If you re just looking at the back cover copy or various other blurbs, it s very hard to tell what this book is about, so I ll try to summarize briefly This book is about the culture of anorexia not just about the disease itself, but about how the many books, movies, articles, websites, and TV shows about it affect and even harm women and girls in the name of education and awareness It s also about how the culture of inpatient eating disorder programs can actually lead to competition and comparisons among patients, possibly making them worse instead of better, and about the language we use concerning those who suffer from eating disorders and how detrimental it can be Finally, the book is a memoir of the author s own anorexia, although she tries valiantly not to give any triggering information i.e., information about her lowest weight, or her eating plan s when she was sick.I don t have any personal experience with full blown eating disorders, so perhaps I m not the best person to comment on this, but I thought this book was unique and quite valuable I ve read some of the famous eating disorder books Wasted, by Marya Hornbacher, being the most famous , and I ve seen Lauren Greenfield s documentary, but until recently it had never occurred to me that texts like these would be absorbed by patients and become an actual part of their experience with their disease Osgood also frames the addiction aspect of anorexia in a throught provoking way what other addict, besides an anorexic person, actively strives to become the best addict they can be These are only some of the issues the book addresses there s a lot going on here The book is also entertaining, in the best possible sense it moves swiftly and gives you a lot to think about.Perhaps not surprisingly, the book is also problematic in some ways As I said, Osgood tries not to be triggering, but there s really no way avoid that pitfall entirely When she names famous anorexic women not famous in the Mary Kate Olsen sense, but famous among other anorexic women, I couldn t help but be curious and Google them I quickly realized that this led down a rabbit hole, where Google images of one anorexic woman engendered images of others, some painful to look at Could be very triggering to a different type of reader, no Then, too, Osgood admits late in the book that, although she considers herself recovered from anorexia, she still struggles with the issues sometimes But by then I already knew this, just based on how she depicted the few overweight women portrayed in the book always with revolting imagery that made it clear Osgood still has some issues surrounding weight This is a very small part of the book, but it was very telling for me Other reviewers have complained that Osgood seems to see her own experiences as universal when they aren t, although this particular aspect didn t bother me it comes with the territory of writing a memoir, in my opinion Why do we write autobiographically at all if we don t think there s something universal about what we ve been through So yes, this book is complicated, but it s a complicated subject and wouldn t be served by a simplistic treatment, even if such a treatment were possible But I think this is a necessary book, and it s one I would particularly recommend for people who ve absorbed a lot of the cultural artifacts addressing eating disorders up to this point and that s many of us. She Devoured Their Memoirs And Magazine Articles, Committing The Most Salacious Details Of Their Cautionary Tales To Memory How Little They Ate, Their Lowest Weights, And Their Merciless Exercise Regimes To Learn What It Would Take To Be The Very Best Anorectic When She Was Hospitalized For Anorexia At Fifteen, She Found Herself In An Existential Wormhole How Can One Suffer From Something One Has Actively Sought Out Through Her Own Decade Long Battle With Anorexia, Which Included Three Lengthy Hospitalizations, Osgood Harrowingly Describes The Haunting And Competitive World Of Inpatient Facilities Populated With Other Adolescents, Some As Young As Ten Years OldWith Attuned Storytelling And Unflinching Introspection, Kelsey Osgood Unpacks The Modern Myths Of Anorexia, Examining The Cult Like Underbelly Of Eating Disorders In The Young, As She Chronicles Her Own Rehabilitation How To Disappear Completely Is A Brave, Candid And Emotionally Wrenching Memoir That Explores The Physical, Internal, And Social Ramifications Of Eating Disorders And Subverts Many Of The Popularly Held Notions Of The Illness And, Most Hopefully, The Path To Recovery I try not to give star ratings to books I haven t completely finished, but I think I got enough of the flavor of this one to confidently star it My review is long and rambling and full of gifs find it I found this book to be frustrating I think Kelsey Osgood makes some good points about how literature about eating disorders can glamorize the illness rather than serve as a reader beware Osgood makes the assertion that she will not include specific behaviors that detail the means to which she achieved weight loss, etc She does this by avoiding talking about what led up to the hospital, but rather focuses on the hospital itself While I m sure her intentions were good, this book feels like a long love note to the hospital She romanticizes the hospital which may not make sense to a person that does not suffer from an eating disorder, but this is alluring to someone who is ill As I am in a solid recovery, this did not affect me negatively, but I could see how it could make me ache for my illness and the safety of the hospital in earlier days Mostly, what I found hard to tolerate in the writing, and made me consider not finishing the memoir on than one occasion, was Osgood s need for validation Perhaps the intention was to portray how those with eating disorders are good at downplaying the severity of their illness, but after awhile it grew tired I became so annoyed with constantly reading about how a person was real anorexic and she wasn t, how so and so was sicker than her, how even though she has all these medical complications she isn t really sick because don t you remember how her eating disorder truly began It felt like talking to someone who was still sick It felt like she wanted the validation that she was a real anorexic and was truly sick and not a fake like she still suspects Also, I would just like to point out that this constant invalidation of her illness seems to perpetuate than argue what exactly makes a person sick and deserving of treatment.Bottom line I think Osgood made some interesting points but it was overshadowed by the narrative of someone who didn t quite believe they were sick. Myopic, snooty, and with such a lack of insight that it pained me to see this to the end I m in concert with everyone else here who s critiqued Osgood s universalizing and alienating read elitist rhetoric throughout I d also add that the extreme binary thinking she displays applies also to the ridiculousness of her referring to certain nurses as Carribbean, Asian, and African American when she never EVER qualifies that all of the other personages are white Also, her whirlwind rant on wannarexics and demonization of Horbacher s Wasted which is an important text for MANY of us in recovery are completely self serving and unsubstantiated except through cloistered anecdotal evidence.Little than privilege speaking its name over, and over, and over. The only thing good about this book was how it directed me to not read Wasted I immediately returned the shaming book and bought Hornbacher instead. The irony of this book is that Osgood tried so hard to show why her memoir was going to be less triggering damaging salacious than the others but she ended up providing me with a fairly comprehensive list of books I would rather read I immediately bought Wasted and am reading it now, finding it both of a deterrent to disordered behaviour than How to Disappear Completely, and of a compelling read.It s frustrating to read a book with such an admirable goal Osgood wanted to deconstruct the culture around thinness and food and how deeply harmful it can be while drawing from her own experiences, without being triggering or using the details of her disorder to quietly brag about how sick she was fail over and over to be anything other than a bloated, self centered, scathing dismissal of all other previous sufferers who dared to speak about their disorders I do think there is a tendency in writing about eating disorders, especially in fiction, especially by authors with no experience with an ED, to try to make it horrible but to only succeed in ticking every horrible box that somebody moving into an ED finds appealing That s worthy of critique and examination, and unfortunately is something that Osgood doesn t manage to avoid This book reminded me of the outpouring of well intentioned documentaries and docu series in the mind 2000s that unwittingly exposed thousands of people to thinspo, pro ana, and a whole host of resources for tipz n trickz I think it would have benefited from some editing to give it structure and a clearer sense of purpose You know what she was trying to do, because she tells you kind of I can tell she passionately wants change that will help young people be protected from AN She is well researched and I definitely agree with her views that our media is hungry for details like low weights that take stories meant for awareness and turn them into potential triggers or manuals But her tone is off putting and she circled her point for much longer than necessary, talking around and around it until about 88% of the way through when she finally started to try to nail down a point Ultimately I found the first 80% of the book disorganised and unhelpful in terms of where it aimed its criticisms and solutions suggested Osgood s writing is still reasonably enjoyable When it lapses into anecdote instead of lecturing and quoting it can be pretty engaging But she doesn t mesh the two elements together very well If you read without expectations quite as high as mine were for a book with such a good concept.I originally had an almost 3000 word list of things that I found frustrating, confusing, and contradictory about this book but in the end I just give up I d had some great luck recently with reading Anorexia recovery accounts Going Hungry and Gaining were life changing I read the back and was really interested in How to Disappear Completely However, upon reading it I found it difficult to get through, not in that telling hard truths for personal growth way but in that holy crap this is triggering the daylights out of me kind of way.Initially it seemed like a solid premise and presents as being overall pro recovery She talks about her struggles with the competitiveness of Anorexia, which I very much related to I approved of her choice not to detail her diets and rituals since I tend to find those triggering Then she spent a chapter detailing pro ana websites and their history, quoting directly from them I know she and I seem to have ideological differences on the desire to develop anorexia but well, it s her point of view and she s entitled to have it Honestly, she started to lose me at the Wannarexics section She had just spent a part of the book talking about the problems with labeling and diagnosis, which I also found problematic She falsely reports that EDNOS was taken out completely, when really it was just changed to OSFED Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders Then she details a list of people to be called out and judged as wannarexics I get that her premise deep down may have been that the idea of wannarexia is another construction of anorexic competition but her list and the judgement apparent in the tone directly undermines it I was also extremely put off by her tone and language choices She revisits the idea that she had to prove that she was really sick, or the best anorexic and to me this feels like another expression of this My experience of reading this was a person trying to win a contest for how sick she was and judge others as sicker or less sick I don t know the author s intent but her tone comes off throughout the book as judgmental, full of scorn for those of us who weren t real anorexics I think what really bothered me was that Osgood states her truth as universal in many ways There s a lack of acknowledgement that her view and relationship with her ED isn t everyone s I recognize that this is a memoir, her ideas about her life, so I may just be being a rigid jerk But I couldn t get to the experience and found her writing hard to follow at times It wasn t as positive a reading experience as I had hoped with would be. I don t know how I feel about this one So let s go on this ride together as I figure it out I feel things for the author and her journey but at the same time I m so annoyed by her for so many reasons, I don t even know where to begin First of all, this is part memoir, partdissertation about how people develop eating disorders I guess Which is weird because she went to school to get an MFA, not any sort of medical psychology degree, and yet here she is Telling Us What s What.I think my biggest gripe with this book is the author shitting on other people who have written much better memoirs than hers She particularly feels the need to tear down Marya Hornbacher and Elizabeth Wurtzel, who wrote two of the most successful, revered books about mental illness that were super popular back in the late 90s early 2000s when this author was coming of age She blames Hornbacher for making girls anorexic, and about Wurtzel, she says When I reread Prozac Nation at twenty five, I was, for lack of a less eloquent phrase, grossed out by Elizabeth Wurtzel s self obsession I mean, says a woman writing a memoir about herself despite her own story being as basic as they come Because unlike some truly memorable authors who have written about their accounts with anorexia in fascinating, insightful, and gut wrenching ways, this account is forgettable and yet she sees and writes about herself as some brilliant wunderkind who was the first person to head down this path and write about it Her story is as unremarkable and boring as they come for this genre and it s mostly because she refuses to really talk about anything in detail, lest she inspire a new generation of anorexic girls So you get her babbling on and on about going into various hospitals and shitting on everyone she ever met in treatment, but you don t really get any depth or insight out of her so likewhy write this thing The answer is because she has this brilliant idea that anorexia is a communicable disease that is not so much developed as some underlying pathology that is awakened when triggered by something including something cultural like a book or movie , but rather that it s something any old person can get if they want it simply by reading books about it Again, she s not any kind of doctor, psychologist, or medical professional, and she clearly has done zero actual research into this aside from reading and pulling quotes from a few articles in the same way I used to pull quotes from books when writing papers in college, picking and choosing what best fit my argument even if they didn t really fit it out of context So how can she just make these claims Oh, because for HER they re true In HER story, she was a 14 year old girl who was unsatisfied with her body and so she sought out books about eating disorders to use as guides, eventually helping her develop a full blown disorder of her own So because this is how things were for her, according to her book, this is the case for everyone in the world SCIENCE While I do think there are many instances of people with eating disorders who are inspired by material they see, actual research has shown that a majority of these people were eating disordered to begin with and naturally gravitate toward these either because they seek them out out of curiosity and want to know , or because they happen to catch something in a magazine, on TV, in health class and find themselves mesmerized and wanting because they recognize themselves in it in some way I absolutely agree with the author s point that people learn tricks and tips from memoirs and TV movies In addition to Marya Hornbacher, the author makes references to Kessa, Lori Gottlieb, For the Love of Nancy, and many others you d recognize from the ED lexicon if you ve ever suffered from a disorder But I think in many cases, people aren t seeking these things out SOLEY to learn tricks and tips If anything, they seek out memoirs and TV movies and novels about eating disorders because they finally find something they can relate to and this kind of media can make them feel like someone out there understands Through this, yes, it s easy to pick up on habits as well, but I think it s suuuuuuuuper rare that someone with no predisposition for anorexia would randomly be like I wanna be anorexic and go out and buy a bunch of memoirs to learn tricks that take her from fully healthy to someone with a full blown mental illness There are absolutely people who want to be anorexic, but unless they have those underlying personality traits that predispose them to the disorder, they re not going to be successful in getting anorexia because anorexia simply isn t something you get no matter how this author tries to convince us otherwise.I actually picked up this book out of curiosity because it sounded like the author and I had a creepy amount of things in common We re the same age from small New England towns, we were both morbidly fascinated with and terrified of the world ending in 2000, we both found Kessa at a young age me, to the point where I had an altar ego, Ren, who was my best little girl self lol , we both went to Columbia, we were treated at some of the same places, and now, we re both writers who live in Brooklyn I tend to love picking up books where I can find pieces of myself in the author because even if our journeys aren t identical, I still feel like I am connected with him or her, and that s what I thought this would be in the same way I connected with Unbearable Lightness and, back in the day, the way I connected with Kessa But instead, I found myself learning almost nothing personal about the author besides these basic facts, as she brought zero insight or understanding into her own personal journey as she attempted to turn her story into an example for some greater point she was trying to make but failed to And on top of that, I had a hard time staying interested because every other flaw aside, the flow of this book is so disjointed and jarring, one minute you re watching her list everyone she s ever met with anorexia, trying to use their stories to fit her thesis, a minute later you re reading a rant about why Elizabeth Wurtzel sucks, and then after that, you re getting a bare bones narrative about her time in treatment It s just bizarre and doesn t work as a book A series of blogs, maybe, but having read this, I would have zero desire to check that blog out. Premise wise, Osgood sets out to do something that is far too uncommon in this type of memoir she seeks to tell her story without numbers and in a way that will not be triggering, that will not glamorise eating disorders I ve read others that set out to do the same if less explicitly , but they are unfortunately the exception rather than the rule I ll add, since I ve read a metric fucktonne of these, that I m pretty desensitised, but that doesn t mean I don t notice So I love that that s what she s trying for.But does she succeed I m not so sure For someone determined to avoid triggers, Osgood spends a lot of time talking about them For the most part her approach to not sharing triggering details of her own experience seems to translate into limiting all details of her own experience At the same time, a tremendous amount of the research portion of the book is about triggers, and triggering books.Osgood knew about anorexia before she ever became ill, and to her this is apparently a mark against her even in the book she is struggling with the question of validity She doesn t measure her illness in terms of weight, but she does measure it in terms of how many times she was in hospital and where It feels in places and of course I have no way of knowing if there s any truth to this that she s still trying to prove her anorexia so that she can let it go p 139.But I m less concerned with how Osgood portrays her own illness than I am with how she portrays others She is, by the time of writing, distanced from any desire to relapse or any pro ana sentiment, but to the extent that she comes off as disgusted by her former fellow patients Angry, sometimes Not always, and not in all of her discussions of other patients, but often enough to be noticeable They seem to be the manifestations of all that is wrong with eating disorder memoirs and fiction She questions whether individuals were anorexic or just wannarexic she implies a hierarchy of illness.And I m sorry, but it has to be said I cannot imagine finding myself described, in a book like this, as flabby , plump both p 110 , or chubby p 144 The last is in reference not to someone she knew but to a photo in a book of a girl in treatment for an eating disorder I ve read that book, and what the hell While we re at it, the elderly woman from the same book she describes in the same breath was 48 when that picture was taken I read this in mid late 2013 and then again in early mid 2014 because I wanted to be surer of what I thought about it It s an interesting book and an interesting take, but most of the good points are lost somewhere in the wandering and in the really problematic points I wanted to like this a great deal than I actually did.
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- 272 pages
- How to Disappear Completely
- Kelsey Osgood
- 19 September 2018 Kelsey Osgood