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Two Girls, Fat and Thin

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  1,761 ratings  ·  162 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.
Paperback, 320 pages
Published February 27th 1998 by Simon Schuster (first published 1991)
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3.63  · 
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 ·  1,761 ratings  ·  162 reviews

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Sep 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Mary Gaitskill's first novel centres on the meeting and subsequent unconventional friendship between 'two girls' (women, but I'll let that pass because a large chunk of the book is about their experiences of growing up) – Dorothy Never ('fat') and Justine Shade ('thin'). Justine is a part-time journalist who places an ad looking for devotees of the novelist Anna Granite and her philosophy of Definitism – very thinly veiled stand-ins for Ayn Rand and Objectivism. Dorothy, who was not only an acol ...more
May 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Helen McClory
This book punches you repeatedly in the solar plexus with the full force of human horribleness. It's also about sympathy, connection, and understanding.
Apr 08, 2014 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
alyssa carver
Jun 16, 2009 rated it liked it
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
May 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
I liked this intimate look at two women, both ill-at-ease in the world, who make a strange connection. We get very close to them from childhood on, and their encounters with each other vibrate with their past experiences. Dorothy was an abused child, while Justine was both abused and an abuser, but one whose flashes of empathy leave her open to redemption.
The story takes off after Justine, a freelance journalist/secretary, contacts Dorothy for an interview about "Definitism," the philosophy of
Jul 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
yeah this book really wrecked me in an important way even though I can't articulate how yet
I just want you all to know that it's very good
Apr 05, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: own, 2010, 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
Apr 24, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Sep 26, 2007 rated it liked it
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 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
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,
Mar 21, 2007 rated it it was ok
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,
Andi Gaywood
Jun 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I picked this book up as a freebie from a book swap place. I was hooked from the first chapter. I am not sure what one is meant to get from this book but for me it was about living your life to the full and not being drawn in to things that don't really matter.

Dorothy and Justine meet because of a similar interest but from totally different angles. The book explores their dysfunctional lives and how they came to be at the point they now find themselves in. Both having relationships with guys th
Jan 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Dark. Compelling. Haunting. Gaitskill never ceases to disappoint me with her writing style; she writes a fabulous sentence.
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a novel about two women, "thin" Justine Shade and "fat" Dorothy Never who are young adults still reeling from childhood abuse when Justine asks to interview Dorothy about her experiences with inspirational philosopher Anna Granite (a thinly disguised Ayn Rand).

Dorothy joined Granite's movement after escaping the aptly named Painesville, Pennsylvania, where she was sexually assaulted and raped by her father. Justine is a doctor's daughter who now writes for a magazine. She was abused by
Jun 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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 (
Jul 29, 2013 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
Apr 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This novel is wringing wet with rage and tenderness. Gaitskill doesn't hold anything back about sexuality or the visceral ugliness of bodies, nor of how power is wielded against vulnerable people (and in this novel, women.) It starts off with a comic sensibility, but there's so much more here than a satire of an Ayn Rand-like figure's most ardent follower. You will come to know the two main characters so well and may miss them after the final page.

Listen to this sentence: "Her voice held a tea
Mar 01, 2007 rated it liked it
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
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
Paul Wilner
Oct 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Starts with a great premise - a satirical account of the Ayn Rand cult - then dives deep into Gaitskill's customary preocupations/obsessions. Wonderful sentences, portraits of the two women, particularly "Dorothy.'' Early Gaitskill, but she's showing what she's made of, and the dense and deep fictional world she can create.
Ellice Switzer
Jan 29, 2008 rated it liked it
This is one for the ladies...but it's not "chick lit" crap. It's dark, but very good.
May 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
How do we process trauma & abuse? How does it manifest later, impact our lives, personalities, decisions, our sexuality? Why is Ayn Rand an egotistical piece of shit? These are the big questions.
Jan 15, 2016 rated it liked it
more like a 2.5. admired the writing but not crazy about the story
Nov 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
I read this years ago and stil remember the almost visceral power of Gaitskill's style.
Oct 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been meaning to read this, Mary Gaitskill's first novel, since it came out in the early nineties - I was a huge fan of her short story collection Bad Behavior and perhaps I should've gotten around to this title sooner. After a slow start,it is intellectually engaging and periodically moving and the twinned sex-abuse story lines are culturally on point in this Me Too year, but it was just a little overwrought and psychologically deterministic in a way that felt distinctly late eighties/early ...more
Bill FromPA
Mar 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1990s
A dual Bildungsroman; in alternating chapters Gaitskill examines in some detail the childhood and adolescence of her two protagonists, Dorothy and Judith, to show how they became the women they are in the first and third parts of this three-part novel.

Though the novel centers around a lightly fictionalized version of Ayn Rand (called Anna Granite here) and her circle, the book is not really a representation of Objectivism (Definitism) and its adherents and critics. This is neither a satire nor
Deirdre Danklin
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A nightmare of a book. Even the images on the television, in advertisements overhead on the subway, in sexual fantasies, in childhood memories are dark, dark, dark. This book is dark, dark, dark. Smiles at you from the dark, though, says - go on laugh, I know you want to. I laughed and felt bad for laughing, I felt queasy for gasping, for recognizing myself in these people and their depravity. I have a professor who, weary with young writers, wants us to write stories with "loft." She says we ar ...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
“In my diary I wrote, “I fear my father’s anger, but I fear my mother’s love.” 4 likes
“I stared at the objects before me: cold coffee in a cup of thick white glass, folded napkin, spoon with a liquid coffee shadow on its face. Symbols of order and humility, comfort and banality. These were the things of my life; I had been sitting at these goddamn coffee tables all my life recovering from what other people had done to me.” 3 likes
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