SWEET DEATH by Claude Tardat


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When the obese narrator of this slim French novel describes it as a ""catalogue of vague memories and taste sensations from the void"" of her being, she ain't talking chopped liver (as old J.P. Sartre himself might have said). This is existentialism with a cherry on top: a diary of a despairing young porker who is eating herself to death. Not any food will do for this self-described ""beached whale with chronic acne""--only sweets. And they are here in sugar-shock-inducing proportions, in fancy and plain array: frangipane, macaroons, meringue, marzipan, honey, chocolate, tarts, nougat, caramels, peach melba, butterscotch, jellybeans, profiteroles, mocha cakes, Éclairs, rum babas, apple turnovers, Cracker Jacks, almond creams, pralines, lollipops, donuts, cotton candy, mousse, charlotte russe, shortbread, licorice, napoleons--and so on. ""The thrill of excess"" comes at the business-end of a whipped-cream can, and from tubes of sweetened and condensed milk sucked dry. Mixed in with the mordant humor of her present gluttony are pieces of the narrator's recollected past, that ""tasteless farce,"" her life. Before she grew to her current girth (pushing 220 lbs. at under five feet), this 19-year-old student suffered through her parents' jet-set marriage: her diplomat father seldom around; her super-soignÉ mother always there with a cutting remark. From out of molehills, this mountain creates herself. Her confession seems intended as a kind of deliberately grotesque feminist allegory, a simple one at that; but no amount of irony could save Tardat's tract from single-scoop silliness, though culinary details might have helped. All binge, no purge.

Publisher: Overlook--dist. by Viking