Devil in the Details: Scenes from an Obsessive Girlhood
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Devil in the Details: Scenes from an Obsessive Girlhood

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  3,024 ratings  ·  389 reviews
In the bestselling tradition of "Running with Scissors" and "A Girl Named Zippy," Jennifer Traig tells an unforgettable story of youthful obsession.
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Published September 3rd 2007 by Back Bay Books (first published January 1st 2004)
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Jules Q (Nolatari)
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...more
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...more
Jessica
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...more
Monica
May 14, 2011 Monica rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Rachael
Aug 25, 2007 Rachael rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: my family but they wouldn't read it
Shelves: comedy
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
Bethany
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
karen
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...more
Tung
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
Greta
Jun 27, 2008 Greta rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  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
Liz
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
K
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
Briana
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
Monica
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...more
Oi Yin
Oct 26, 2007 Oi Yin rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
Karen
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
Nate T
Jun 27, 2014 Nate T rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anybody who wants a deeper insight into OCD, those who enjoy humorous memoirs
As somebody with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I thought I might benefit from reading about it. It was something I have had to deal with since I was in grade school(and, possibly, even before that), so I thought reading this would help me "cope" with it.

That is not the purpose of Devil in the Details, so far as I can tell. It is not a how-to guide for obsessive-compulsives trying to "cope" with their disorder. I didn't think that was what this book was. What this book is is a series of stories...more
Emilia Rosén
2.5 out of 5.

Okay, so don't get me wrong because I'm all for weird books, and weird stuff in books, but for the first time in my life I am going to say that this book was just too much.

I liked in the sense that it's helped me to gain some perspective as to what it really means to be OCD, but the people in this book all just seemed insane to me - excluding the person who is actually diagnosed with OCD.

I think that it was so far away from my own reality that I just couldn't even begin to understa...more
Julie
Love it. Really funny personal look at a young girls struggle with OCD and finding where she fits into her religion. Very funny!
Sarah
A must-read for anyone acquainted with obsessive-compulsive disorder, or anyone who dearly loves to laugh (that's you, Elisha).
Michelle
What can I say? I enjoy reading about people more dysfunctional than me.
Michelle
I chuckled through a lot of this memoir, because Traig has managed to find the humor in her difficult adolescence that was chock full of OCD, anorexia, and absurd religiosity. It's not always my type of humor, though, so the chuckles were light. But since she's so endearing about it, you have to sympathize. Having a touch of OCD-like behaviors growing up, I got a twinge of recognition in the bizarre need to do a task a certain way, and the over-concern about doing something wrong or hurting some...more
Coleen
Some mixed feelings about this one. For someone who's been diagnosed with OCD, I would've expected this memoir to maybe have been a little more fluid than it was. My main problem with this book for me was the way it jumped around in time -- at one point Traig would be talking about an incident in her teenage years, and then she'd be talking about something that happened when she was 4 or 5, and I had trouble getting a grip on how this disease really evolved for her. True -- I laughed out loud at...more
Natalie Pezzenti
I've always been fascinated by those who have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. And, in a way, I think we all have a little OCD in us. Whether it's cleaning the sink until you can see your own reflection in it, or making sure your clothes are lined up in rainbow order, there are particular things we all do that make us feel better and bring a sense of peace. Jennifer Traig's experience is no different, except that her OCD revolves around being a devote Jew. She admits that she takes her obsession t...more
Beth Peninger
HYSTERICAL. Traig tells her story with wit and snark.
Jennifer Traig is a recovering OCDer who happens to be half-jewish as well. She used her jewish roots to feed her OCD when she was a teenager and the stories she tells will have you crying from laughing so hard. Her family chose to acknowledge her OCD behavior with humor and not a lot of coddling. I'm sure in reality, separate from the stories she shares in this memoir, her family was confused and irritated. Traig relays her sickness and stru...more
Ashley
"Scenes" from an Obsessive Girlhood is right - I feel like I have whiplash from all the chronological jumping around Traig did in this book. Big parts of this book felt like word problems to me; in one chapter she's plagued by recurring scrupulosity and anorexia, but in the very next chapter she's broken a pair of glasses that she's had since 2 years after her mental health issues first cropped up, which, incidentally, was 3 months before she was first dragged to a nutritionist for turning orang...more
hey.emily
I wanted to like this. I read a lot of memoirs, and haven't read many on living with OCD. When I began reading, I was blindsided by the religious content. OK, fine; interesting point of view: being religious as a compulsion. Unfortunately, Traig doesn't really delve into this besides a brief aside about driving her rabbi crazy with questions about the bits and pieces of religious law. The mix of religion in her family ("interfaith", as she calls it) are chronicled ad nauseum, and the really inte...more
Karin
This book was really funny!! It was almost like listening to a stand-up comic talk about their life. Sometimes i wasn't sure how much was real and how much was exaggerated just a touch.

I found out that i wasn't the only one with ocd (mine unrecognized at the time) that didn't want to get their driver's liscense for the same reasons she outlines. And then after i did get it (at 18) to worry about how many people i hit on my way home...even tho there were never any bodies flung over my engine.

Some...more
Heather
This was a quick read-- entertaining, but at the same time i just wanted to finish it.
The memoir recounts the trials of a girl growing up with a religion-centered form of OCD called scrupulosity.
The situation is made even more difficult by the fact that she is being raised Jewish by a Catholic mother (Jewish father) in a rural, and very gentile, town in northern California.
With her illness largely under control as an adult, Traig is able to present the details of her dysfunctional girlhood with...more
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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.
More about Jennifer Traig...
Well Enough Alone The Autobiographer's Handbook: The 826 National Guide to Writing Your Memoir What Would Wonder Woman Do?: An Amazon's Guide to the Working World Judaikitsch: Tchotchkes, Schmattes and Nosherei Don't Forget to Write for the Secondary Grades: 50 Enthralling and Effective Writing Lessons, Ages 11 and Up

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“Every time a girl refuses to eat, she one-ups Eve.” 17 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.” 3 likes
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