Carol Lay
The Big Skinny
Villard Books

At the beginning of “Big Skinny,” Carol Lay draws herself being approached by a hostess at a party. “How did you lose all that weight?” the hostess asks. “I count calories and exercise every day,” Lay responds.

And so the conversation coughs once, staggers slightly, and flops down dead.

Lay would have us believe that the problem here was that the hostess wanted a more juicy rationale for the weight-loss: liposuction, pills, bypass surgery, whatever. There’s a simpler explanation, though. Dieting is just boring. The hostess didn’t really want to talk about Lay’s diet; she was just issuing a polite compliment. The correct response would have been, “Oh, thank you! And you look lovely too! Let’s talk about something more interesting, like sports, or Barack Obama’s new puppy, or how to make love to an importunate dolphin (practical tips available here.) Or…we could talk about paint drying? Please?”

But, alas, no. Lay thinks dieting is interesting. She’s written a whole book on the subject, in fact. In it, she talks about her history as an overeater. She provides lists of disgusting foods she’s consumed. She mentions having eaten a pan of Raid-killed ants under the misapprehension that they were chocolate sprinkles. (That bit was pretty funny, actually.) She gives how-to notes on counting calories. She throws in a joke about how she’s got so much willpower she’d even turn down George Clooney if he showed up at her door with McDonald’s take-out. And it’s a comic, so she can actually draw George Clooney at her door — isn’t that clever? Then she talks about her history as an overeater — wait, didn’t she do that already?

Yes she did. And she may have talked about it again, and again, and again for all I know. I only got about 50 pages in, and that was plenty, thank you very much. The intrinsic tediousness of the material would be bad enough, but Lay adds to it the aggressively insufferable moral grandstanding of the recent convert. She used to be depressed and grumpy…but now that her body is burning her brain for fuel, she just feels so cheerful and powerful! Don’t you want to feel cheerful and powerful too? Don’t you want to get a scale that measures your weight to a tenth of a pound? Don’t you want to feel completely morally justified in your ravenous self-obsession? If you do, pick this up. It has pictures too. I only received black-and-white proofs, so I guess they might even look somewhat less generically bland in color. After all, as any sunny self-appointed self-help guru will tell you, anything is possible.

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This review first appeared in The Comics Journal.