One Ton: the True and Heart-Rending Tale of a Fatboy’s Triumph
Tone and modulation taken from Kubrick’s “Dr. Strangelove,” with humor over the top, One Ton is a rollicking satire on the state of the world in the twenty-first century. The story focuses primarily on the problem of obesity worldwide, but the novel also satirizes politics and makes many a wry commentary on fallible human nature.
As the action begins, Leland (The Blob) Lebeau, age 22, resident of Waukesha, Wisconsin, has become so fat that he cannot walk anymore. Desperate to lose weight and overcome the agony of obesity, he is grasping at straws. At that moment he is approached by a wheeler-dealer type, P.T. Terwillinger—carny huckster, former assistant to Col. Tom Parker of Elvis fame, the natural son of P.T. Barnum—who promises to get him into showbiz, a career as hunger artist. “Not only will you be skinny, son; you’ll be rich.”
P.T. reinvents what once was a popular tradition in Europe in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In those days hunger artists performed before large crowds, doing essentially one thing: starving themselves to see who could go longest without eating. P.T. puts his extensive public relations skills into practice, introducing Leland Lebeau to the world as The Boy Wonder, The Grand Pinguid, and The Artist of the Un-Eat.
Performing as a kind of freak show in the Barnum and Terwillinger Circus, Leland The Blob travels America, starring in his act of hunger artistry. First bulking his artiste up to a thousand pounds (one half ton), P.T. promises the world that in six months The Boy Wonder will go from 1000 down to 105, thereby being the first man in history to lose nine-tenths of himself.
The concept of hunger artistry catches on with the American people, always ready to embrace a new fad. Leland performs to large crowds all over the country, and soon hunger artistry catches on worldwide. New hunger artists appear in Europe and Asia, competitions are organized between fasting artists. Eventually a Commission on Hungery is established, and the first ever international games in hunger artistry are held in Sochi, Russia.
After various problems and setbacks, Leland is unable to compete in Sochi, where President Vladimir Putin of Russia, manipulating the rules right and left, coaxes his best artist to the championship. At this point Leland, the originator of modern hunger artistry, is no longer on the cusp of the game, his fire having been stolen by other, better artists.
Never one to say die, the ebullient P.T. takes this low point in the career of his hunger artist and turns it into a high point. He makes a decision to give up on hunger artistry and go in the opposite direction. Leland will now be what P.T. terms an “un-hunger artist,” The Ultimate Artist of the Eat, the first man in the history of the world to attain to 2000 pounds: ONE TON. The rest of the book describes how “un-hungery” catches on all over the world and how Leland Lebeau moves inexorably toward his goal.
As Leland goes on eating more setbacks and vicissitudes overtake him. He plods on, eats on, continues performing in food courts at malls, while un-hungery catches on everywhere. Artists now compete in massive gorging competitions, attaining to unheard-of weights. It soon becomes apparent that to compete at weights surpassing 1500 pounds, an artist must risk his life. Many un-hunger artists die in performance. Others are forced by ill health to retire from the game. A multitude of nations ban the sport of un-hungery, but so fervid are its fans that illegal performances are staged even where banned.
The Grand Pinguid plods on toward his goal of being the biggest man who ever lived. The action culminates at the First Ever Competitions in Un-Hungery, held in Los Angeles in April of 2017. Will Leland be competitive against the best un-hunger artists worldwide? Can he defeat the champion from Saudi Arabia, the Humongous A-rab, and the Russian favorite, Borka the Shoemaker?
Among those featured in the plot of One Ton are Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un. Many other political figures, as well as showbiz personalities, make cameo appearances in the novel. Among other episodes, the reader is treated to the first phone conversation between “The Trumpster” and “Vlad the Impaler,” shortly after the new American president takes office. Later on The Blob and The Trumpster cross paths, after the President—bored with the tedium of his new job—opts for a side career as professional wrestler, under the name “The Big Orange Pussy Snatcher.”
Both world leaders take a big interest in hungery and un-hungery. They attend the grand international un-hungery games in L.A., as does the Sun of all Suns, the Boy Leader of North Korea, and they are involved in clashes, fireworks, and outrageous nonsense. There are laughs—not just tiny teehees or gentle guffaws, but huge rumbling belly laughs—on practically every page of One Ton.