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Jennifer Traig
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Devil in the Details: Scenes From An Obsessive Girlhood

3.54  ·  Rating Details ·  3,925 Ratings  ·  466 Reviews
DEVIL IN THE DETAILS announces Jennifer Traig as one of the most hilarious writers to emerge in recent yearsand one of the strangest! Recalling the agony of growing up obsessivecompulsive and a religious fanatic, Traig fearlessly confesses the most peculiar behaviorlike tirelessly scrubbing her hands for a full half hour before dinner, feeding her stuffed animals before he ...more
Hard Cover
Published 2004 by Little, Brown and Company; Time Warner Book Group
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jules Q
Nov 23, 2007 Jules Q rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I’m not sure how I feel about this book, even still. I was intrigued when I first heard of it a few years ago, very interested to read a true life story about the struggles with OCD. And the fact that the author wrote with a clear view of her past and much humor made it all the more fascinating. If only the book had held up to that reputation.

The writing is good, the story intriguing. But the author’s particular type of OCD is a religious compulsion and her heritage is Jewish, so the stories (an
Mrs. McGregor
It's...okay. Once you get past how weird little Jenny was, praying six hours a day with a kleenex on her head and making imaginary cosmetics from her own spit, you kind of get over it.

Basically, this is Jenny's "comic" memoir of how it was going through high school with Scrupulosity, a form of OCD that centers around religious obsession. This fun mental illness cocktail included everything from sterilizing things that were "impure" to overzealously separating everything (not just dairy and meat
Jan 23, 2008 Monica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: favorites
This book was awesome. It's a memoir by Traig on her childhood with obsessive compulsive disorder. This childhood took place in 1980s California, before obsessive compulsive disorder was known and recognized as a disorder. Although some of Traig's experiences are humorous to those of us reading the story, I can't imagine how difficult this disorder was for her. She is born to a Catholic mother and Jewish father, and converts to Judaism. The strict rules for living as set out in the Torah send he ...more
Aug 22, 2007 Rachael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: my family but they wouldn't read it
It was slightly jarring to see so much of myself in the main character. I mean I don't have OCD or anything but I have a sympathy with her need to do those things. I don't have the compulsion but I do think about every shadow that passes my path as I'm driving and I do obsess about Salmonilla (which I still contend is totally reasonable to obsess over) and I do try to avoid stepping on tiles that are next to eachother in favor of those that are diagonal. I did make Delta stop a plane and turn it ...more
Jennifer Traig's childhood obsessive-compulsive religiosity makes for an entertaining read, but it's clear from the start that she doesn't think about (or present) it in a linear way.

About 2/3 of the way in, I started wondering, "Didn't she already mention this?" Closer to the end, I found myself wishing that she had employed a more ruthless editor, too -- because many of the details she chose to include about her high school years seemed not only redundant, but rather dull.

Still, I have a hank
I did not make it through the first chapter. I feel kind of embarrassed FOR this author. This book seems forced and inauthentic to me. I felt no connection to Jennifer Traig. I think it is important, at times, to keep the topics of mental illness light and humorous; but I feel like she goes overboard with it. I did not find her writing to be funny at all. Maybe I'm apathetic towards some of these authors who try to profit off of their mental illness now, I don't know. I have my own quirks and me ...more
Jul 02, 2008 Tung rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
For those who don’t know me well enough, I suffer from mild obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) (though I suppose mild is a relative term), which is why I picked up this book. This memoir describes Traig’s life growing up with a severe form of OCD called Scrupulosity where fanatic religious observance intersects with typical OCD fanatic observance of routine, resulting in (for Traig) situations like one instance where Traig put literally everything she owned in the washer on the remotest chance ...more
May 30, 2009 karenbee rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I did not enjoy this book AT ALL; I felt compelled to finish it just so I could say I did.

When I started "Devil in the Details," it was with the expectation that it would be about Jennifer Traig's struggle with OCD, maybe with a funny lean to it since she is known in the McSweeney's circuit. I was NOT expecting to learn alllll about Jewish law. Traig's OCD tendencies lean toward scrupulosity (which, for her, involves keeping Jewish laws, including some very obscure ones), which was new to me, so
Jun 19, 2008 Greta rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, because we are all ocd if we're being totally honest
Recommended to Greta by: some dude with a card/review on the "staff recommends" bookshelf
Shelves: memoir
i read this book essentially in one sitting: parked on the beach in a perfectly charming end-of-vacation/i'm-unemployed-and-have-no-idea-what-i'm-doing-with-my-life funk. at first, i had no patience for what seemed the usual sob-story of the trials of the adolescent middle-class white American female-- perfectionism and eating disorders and temper-tamtrums rolled into a neat clinical acronym, a protagnist whom we're supposed to pity and shake our heads over, grateful we are not she. but then i d ...more
Jan 10, 2008 Bethany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir, psych
Devil in the Details is subtitled “Scenes from an Obsessive Girlhood,” and rightly so. Traig suffered from scrupulosity, one of the Obsessive Compulsive Spectrum Disorders defined by a religious compulsion to do various things. She also has full-blown OCD, although in this book, it mainly manifests itself through her scrupulous behavior. Traig’s story is very interesting especially for those of us - like myself - who have OCD tendencies and/or spectrum disorders. I am always fascinated by tales ...more
Jun 19, 2014 Cameron.h rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
vote her out
May 17, 2016 Jamie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
3.5 stars
3.5 stars

Very interesting and educational memoir. A few minor things that didn't sit well with me. Full review soon!
Jul 28, 2008 Anittah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: budding memoiristas
From my review:

Traig writes well and had only one literary tendency that annoyed me (her overuse of "Oh, sure ..."). She kept me laughing, but towards the end of the book I became restless, wanting more:

-Some of the themes become repetitive towards the end; her writing could have been "tighter" in the closing essays
- She treats her adolescent self as a carnival freak, something to be laughed at, and invites her readers to do the same. But she is not a freak; she is a person. As a read
May 09, 2007 Adam rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Apr 19, 2017 Emma rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Incredibly repetitive. I can't tell if the cringe humor is actually cringe humor or just really poorly executed humor. Parts of this were hilarious and interesting, but 90% of this book was a chore to get through. I liked the look into what it's like to live with OCD, definitely a perspective changer. The ending was abrupt and unsatisfying.
Oct 21, 2012 Liz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Humor, I've been told, is something of a cure-all for emotional and mental traumas. Like a homemade tonic sold at a sideshow, people claim it can "cure whatever ails you," whether what ails you is male pattern baldness, an especially persistent boil, or something far more serious. It is true that making light of the depressing, the embarrassing, and the far too real to deal with can liberate a person from their problems. Cracking wise about your OCD, for example, can deflate it, and take its pow ...more
Feb 25, 2016 Hannah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs
In this book, Jennifer writes about her experiences growing up with scrupulosity, a hyper-religious form of obsessive-compulsive disorder. She first develops the condition around age twelve, when she is studying for her bat mitzvah.

"Halachah and latent OCD make a wonderful cocktail, and I was intoxicated. Suddenly I wasn't just washing; I was purifying myself of sin. I wasn't just patting things; I was laying on hands. Now my rituals were exactly that: rituals. And my gosh, it was fun. The endl
Jun 21, 2007 K rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs, jewish
I really enjoyed this. It was similar to "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" in some ways, but much better -- tighter and crisper, funnier. I loved how she took what could have been a depressing, morbid topic and made it enjoyable to read about (at least for me, Marg). Despite, or perhaps because of, the humorous tone throughout, I found a rare serious moment where she described some of the painful social aspects of the disorder extremely poignant and moving. I also think that you don't ...more
Apr 11, 2015 Lisa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
This memoir is filled with a lot of humor, which I appreciated, but it caused me to be skeptical as well -- is the author exaggerating her symptoms for a laugh, and if so, which ones? (It caught me by surprise, for instance, when she waited until the final chapter to mention that she had been eating her meals with bags on her hands.)

Also, the conclusion is that her OCD was caused by living with her family? Maybe? I'm not sure? But that's how I interpreted it? Let me add another question mark? Wh
Oct 14, 2008 Monica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is about Traig's childhood obsessive-compulsive disorder. I didn't it as much as her later book about hypochondria. However, some of it was pretty funny, such as her description of the time she turned orange from eating only melons and carrots. Also, here is her discussion of the disgusting eating habits of saints:

". . . told in tales that are not so much hagiography as gagiography . . . Saint Angela of Foligno liked to wash lepers and drink the run-off, growing ecstatic when the bathw
Oi Yin
Sep 01, 2007 Oi Yin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sufferers of OCD, Survivors of OCD, Those who have to live with people with OCD
Shelves: memoirs
The book took off at a sprint but lost steam about three quarters of the way through. Perhaps a testiment that those who suffer more than the "normal, average" person builds up rather snarky, sarcastic approaches to life and people in it, whereas when one becomes another clone of the population, these quirks melt away into dullness. Not to say that author did not have a wonder way of making light of her condition, which is no laughing matter at all. It's also reassuring to see that with enough t ...more
Jan 10, 2015 yves rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
Make no mistake, this is certainly an interesting and engaging book. I find it so freeing for these narratives to finally be told. That said, I was hoping for more. While Traig captures the pain and the good times, I was hoping for more emotional depth. She talks very little about her recovery, instead portraying it as a thing that just happened, which is the part I was looking forward to most. The other thing that brings this book down for me is a flippant and dismissive attitude towards seriou ...more
Nov 18, 2007 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The illness is serious but oh, this book is funny! In short vignettes, the author recounts her girlhood in a family of mixed and open religious heritage and practice against a backdrop of her own emergent anorexia and obsessive-compulsive disorder that results in Jewish Scrupulosity. What could be a book full of woe and self-pity is instead a hilarious, clever, self-aware, lively tale of a girl struggling to control something about her free-form life. With such clever, humorous writing, it was e ...more
Jul 30, 2010 Rebekkila rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't believe that I laughed so much while reading a book about a person with two mental illnesses. I read this during a long layover at an airport, the perfect place to be seen laughing alone. I gave this to my sister to read, she is the quirkiest person I know, she will probably find the author to be sympatico.
Feb 11, 2008 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Love it. Really funny personal look at a young girls struggle with OCD and finding where she fits into her religion. Very funny!
Sue Pretty
If you think you have probs, guess what! You don't. The brain is a formidable opponent when it's not working in your favour. Wow. #eyeopener
Aug 28, 2008 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What can I say? I enjoy reading about people more dysfunctional than me.
Sep 19, 2008 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A must-read for anyone acquainted with obsessive-compulsive disorder, or anyone who dearly loves to laugh (that's you, Elisha).
Jul 08, 2008 Abby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone, but especially if you're crazy
Oh, I loved this book so much! 5 stars! 5 stars! And a standing ovation!!

So, this is a book all about Jennifer Traig (the author) and her crazy life growing up with mental disorders. She was obsessive compulsive, anorexic, hypochondriac, scrupulosity-er, and... probably some other things.

I have two reasons I loved this book so much. 1. She is just a super hilarious author. I kept laughing out loud. 2. As she described her craziness (which we'll rank her a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10), I realized th
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Jennifer Traig is a frequent contributor to McSweeney's and The Forward. She is the author of a series of young adult books and a humor book, JUDAIKITSCH. She has a Ph.D. in literature and lives in San Francisco.
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“Every time a girl refuses to eat, she one-ups Eve.” 19 likes
“There's a fine line between piety and wack-ass obsession, and people have been landing on the wrong side for thousands of years.” 5 likes
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