Alexandra Kleeman’s surreal and brilliant first novel, You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine, takes its title from a Charles Atlas ad-vertisement. In these ads, Atlas appears shirtless, clothed only in briefs, body toned and muscles rippled. Across the page, the words “[…] YOU can have a Body like Mine!” in bold lettering. This is one of the keys to understanding Kleeman’s story, one that, along with the image of a body, is concerned with themes of identity, sex, and consumerism—a sto-ry of womanhood in contemporary American society.
Kleeman’s main characters don’t have proper names. The story is told through the eyes of A, a mostly unhappy young woman working as a proofreader and living in an un-named city with her roommate, B, who wants to be A and increasingly comes to resemble her in physical appearance (they’re both thin and small, pale, with dark hair). “If you re-duced each of us to a list of adjectives, we’d come out nearly identical,” A says. A works to avoid B by spending time with her boyfriend, C, who can make everything “suddenly, instantaneously normal, just by explaining them” and enjoys Shark Week, reality TV, and porn.