Book Reviews of Susie Orbach's Bodies
Read the reviews of Susie's "timely and powerful polemic...on the western obsession with achieving physical perfection" - William Leith in The Guardian
"...in the 30-odd years since Orbach wrote FIFI (Fat is a Feminist Issue), as fans of the book call it, our body fascism has intensified in ways that would have seemed unimaginably bizarre in the 1970s. Orbach is our household-name psychotherapist, the woman who famously treated Lady Di for bulimia. Thanks in part to her books, campaigning and clinical practice, our society's dysfunctional relationship with food has become the subject of nationwide debate. And yet, despite her best efforts, we are if anything even more messed up, in more different ways, than we were when she started. There is something poignant, therefore, in the passionate polemic that Orbach, now in her sixties, presents in Bodies. It is a summing-up of issues first presciently explored in FIFI and an exploration of new problems unique to the 21st century. It is also a plea for "bodies sufficiently stable to allow us moments of bliss and adventure when, sure that they exist, we can take leave of them".
...Orbach's book is the product of a lifetime's reflection on the way in which our bodies, once serviceable and taken for granted but also capable of moments of intense, unselfconscious joy, have become something somehow separate from us - and their inevitable imperfectibility, decay and eventual end are eternally tormenting. The human condition, in other words, has been made hellish by our contemporary refusal to accept it. Mature, nuanced and suggestive, Bodies is no self-help book, but its message is potentially liberating."
"As a psychotherapist, Orbach had asked women what their fat was actually doing for them. It was giving them a certain relief, they said. It "took them out of the category of woman and put them in the androgynous state of 'big girl'". It gave them something concrete to worry about, so they wouldn't have to think about all their other troubles. 'Above all,' Orbach wrote, 'the fat woman wants to hide;."
In this new book, Orbach tells us what has happened to our bodies in the intervening three decades. These days, we live in an even more twisted world. Or, as Orbach puts it, 'the problems I sought to describe have mushroomed'. Now that we no longer use our bodies to make things, she says, we make our bodies instead. Our bodies are the product."
"Bodies, Orbach's latest book, is a smart and rich compendium of what is going on within and without our bodies today, its pages informed by Orbach's decades of clinical practice and research. The 144-page volume is comprised of six chapters and in each one Orbach uses a multidisciplinary approach to explain the struggle with our physical selves. As a clinical therapist, she invites us into her office and through case studies we watch her work: a man wants to remove his healthy legs; a boy refuses to grow; one man has erectile dysfunction; and another prefers nudity. Why?
...Orbach pulls no punches with food conglomerates such as Nestlé, which owns Lean Cuisine, or Heinz, which makes WeightWatchers products, as they play fast and loose with the fashion of food and diet to ensure that you don't know what, how or when to eat. The weight-loss industry relies “on a 95 per cent recidivism rate”. In our digital world, if Photoshop and airbrushing furnish only impossible visual goals, no matter. Join Second Life and choose the avatar of your visually altered dreams. She addresses the democratisation of plastic surgery, fashion designers who send clothes hanger-like bodies down their runways, the deceptive cosmetics business and the granddaddy of them all, capitalism - for surely, we fret ourselves witless in our discontent then turn to 'the merchants of body hatred' for help."