We recently published Gary Fincke’s powerful “Sleep Diet: A Fable.”
Here, we ask him two questions about his story:
1) I love the echoes of Sleeping Beauty (and the hint of Snow White as well!) in this story — how the prince falls in “love” with a woman he can imprint any personality, any life upon. Here the man takes a waking woman and remakes her in the image he wants/remembers, Or tries to, anyway! Do you think he is only trying to create her here? Or do you think this is an attempt to also recreate himself the way he used to be when he first met her?
First, there really is a thing called “the sleeping beauty diet,” the core of it women being encouraged to take sedatives before sleep to extend the hours you are not awake in order to avoid eating. Second, I’ve always been fascinated by Sleeping Beauty—In the original story “La Belle au bois dormant” the Prince rapes the sleeping woman (and there is far worse ugliness and horror to come later). Once you know this about the story, it’s way more likely to think he is only trying to create her. For me, Sleep Diet is a story about the worst sort of selfishness—imposing an image upon another without regard for who they are.
2) The descriptions of food (and the lack thereof) in this story are so vivid and aromatic — I especially love the moment where she is inhaling the scented candles and “swallowing the idea of pies.” The sensory details do such an amazing job of pulling the reader into this world, this hunger. Did you always imagine this woman with a sweet tooth, or does a version of her exist that longs for more savory fare?
Decades ago, I read a fascinating short story by Andres Dubus called “The Fat Girl” in which a young woman diets down to an appearance that attracts men to her. After she marries one of them, she eventually succumbs to her “sweet tooth,” regaining pounds while the husband berates her for abandoning the image that attracted him. The “sleep diet” goes another step–it creates a craving for nearly any food, whether literal or figurative.