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Devil in the Details: Scenes from an Obsessive Girlhood
Synopses & Reviews
Being a teenager is hard enough. Jennifer Traig's adolescence took angst to new heights, adding a layer of obsessive-compulsive drama that made ordinary mortifications like bad hairstyles and fashion errors feel like the good parts. Devil in the Details is her unforgettable, hilarious, wrenching account of growing up weird.
Jennifer Traig's adventures in obsession began at the age of twelve, when her religious studies introduced her to a body of rules that she hadn't known existed. This unleashed a level of religiosity completely alien to her upbringing. Psychiatrists call this disorder scrupulosity — her family just called it strange. Fervent prayer was only the beginning. On a given day, Jennifer might be putting all her possessions in the washing machine to cleanse them of the pork fumes emanating from the kitchen. Or clipping the lawn according to Old Testament regulations. Or covering her hair with Kleenex while she maintained her constant state of prayer.
Jennifer's family treated her condition with humor ("Ready for your big casserolectomy, Dr. Traig?" her mother asked as she scrubbed her hands for thirty minutes before a meal). But her obsessions wore increasingly on her, her family, and her few friends, leading to a crisis that not even joining every single school club, no matter her level of interest or aptitude, could save her from.
With an unsparing eye and deep affection for those who put up with her and got her through, Jennifer Traig delivers a masterpiece of rueful candor — funny, heartbreaking, and irresistible for anyone who ever looked back at their teenage self and cringed.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"[T]his is a memoir with an edge....A provocative yet entertaining memoir....Highly recommended." Library Journal
In the bestselling tradition of Running with Scissors and A Girl Named Zippy, Jennifer Traig tells an unforgettable story of youthful obsession.
Recalling the agony of growing up as an obsessive-compulsive religious fanatic, Traig fearlessly confesses the most peculiar behaviour - like scrubbing her hands for a full half-hour before meals, feeding her stuffed animals before herself, and washing everything she owned because she thought it was contaminated by pork fumes!
About the Author
Jennifer Traig has written several humor books for Chronicle Books, and has contributed to the San Francisco Chronicle, The Forward, and McSweeney's. Her reputation as a smart and funny voice is already well known in many circles.
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