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Devil in the Details: Scenes from an Obsessive Girlhood

 
 
 
 
Devil in the Details: Scenes from an Obsessive Girlhood
Author: Jennifer Traig
ISBN 13: 9780316010740
ISBN 10: 31601074
Edition: Reprint
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Publication Date: 2006-02-09
Format: Paperback
Pages: 272
List Price: $16.00
 
 

In the bestselling tradition of Running with Scissors and A Girl Named Zippy, Jennifer Traig tells an unforgettable story of youthful obsession.

When her father found the washing machine crammed with everything from her sneakers to her barrettes, 12-year-old Jennifer Traig had a simple explanation: theyd been tainted by the pork fumes emanating from the kitchen and had to be cleansed. The same fumes compelled Jennifer to meticulously wash her hands for 30 minutes before dinner: All scrubbed in for your big casserolectomy, Dr. Traig? her mother asked. It wasnt long before her family's exasperation made Jennifer realize that her behavior had gone beyond fastidious--in her own eyes, shed gone from quirky girl to raving lunatic.

Jennifer's childhood mania was the result of her undiagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder joining forces with her Hebrew studies. While preparing for her bat mitzvah, she was introduced to an entire set of arcane laws and quickly made it her mission to follow them perfectly. Her parents nipped her religious obsession in the bud early on, but as her teen years went by, her natural tendency toward the extreme led her down different paths of adolescent agony and mortification.

Years later, Jennifer remembers these scenes with candor and humor. What emerges is a portrait of a well-meaning girl and her good-natured parents, and a very funny, very sharp look back at growing up.

Publishers Weekly

In this 1970s memoir, Traig describes how, from the age of 12 until her freshman year at Brandeis, she suffered from various forms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), including anorexia and a rarer, "hyper-religious form" of OCD called scrupulosity, in which sanctified rituals such as hand washing and daily prayer are repeated in endless loops. The daughter of a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, Traig becomes obsessed with Jewish ritual, inventing her own prayers since her Jewish education is limited. Initially, Traig's family is amused; eventually, they try to help. Still, this memoir is less about suffering than it is about punch lines. When Traig swathes herself in head-to-toe flannel on hot summer days, her mother points to a scantily clad teenager on a talk show entitled My Teen Dresses Too Sexy and suggests Traig cool off like the adolescent "in the red vinyl number with the cut-outs over the chest and fanny." Traig spoofs Jewish rituals, cracking up at elaborate bar mitzvahs produced like Las Vegas floor shows and the meticulous analysis that goes into deeming a food item kosher. The author's behavior makes her seem like a character on Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm, and her book is a funny though sometimes cursory look at mental illness. Agent, Emily Forland. (Sept.) Forecast: Readers who can't get enough of wacky childhood stories by Augusten Burroughs, David Sedaris and Haven Kimmel may like Traig's book. She'll make appearances at Jewish book fairs and in San Francisco, and her association with McSweeney's and the Forward (she contributes to both), as well as her recent essay in the New York Times Magazine, could draw audiences. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.