! Misty, who joined us 18 days ago, is doing great!

              Sorry that Willow has a bit of a destructive streak, but glad it’s limited. I imagine she’s trying to figure out how to destroy those two orange balls; a good reason for any person with a pet to keep the dynamite hidden. πŸ™‚


    • Love that comment, Almost Iowa! The Ignatius character certainly got himself into some interesting scenarios, including working a hot-dog cart — apparently based on Toole’s own hot-tamale-cart experience, as you know.


      • God knows why, but there were, around the turn of the 19th into the 20th century, many hot tamale carts in evidence in New York City, manned by vendors in white uniforms, but these tamales were less than met the eye, and were not, their name notwithstanding authentic Mexican fare, nor were they sold by Mexicans. Purportedly chicken-filled, they were spicy and contained cornmeal– but no chicken. “They are a bogus lilliputian imitation of the thing they are supposed to be, but they have the merits of cleanliness and cheapness and one of the virtues of pioneers in that they will ‘blaze the way’ for the genuine article should New Yorkers ever acquire the taste for them, as New Yorkers undoubtedly will”, according to an 1894 newspaper article I found on the topic.

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          • Some had minced veal in them, though which, and if advertised as such, I don’t know… the article implied that the tamale phenomenon was the work of a CA company, which supplied uniforms and uniformity to the vendors– though obviously, the uniformity did not always extend to contents.

            There were a few Mexicans in New York at the time– more during and after the revolution got underway. I had a business card around that advertised a Mexican restaurant in Sheridan Square, printed, by the looks of it, in the late teens or early 1920’s that I found among my grandafather’s papers. He came to the US around 1917. The business card made the claim that the restaurant was the only one featuring authentic Mexican cuisine in all NYC. My bet is: my Mexican grandfather knew the proprietor, and ate there, which is all the proof of authenticity I require.

            Hard to imagine that there was a time that Mexican food was a rarity here– or anywhere in the US. The turn-of-the-century hot tamales that weren’t were vended by non-Mexicans– if I recall from other reading correctly, most vendors were Irish!

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            • More fascinating history, jhNY! Thanks! So much for my vegetarian fantasy about those tamales… πŸ™‚

              Yes, hard to believe Mexican food was once a rarity in (and around) NYC. I guess “ethnic” restaurants in general weren’t a huge thing a century and more ago in the U.S., though various immigrant groups of course had their own cuisines at home.

              Reminds me of a great scene (which I might have mentioned before) from Darryl Brock’s page-turning baseball/time-travel novel “If I Never Get Back.” Sam, the book’s 20th-century protagonist, has traveled back in time to 1869, and he gets totally sick of all the bland “continental cuisine” type of food he has to eat. So he overpays a Chinese family he meets to cook him a big meal, and Sam is thrilled with the results.


  11. I love Raold Dahl books and the first character that popped into my head thinking of this topic was Veronica from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I have read She’s Come Undone and it was excellent. I haven’t read β€œGilbert Grape” and I must put it on my to-read list which is getting longer every time I read your blog, Dave.

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    • Thank you, Shallow Reflections, for those book mentions! I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever read Raold Dahl — I must have. Maybe “Matilda”? But not “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” which somehow I’ve never gotten to!

      I hear you about reading lists getting longer. Also happens to me every time I read the comments section under my posts. πŸ™‚

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  12. Dave I have β€œ The Midnight Line” the latest by Lee Child. So far I’ve read about 40 some pages, going good though. Jack Reacher is big and strong just floored 6 big men one at a time.
    On a interesting thought some of us tried to imagine how should he look like ? Not Tom Cruse of course.
    Latety with Prince Harry and his romance with this absolutely gorgeous lady Megan ( move over Ivanka) I was thinking the Prince as Reacher just 15 some years older. No ?

    Liked by 1 person

  13. When I was reading “Of Mice and Men”, I got the impression that simple-minded Lennie was large and ungainly, although I don’t really know if he was obese.

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    • Sorry, John, but the author of ‘Gilbert Grape’ is Peter Hedges, not Robert Hedges. It is an outstanding novel. The casting of the film was inspired. The casting of Darlene Cates was outstanding but I was curious what else she had done. I saw on IMDB that she only showed up on a few TV series like ‘Picket Fences’ and ‘Touched by an Angel’ after making ‘Gilbert Grape’. In fact, she was spotted by Peter Hedges on an episode of Sally Jesse Raphael titled ‘Too Heavy to Leave the House’ and he asked her to play the mother. I saw that she died in March of this year of ‘natural causes’ although she was only 69. In that case, the actor and character blended and fact and fiction blurred.

      BTW, to Dave and all of you fellow Davesters, have a fantastic Christmas or whatever holiday you want to honor over the next couple of weeks.

      Liked by 1 person

        • That’s very interesting/kind of sad information about Darlene Cates, Brian. Heavyset actresses are certainly not treated well by sexist Hollywood; heavyset male entertainers (Jackie Gleason, John Candy, etc.) fare better.

          Thank you for the holiday wishes, and very Happy Holidays to you, too!


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