Wanting to diverge from my established tastes (in music, books, foodstuffs, & c.) — rather, wanting to build upon those tastes — I’ve taken to heeding external guidance. I’ll go to the record store with an open heart/mind, not searching for anything in particular, in many cases bringing home something wholly unfamiliar + really freaking good. (Note: this method works best at stores with curated collections. Maybe don’t try this at BEST BUY, if you ever set foot in a BB.)
Ditto my approach to searching the public library’s catalog. SF peeps, did you know that the SFPL publishes lists, sorted by month, of new acquisitions? No? Check ’em out! I’ve come across a few gems in this manner — gems I might certainly have overlooked/never discovered if I hadn’t adopted this new search method.
All that was a roundabout way of arriving at the topic at hand: Martin Cizmar’s Chubster and the fierceness with which I dislike it.
First things first: Chubster is a diet book. I am not on a diet. Why did I check it out? A few reasons:
- I stumbled upon the title during one of my book-reserving sprees, during which I also requested Unlocking the Secret Levels of the Mind. (Summarized: My preferences were all over the map.)
- I had a moderate curiosity about a book marketed toward self-identified hipsters (“hipsters”): what would the prose be like? The cultural references?
- I think I’d write a pretty badass get-healthy guide (Tagline: Eat what you want WHEN you want! And never look back!), and this book seemed good For Research Purposes.
I was ASS WRONG.
Chubster’s premise is simple: it’s a diet book for people who loathe diet books. People who don’t want to forsake PBR-fueled ping-pong matches, mimosa-heavy brunches, and bacon-wrapped everything in the name of weight loss.
Expecting Chubster to resemble The Hipster Handbook with a few bits o’ dietary advice thrown in (“Eat a goddamned apple, dumbass!”), I looked forward to reading it. As you already know, my expectations were quickly & irreversibly dashed. What’s my problem with the book, you ask?
Cizmar’s weight-loss advice is the same advice given by everyone, everywhere: eat fewer calories than you burn and you’ll lose weight. Boom. Done. This was to be expected; after all, such is the only real way to shed a few pounds, boring as it is.
Chubster, then, can be thought of as a repackaging (rebranding) of common, old-as-hell knowledge. In itself, this is fine; I’ve got no beef with rebrands.
What I do have beef with is poorly executed rebrands, a category into which Chubster undeniably falls. Consider again the book’s premise: it offers diet advice for hipsters. But what is a hipster? Answer: there is no such thing. Or rather, there was at one time such a thing, but the term (after years of circulation) has become so debased that its meaning shifts constantly.
Check out this list of results for a search of “hipster” on the New York Times website and identify the common thread uniting the stories. No, I’ll be here for a bit.Targeting a misleadingly specific audience — one that seems to exist but, upon examination, is found to be a logical dead-end — yields problems in tone. Chubster is rife with such problems.
These problems stem, in large part, from the book’s muddied target demo. Chubster purports to be aimed at hip (“hip”) under-40s, but what is hip? Cizmar seems to be addressing a plaid-shirted, bespectacled phantom, one who reared his head in 2002 and, like Sasquatch, existed ever after only as legend.
Consequently,* Cizmar’s tone is a bit tough to suss out. Obstacle #1 is the issue of gender: is the book targeted to men, women, both? The answer is ostensibly “both,” but Cizmar occupies a precarious position. Traditionally, at least, diet books are aimed at women; Cizmar, a dude, appears to pitch his book at both genders, but his stylistic choices (and jocular asides) tilt the book in the direction of male preference. (This isn’t a problem, per se; it only became a problem here because the book was ostensibly targeted to a co-ed audience when really that wasn’t the case.)
Obstacle #2 is Cizmar’s actual diet advice. Because he’s targeting a nebulous audience, he can’t tailor his advice to them; instead, he talks about his own experience. Which, frankly, isn’t so thrilling. Basically, the author ate a bunch of pre-packaged, preservative-laced meals/snacks, excercized, and lost weight. That’s fine, but it’s far from revolutionary, nor is it remotely resonant with the imagined target demo. Lean Cuisines? Really? If anything, Cizmar’s diet-related chapters read like the rhetoric from the weight-loss guides of the ’80s — which could be hip, if you think about it (the lycra! the geometric eyeshadow! the typefaces!), but it’s deicdedly unhip in Cizmar’s hands.
I’ll admit: I read this book ’til the end, loathe it though I did. I had to, if I wanted to kvetch about it. If the prospect of irritatedly blogging hadn’t been motivating me, however, I’d have stopped after the first paragraph. My advice: don’t waste your time on this book. If you want to know how slim hipsters eat, track some down in the wild for observation. It’ll be a bit like the hunt for Bigfoot, but with more Tecate.
*That is, in light of the fact that he’s addressing a non-existent audience.