Bed, by David Whitehouse (New York: Scribner, 2011)
"Mal Ede. a child of untamed manners and unbounded curiosity, is the eccentric eldest son of an otherwise typical middle-class family. But as the wonders of childhood fade into the responsibilities of adulthood, Mal's spirits fade too. On his twenty-fifth birthday, disillusioned, Mal goes to bed -- back to his childhood bed -- and never emerges again.
"Narrated by Mal's shy, diligent younger brother, Bed details Mal's subsequent extreme and increasingly grotesque transformation: immobility and a gargantuan appetite combine, over the course of two decades, to make him the fattest man in the world. Despite his seclusion and his refusal to explain his motivations, Mal's condition earns him worldwide notoriety and a cult of followers convinced he is making an important statement about modern life. But Mal's actions will also change the lives of his haunted parents, his brother and the woman they both love, Lou.
"In Bed, David Whitehouse has put a magnifying glass on contemporary society. Hailed as a 'momentous' (The Bookseller) debut in the UK, Bed is a mordantly funny and ultimately redemptive parable about mortality, obesity, celebrity, depression, and the broken promises of adulthood. It is one of the most audacious debut novels in years."
"Asleep he sounds like a pig hunting truffles in soot."
OK but a bit on the underwhelming side. I seem to be saying this a lot, but it was hard to get a good grasp on the characters and their motives. Mal comes off as a spoiled brat (if a deeply troubled one), and both the brother/ narrator (who never does get a name of his own) and their servile, enabling mother are ciphers. I also didn't see a lot of humor here, probably because so much of the description of Mal's condition was so horrifyingly grotesque. Heft was, in my mind, a much stronger book on similar themes.
- Ithaca, New York
- MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.