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Two Girls, Fat and Thin
Mary Gaitskill
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Two Girls, Fat and Thin

3.60  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,473 Ratings  ·  134 Reviews
Justine, a beautiful, lonely, sexually addicted young woman, meets Dorothy, fat, maladjusted, and unhappy since childhood. They are superficially a study in contrasts yet share equally haunting sexual burdens carried since youth. With common secrets, they are drawn into a remarkable friendship.
Published July 14th 1993 by Vintage (first published 1991)
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Nov 02, 2009 Ian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Yes Sir!: The All-Boy Maid Service
I love Mary Gaitskill. This is her first novel. This book is structurally flawed, but I think the flaw is due to her focus and the material and probably unavoidable. (Her second novel, Veronica, is a diamond.) The prose is flawless. Her observations are incisive, honest, vicious, hilarious, and penetrating. And oddly comforting. I have read this book at least four or five times and don't doubt that I'll read it again.

I dock a star not so much for the aforementioned structural problems but becaus
May 03, 2007 Emily rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mary Gaitskill is one of my favorite authors. Her stories and novels are frightening, dark, and revealing. Her characters are often cruel, scared, ugly, and in pain. But they also seem familiar somehow, and sympathetic even when they should be unlikeable. Gaitskill's "girls" in this novel are developed through vignettes about their childhoods interspersed with present interactions between themselves and with others. I love this book especially for its satire of Ayn Rand (Anna Granite) and Object ...more
Apr 13, 2015 Nicole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had some fixed ideas about what this book would be about when I started it. I thought it would be about Ayn Rand, and I thought it would be about sexual abuse. And I guess it sort of is, but I think that these descriptions do not do it justice.

In fact, what it seems to me the novel is really about is cruelty. Cruelty and weakness. Cruelty and weakness as they are somehow inscribed into the very fabric of society, of school, of families, of sex, of children. Of course, Ayn Rand is about that to
Jan 24, 2015 rachel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010, own, lady-lit
With the caveat that I would probably not choose to read this a second time: this is a dense, dark, dramatic (but not unrealistic) look at the traumas of girlhood, in all of their forms. As one might expect from the title, Gaitskill's major points of exploration are body image, sexuality, and gendered power struggles, all sort of brilliantly set against the backdrop of a fictional Ayn Rand character and her work.

The most recommendable thing about this book is Gaitskill's writing. She's a writer
alyssa carver
i turned to this in order to escape from Blood Meridian (which i hate a lot and think i might not finish at all), and at first it was refreshing to encounter female characters with interiority and subjective emotions, etc. for some reason, father-daughter sexual abuse is more palatable to me than diseased horses with swollen heads and drunk white dudes who kill random mexicans for no reason.

i read this quickly and remained fully engaged even on crowded subway rides. but in retrospect, i am not s
Oct 20, 2007 Jeremy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ayn rand fans AND haters, shrinks, and survivors of child abuse
In the first 3 pages of this book, i was ready to put it down. I found the prose self-consciously disinterested, the metaphors forced, and the characters unlikable. However, I had promised a good friend I would read it so I kept on. About page 20 the book got into a great rhythm. The narrators dual voice co-alesced as the main characters took shape. When the narrative began to sweep backward, through the childhoods of the "two girls", the book became one of those rare windows into the strange em ...more
Mar 21, 2007 M rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Utterly depressing. I appreciate, from a literary standpoint, what Gaitskill is trying to achieve, but after I read this book I pretty much wished I hadn't. She is a much stronger short story writer, in my opinion.
I chose Two Girls, Fat and Thin for our book club (The League of Unreliable Narrators, aka #Chicagiforifiction) because I hadn't read any Mary Gaitskill, and I'd heard good things about both this, her debut novel, and her breakout short story collection, Bad Behavior. I didn't know much except that it had some pretty explicit S&M, and was partially about an Ayn Rand-like writer and political thinker named Anna Granite. So, off we went into the woods of self-hate and Definitism.

To start with,
Apr 24, 2007 ruzmarì rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: romansdegare
There's something about this book that you just don't want to put down, and something about it that you really don't want to touch. It's a long story of dysjunction and marginalization, self-torture and the ways people manage to hurt each other and somehow still find common ground. Gaitskill has a predilection for the eerie blurriness of sexuality, the place where tenderness and pathology intersect, and loneliness lies down with brutality. These shadowy encounters make up the economy of human re ...more
Mar 19, 2009 Vivien rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: grokked
Just finished this today, and was sad to let these two characters go. This is a traumatising book about two traumatised women, and it has no real resolution, like life itself. The book is fundamentally about people who fail to connect with anyone in their lives, despite being sensitive, intelligent, and monumentally lonely.

I am irritated by the cover blurb that calls the book "darkly erotic." I guess any time a woman writes about sex in an open, noneuphmetistic manner, that's "erotic." Clearly,
Dec 20, 2013 Zanna rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
An encounter between two socially disparate and incompatible women is precipitated by their separate interests in an Ayn Rand-like writer-philosopher figure, bringing their parallel histories, linked preoccupations and complementary psyches into unexpected focus, and instigating new phases in both lives.

My impatience with this disturbing convergent narrative and its heavy, sensual language mounted and finally evaporated as I realised that reading it had given me one of the benefits de Botton cla
Rhiannon VanBlaricom

This was an ugly story about a woman who is a follower of "Anna Granite" (a very thinly disguised Ayn Rand) and the reporter who interviews her for a story about Granite followers. Both women have abuse histories and problems with intimacy. I couldn't find one character to like. The story was ugly, the ending was ugly, the philosophy was ugly. Disgusting all the way around. Just write something about Ayn Rand and her ugliness in the beginning without creating these depressing and hopeless ch
It's a good first novel but it has very weak points. The characters have moments of being real, but also long periods of being completely one-dimensional. We get it - one girl is fat, one is thin - but despite their physical differences they connect.

The Ayn Rand stuff didn't do much for me, but I thought Justine's journey was interesting enough to make it through the story. If you want to watch a good writer develop into a great writer, read this along with some of Gaitskill's later works. But o
Marie Chow
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 19, 2015 Chasity rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
The book is about a freelance journalist looking to do an article on the founder of the Definist movement who interviews the narrator whose entire 'sane life' has been based on her teachings. The book traces the lives of the girls - now women - highlighting their differences and yet some underlying similarities to their histories. It seems unlikely and plausible at the same time that they should become friends or that their lives should mean anything to each other at all. Yet, somehow, they cont ...more
Jan 28, 2016 Amanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is brutal and awful at times. It opened my eyes long ago when I read it, to how truly awful some people are in life and you wouldn't think they would be. Justine interviews Dorothy about her involvement with a cheesy cult leader. They form a friendship despite such differences. Dorothy is a fat proofreader with a lurid imagination and Justine is smart slim and compulsively sexual. What makes the book eye opening is the sexual abuse and rape Dorothy received as a girl, and the destructi ...more
Elisha Bilsborough
This book is the best sort of book in that it leaves you seeing and feeling the world differently when you put it down. Briefly, this book is about loneliness and about our human attempts to cope with it through philosophy, sex, abuse, and a dozen other things. More broadly, this book does a wonderful job of poking fun at Ayn Rand while still acknowledging the many ways in which her philosophy serves us both culturally and as individuals. Now, I'm aware that that last sentence makes the book sou ...more
Ellice Switzer
This is one for the ladies...but it's not "chick lit" crap. It's dark, but very good.
Nov 07, 2008 Lauren rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this years ago and stil remember the almost visceral power of Gaitskill's style.
Jan 17, 2016 Tracy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
more like a 2.5. admired the writing but not crazy about the story
Kane S.
Nov 03, 2015 Kane S. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quote from USA Today braces the lower portion of the front cover of the edition of Two Girls, Fat and Thin, by Mary Gaitskill that was sent to me to read: The quote says "Darkly, erotically compelling." I agree with darkly and I absolutely agree with compelling. As for erotic, I find the use of that term regarding this book, overall, to call into question the reviewer's sanity. More likely that line simply sounded good and like a way to sum up the novel smartly. It also works from a marketing ...more
Mar 10, 2015 Alison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who liked "Gone Girl"
Shelves: 2015-read
The story is too long for this novel. Especially the parts about Definitism-- I found myself skipping over a lot of that material. The genius of this novel lies in the backstory of the two protagonists and the way she partially resolves their loneliness at the very end.

In some ways I feel like this is what "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn is trying to do (Gaitskill apparently ripped it to shreds). *Two Girls* tears open the dark underside of humanity and gives us all a look, she exposes the parts o
Jeremy Baker
Oct 04, 2012 Jeremy Baker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like giant robots. I like Batman. I like hard sci-fi, demon-hunters, and yes, even certain vampire flicks. Mary Gaitskill remains one of our great modern masters in part for her ability to compel my attention using none of these elements.

The title lays down all the groundwork in Two Girls, Fat and Thin. There's a girl who's fat, and a girl who's thin. They have coffee together. They talk. They to to war over an article the thin girl is writing about the work of Anna Granite and how it changed
Oct 17, 2013 Dennis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read a lot of Mary Gaitskill. In fact, her short story, "Girl on the Plane," is the only other Gaitskill work I've read. Based on the strength of that story, however, I picked up this novel. I had some reservations because I normally don't like sex in fiction (I also don't like to read about drug use and rock & roll) -- and Gaitskill relies on sex and S&M heavily in her works. It's as if she has no other lens through which to explore her themes. No matter. Her writing chops mad ...more
Jun 20, 2008 Daisy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: swooningly-good
A friend of mine who is an avid reader with nearly impeccable taste had recommended that I read the entire catalogue of her work, so when I ran across this book, I decided to give it a try.

Now, I'm no expert, but the story is centered around a dead writer whose books and individually driven philosophy closely resemble those and that of Ayn Rand. The two central characters (one fat, one thin) have lived lives running strangely parallel, though they were on opposite sides of a similar experience (
Laura  Yan
It's always Gaitskill's observant writing, her sexy smarts that make her novels & stories so worthwhile. Tw Girls, Fat and Thin is engaging more because of the fascinating development of the characters's backstories and lives and for the singsong moments of her writing than any grand gesture or meaning, but is a fast and addictive read of escapism.

As always, her depiction of sadomasochism veers toward the subversive, always with very very damaged characters (a bit ironic considering the spe
Jul 25, 2011 Kezia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary
I am a fan of Gaitskill's dark themes, and unlike other reviewers I don't find it exploitative to cover child sexual abuse or sadomasochism in a novel.

It's easy to care for nice characters, warm characters, and average characters who do extraordinary, heroic things. Gaitskill has the ability to make us care for characters who aren't especially nice people, who don't do extraordinary things, and who have deeply rooted problems such as the "girls" (women) whose stories we hear.

I enjoyed the mock
Mar 18, 2015 Justin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was awesome, and I mean that in the true sense of the word: It inspired in me great feelings of awe and terror. Is this really what life is like for little girls and young women? I have a bad feeling that it is, and that makes me really, really happy to have grown up as a guy.

As far as the writing goes, the prose is classic Gaitskill, razor sharp, and the stories of the two main characters were very compelling. It's not quite my favorite work of hers, and I got a little bored with the
Jun 10, 2015 Kathryn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gaitskill's first novel is dense and dark and fiercely evocative. It depicts two very different yet similar women who eventually bond in a way neither one has experienced. Both have endured abusive childhoods, and are connected by their mutual interest in a once influential novelist. The story is simple enough, but Gaitskill's writing is sophisticated and precise; she has a talent for fully submerging her audience into the internal lives of her characters. This book is not for everybody, and I m ...more
May 27, 2014 Vani rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know if anyone else could have pulled off this book. The plot (a journalist interviewing a devotee of an Ayn-Rand-esque author/philosopher) and theme (aforementioned philosophy) aren't the most interesting things on earth, and the characters aren't particularly likeable, but what kept me reading is just the depth and weirdness that Mary Gaitskill brings to her writing. Insights into the female mind, explications of pain. I haven't seen any other literary writers do it quite like she does ...more
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Mary Gaitskill is an American author of essays, short stories and novels. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine, Esquire, The Best American Short Stories (1993 and 2006), and The O. Henry Prize Stories (1998). She married writer Peter Trachtenberg in 2001. As of 2005, she lived in New York City; Gaitskill has previously lived in Toronto, San Francisco, and Marin County, CA, as ...more
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“I shared a dorm room with a beautiful neurotic who clung to her beauty as if it were a chance piece of debris keeping her afloat on a violent sea.” 2 likes
“The most rigid pattern was not the one imposed by the school system or the adolescent social system. It was the pattern I made of the people around me, a mythology for their incomprehensible activity, a mythology that brought me a cramped delight, which I protected by putting all possible space between myself and other people. the boundaries of my inner world did not extend out, but in, so that there was a large area of blank whiteness starting at my most external self and expanding inward until it reached the tiny inner province of dazzling color and activity that it safeguarded.” 1 likes
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