People are fascinated by the human body and the extremes it can reach


David Whitehouse

David Whitehouse

Bed: A Novel

David Whitehouse is a journalist. He notably wrote for the Guardian, the Sunday Times and The Independent. His first novel, Bed, was translated in several languages and was published at Scribner.

The novel is narrated through the point of view of Malcolm’s brother. Was it crucial to the development of Malcolm’s story?

Yes, I think it was crucial. Malcolm is such an extraordinary character that in order to look at how he fits into the world around him you need to see him through the eyes of someone normal. And his brother is just that, normal. He has insecurities and jealousies and failed ambitions and unrequited love, just like everybody in the world does. Only by using a character that the reader can identify with could you tell a story as fantastical as Mal’s.

You wrote that He looks like an enormous sea monster caught and displayed in a Victorian museum of the grotesque, as if, in all his extraordinary and enormous peculiarity, he was still envied by his brother. You could have chosen, on the contrary, to induce pity; do you feel it’s too much of an easy way?

Mal isn’t to be pitied. He made the choice for himself. He is always in control. His brother, the narrator, is immensely envious of Mal for all of his life. He wants to be as brave as Mal. He wants to be as special as Mal. He even wants Mal’s girlfriend. Brothers, whoever they are, wil always envy each other to a degree.

In the chapters dealing with Malcolm in bed, the days are systematically numbered. Would he be a sort of Robinson Crusoe on his island?

Yes, I think he would. I like the idea that all of us have a clock. It’s quite a strange sensation to sit down and figure out how many days you have been alive for. I have been alive for 11,316 days. Have I achieved 11,316 days worth of stuff? I don’t know.

Bed is your first novel but you are originally a journalist. Do you think that Malcolm’s story, if it were true, would be headline material?

Yes. The newspapers in Britain always feature huge people. They make documentaries about them that get massive ratings. People are fascinated by the human body and the extremes it can reach, be it weight, height, malformation… anything. And obesity is a big issue.

Are you aware that, on some book forums and other blogs, some people said that your book acted as motivational – like a self-help book? What is your reaction to that?

I wasn’t aware of that. It’s funny. I guess it should motivate people to try and break free of inertia, if anything.