A generic adult female goes to the independent bookstore
How many of you have read Dan Brown’s Digital Fortress? Oh, you’re still discussing The DaVinci Code’s contribution to modern religion and too busy debating whether or not ol’ Leonardo liked dressing up like a girl and painting himself while so attired to have moved on. Lemme tell ya, the minute I read the passage describing the, uh, secret ceremony the involved the heroine’s grandpa and grandma, I gave up believing Dan Brown did any research. Yes, I believe that older people engage in bedroom activities, but I draw the line at accepting that such a spectacle would draw a crowd.
Back to Digital Fortress—although this column is not technically about that book. I got so frustrated with the author because his hero, a language professor, and heroine, a high-ranking decrypter for the US government, were EXTREMELY GOOD-LOOKING. What??!! I’ve seen college professors! I even took a college class once, and the teacher was no cabana boy. Ear hair, people. College professors have loads and it’s not conducive to dreamy worship, such as Dave Becker and his computer geek, but sexy-as-all-get-out, girlfriend (and the reader has to endure descriptions of her co-workers thoughts of her and attempts to get her in the sack) are subject to. The only college professor ever that was hot was Indiana Jones—and we all know he wasn’t really a professor; he was an intergalactic mercenary with a hairy sidekick and an itchy trigger finger.
And any woman working in top-top secret code-breaking is going to be homely. I’m sorry to have to say it, but it’s true. If you love math and computers that much, you aren’t going to be spending a lot of time facing the mirror, plucking your black chin hairs and making sure your eyebrows are penciled in evenly.
So are there any novels a chubby girl can read and not simultaneously hate the characters? There are few out there, indeed, that extol the virtues of the fat lady.
But fret not, for I have found (thanks to my trusty sister-in-law—who is a thin person but I love her anyway— Hi, mother of Annabelle, the cutest baby on earth!) a series of books where the main character is “generously proportioned” and is not an idiot or the object of ridicule or has major personality disorders because of her weight. The series begins with The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, and comprises five books, written by Alexander McCall Smith. The protagonist, and lady detective of size, is Mma Ramotswe (the books are set in Botswana, so if you read it, you’ll have to get used to some neuron-twisting names) and the books chronicle her adventures as a woman, a business owner, a fiancée, a foster mother, and genteel woman of southern Africa. I love her attitude about her size:
“What had she to be embarrassed about? She thought hard. Her weight was hardly a confidential matter, and anyway, she was proud of being a traditionally built African lady, unlike these terrible, stick-like creatures one saw in the advertisements.” (p. 195, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency)
“She was a traditionally built lady, after all, and she did not have to worry about dress size, unlike those poor neurotic people who were always looking in mirrors and thinking they were too big. What was too big, anyway? Who was to tell another person what size they should be? It was a form of dictatorship, by the thin, and she was not having any of it. If these thin people became anymore insistent, then the more generously sized people would just have to sit on them. Yes, that would teach them. Hah!” (pp. 214-215, Morality for Beautiful Girls)
Along with real people for characters, I need humor to find a book enjoyable. The humor in these books is subtle, but it is present:
“Now constipation was quite a different matter. It would be dreadful for the whole world to know about troubles of that nature. [Mma Ramotswe] felt terribly sorry for people who suffered from constipation, and she knew that there were many who did. There were probably enough of them to form a political party—with a chance of government perhaps—but what would such a party do if it was in power? Nothing, she imagined. It would try to pass legislation, but would fail.” (p. 195, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency)
Mma Ramotswe has a secretary for her detective business and it’s a running theme that she is a very smart and efficient worker (even though she consults with her shoes at the end of book 5 (The Full Cupboard of Life)—and they talk back, but respectfully, calling her “Boss”). As her character was wont to deduce in Morality for Beautiful Girls (and I agree with this theory wholeheartedly), “You can cultivate your mind, or you can cultivate your hairstyle. But you cannot do both.” (p 185)
Somebody needs to reveal this little nugget of reality to Dan Brown.