Writing in the Independent today about the case of the 19-year-old from Merthyr Tydfil who had to be cut out of her house and taken for medical treatment because she had become too large to stand up.
The most tragic thing about her case is the fact that she was put on a hardcore weight loss program in the US, similar to the one in the teen fat camp drama Huge (pictured). She lost fifteen stone, but as soon as she came back home, there was no ongoing support for her, so she put it all back on again. In the context of that, the tabloid hatefest against her has been particularly painful to watch.
I do fear, though, that the only reason I care about this is that I may simply identify with her a little too strongly. There but for the grace…
Novelist Jenny Colgan tweets that someone once put up their hand at a Q&A she was doing at a book festival to ask this immortal question. “Excuse me, but who are you?” I’ve heard this repeatedly from authors. It happens a lot. Even very well-known authors suffer from it, as Colgan proves.
As a reader, though, it’s easy to understand. There are so many authors, so many books, lots of them have similar names… It’s hard to keep up. It’s happened to me with Tim Parks, Kate Grenville, Alexander McCall Smith…
They’ve all been somewhere off my radar until suddenly I have “discovered” them only to find that millions of others “discovered” them before me and they are massively famous and I’m just the last one to turn up at the party wearing the wrong dress and feeling like an idiot.
In some ways, though, I love the idea behind “Excuse me, but who are you?” Why should readers know who someone is just because they’ve written a successful book? We can’t all know about everything.
One of the reasons I got so into Tim Parks – and bought up his entire back catalogue in one mammoth Amazon session – was because I met him at a books event, had no idea who he was, got talking to him and he told me all about his latest book, Teach Us to Sit Still, without expecting me to know anything about what he had done previously. Imagine my embarrassment when I got home, Googled him and realised he had written fourteen successful novels. What a class act not to mention that small detail. Humiliated. Mortified. Fan for life.