12 August 2009

Llewellyn Louderback, fat activist pioneer

I'm fighting jetlag, deadlines and discombobulation at the moment so my final comments about NAAFA will have to wait for a bit. But for now, I bring you the excellent Llewellyn Louderback.

Louderback wrote an article for the Saturday Evening Post magazine in 1967 titled More People Should Be FAT. The article caught the eye of Bill Fabrey and the pair went on as part of a small group of people who founded NAAFA. Louderback, with research assistance by Fabrey and their partners Joyce and Ann (and maybe others Bill?) produced a book called Fat Power which was published in 1970. The book was not a commercial success but it did influence a number of early fat rights activists whose work has since snowballed. I had known about this book for a while but it was only last year, thanks to the power of the internet, that I managed to snag a copy for myself. It's a great read, zingy, and although it's of its time, it is also amazingly current.

I wanted to know more about the man who wrote it and every now and again I would Google "Llewellyn Louderback" and come up with nothing. It was only when I made another connection that I was able to look him up and get in touch. This was about a year ago. We have been in sporadic contact since then. Lew left the movement early on and told me that he did not have much of an idea of how it developed. I've been filling him in slowly.

Last week, not long after meeting Fabrey, when I was in New York I got to meet him for the first time. It was bittersweet because he is pretty old now and has failing health, but it was great to talk, to find out about his career as a writer of pulp fiction, and he signed my copy of Operation Moon Rocket, a racy thriller featuring astronauts and Red China from 1968. He talked about how fat activist discourse has changed from one that pleaded for tolerance and acceptance to one that demands rights.

I don't know when I will get to see Lew again, we live so far apart, but I hope it isn't long. I consider him one of the founders of a movement that has had a profound impact on my life. I'm grateful for his work, his beautiful writing, and his modest, disbelieving, cynical vision for social change.

4 comments:

susanstinson said...

That last line! "...and his modest, disbelieving, cynical vision for social change."

That almost makes me cry. I'm grateful for that, too, and for your tenderness for it, and for Lew's work, which has made it visible to me.

wonderful woman said...

Thank you for this. I'm so glad you got to meet him in person. And also - great picture! I'm happy that I finally get to see what the groovy slipcover looks like, as my copy had lost it before I got my hands on it!

I have another NAAFA produced, smaller book from 1971 called Fat Pride: A Survival Handbook by Marvin Grosswirth. It says on the front in another groovy font 'The non-diet book for a more attractive, confident, successful, and happier you'.

It's one of those I've skimmed but not 'read'. There are chapters on self esteem, shopping for clothes for men and women, sex and advice on your career. So it's a self help manual really. It's notable here for the fact that it's a year after Fat Power, cites it and suggests a little trickle of fat rights publications over that period.

Also - and this particularly fills me with delight - the book tells me that 'by the same author' is a book called 'The Art of Growing a Beard'.

Charlotte Cooper said...

WW: I love the sound of that book and would love to see other early publications.

The Art of Growing a Beard! Bleeeeee!

the fat nutritionist said...

Wow, Lew Louderback. A real pioneer in fat acceptance. How lucky you were to have met him.