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The Fiction Issue 2012

Hunger Pangs on Paper

Everyone knows (especially your dad) that if you aspire to be a writer, you’re going to go through life hungry.

Illustration by Roope Eronen

Everyone knows (especially your dad) that if you aspire to be a writer, you’re going to go through life hungry. All day long your ass widens in a chair while you sit in a position that cuts off circulation to your legs. Sometimes you might think, “I think I might be hungry now,” but those thoughts are quickly pushed aside lest you interrupt the creative process or, God forbid, eat something out of sheer boredom and lack of ideas. This has led to numerous famous passages that are probably the result of nothing more high-minded than an author slowly starving himself at his or her desk—think Proust’s madeleine obsession or Portnoy of Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint getting carnal with that piece of liver. Point is, when you combine boundary-pushing literature with hunger, you get some pretty weird results. And there are examples aplenty. Here are some of my favorites. La Cuisine Cannibale by Roland Topor
Topor wrote and illustrated this tongue-in-cheek recipe book in 1970, and it’s full of crazed morsels, such as “Executives who tend to get foodstains on their ties make fantastic pâtés.” A highlight is his advice for what to do with a half-eaten little person: “Place your dwarf leftovers in a pot of boiling water. Salt and leave over a low heat for three hours. If your dwarf is too small, you can always add in some potatoes.” I say: fucking yummy. Against the Grain by Joris-Karl Huysmans
This is Huysmans’s chronicle of one man’s eccentric consumption experiments, culminating in the protagonist deciding it would be a bright idea to shove food up his bum. He likes it a lot: “What economy of time, what a pronounced deliverance from the aversion which food gives those who lack appetite! What a complete riddance from the disgust induced by food forcibly eaten!” Just imagine if he knew about ecstasy. Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille
This 1928 tale of a pair of perverted teenagers stretches to the outer realms of nourishment. Case in point: “Simone then asked Sir Edmond for the balls of the first bull. But she had a condition—she wanted them raw. ‘But,’ said Sir Edmond, ‘will you eat them raw? What are you going to do with raw balls?’ ‘I want them, in front of me, on a plate,’ she said.” Moments later, in one of those rare passages that makes you hungry and horny, Simone shoves one bull testicle into her mouth and the other into her vagina. It’s truly a Tupperware/microwave combo for the ages.