1000 Books In 10 Years; Vol. 9: Hungry, by Crystal Renn (with Marjorie Ingall)

I came across Crystal Renn whilst sitting in my psychiatrist’s waiting room.  I was trying to read, but there was a television buzzing in the room and when I looked up I saw this beautiful, raven-haired vixen who looked like she could have served as the heroine of a Russ Meyer film. I had no intention of picking up the autobiography she was touting, but when I happened upon it at Indigo, on sale for under ten bucks, I figured I’d give it a read.

Renn’s autobiographical book Hungry tells the story of a young girl who aspires to become a high fashion model, and loses an unhealthy amount of weight to meet the standards of the modeling industry before realizing her health is more important than her career.  Once her body reaches a natural equilibrium, she finds the confidence to pursue her modeling career and discovers that she has become far more successful at her natural body weight than she could have ever hoped to be had she forced her body into a waifish figure.

Crystal Renn

The narrative, however sympathetic, is not particularly well written, and seems to have a severe identity crisis in that it jumps from an autobiographical nature to the tone of a monograph or journal article speaking to issues concerning weight and dieting.  The autobiographical parts are, in some aspects, flawed.  Renn feels the need to step out of the narrative on a number occasions, either by pausing to define words which she believes the general reader will not know (she even takes the time to explain what nun-chucks are) or by addressing the reader with comments like “if you know what I mean, and I think you do.” She also breaks the tone of the narrative to make attempts at humour by constructing comparisons/pop culture references to explain things.

Renn also breaks up the narrative to make political and social comments that have little to do with the plot.  There are underhanded comments referring to the federal response to both hurricane Andrew and Katrina, and also a comment on the wasteful nature of transporting foods to different regions rather than using local foods.  Each of these are legitimate claims, but have nothing to do with the narrative and don’t serve to develop the prominent themes of the book.

There are also moments when Renn drops her casual tone for a more academic one, and while she does cite journal articles, she makes conclusions that are not conclusive, and often fails at logic. In one instance, she writes that some “believe that manufacturers shouldn’t make cool clothes for plus-size” teens because it implies that “it”s okay to be fat.” She counters that this is like saying that “teaching kids about gravity will make them throw themselves off a building”.  Where the correlation is between the two, I fail to see.  One is certainly not like the other.  When adopting the more academic tone, Renn also observes that people unfairly associate things like gluttony, slothfulness, greed,  and such with people who are fat. She implies that these are not things that make people fat.  She also makes assumptions based on limited and dated research as to the causes of obesity. In fact, obesity is often related to self-control and will power.  It is related to gluttony in many instances, and to slothfulness.  As a person who has suffered through depression myself, I know the pitfalls of food serving as something that both instills guilt and comfort.  Food addiction is real and very serious, and it seems that Renn projects her particular situation onto all people who may be considered overweight (and Renn is certainly nowhere near what 98% of the population would refer to as overweight).  Renn has stepped out of a context where a healthy size is not acceptable, and she seems to project the standards particular to the modeling industry onto typical people, and then defends herself against those standards of ‘thin’.  The bottom line though, Renn is not a doctor, and while she has some very valid points regarding body image issues which plague many of us, she often makes conclusions which she is simply not qualified to make.

 

When the book returns to its autobiographical nature by its conclusion, Renn springs a chapter on relationships onto the reader, an aspect of her life which had not been explored past her time in grammar school.  In it she attempts to contextualize her romantic notion on love by explaining some of the books she has read, but the chapter seems out of place within the narrative, and the first part of that chapter reads like a bad book review/synopsis.

 

The book is also extremely repetitive.  While it is heart wrenching to hear how judgmental people are within the modeling industry, it also gets tiring to hear the same comments over and over again.

 

Renn is a beautiful woman, and the photos included in the book illustrate how beautiful a woman can be when she embraces her natural body weight, and how frightening it can be to see a person whose negative self-body image has dominated their life.

 

 

If you like this…

 

Well… then you’ll like just about anything.

 

 

Words I thought I’d look up….

 

 

None.

Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

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