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Devil in the Details: Scenes from an Obsessive Girlhood

3.54 of 5 stars 3.54  ·  rating details  ·  3,550 ratings  ·  432 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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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jules Q
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
Jul 28, 2008 Anittah rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
On one hand, I'm kind of fascinated by these things. Having some insight into the day to day life of someone with OCD was very interesting. I've heard and read about OCD in passing, but never knew what it could really be like. Jennifer prayed compulsively for hours every day, couldn't sit on certain pieces of furniture because it had been "contaminated" by other people, washed her hands about 100 times a day, had to wash and sanitize dishes and utensils multiple times, among many other things. S ...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
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
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.
The genre of this book is non-fiction. The book is almost like a dairy of young girl learning to cope with her severe OCD, known as Scrupulosity. The book gives you an inside perspective as someone dealing with this type of issue.
I liked the amount of descriptions she wrote. It really let you imagine the difficult scenes she had throughout the book. My favorite part is when Traig would tell us her "rituals" she did before different events. It made me undderstand the actual twentey-four hour,
Kristal Cooper
It's a given that I'll read a book, especially a memoir, that deals heavily in a subject I know little about practically. Although I have a tendency to get addicted to new hobbies for a length of time, much of the behaviors described here are foreign to me and therefore interesting. However, this may be a case of too much of a good thing. Random stories piled upon others and left me feeling like there was no continuity. (I was over five hours into this audiobook before I realized that the chapte ...more
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
Love it. Really funny personal look at a young girls struggle with OCD and finding where she fits into her religion. Very funny!
A must-read for anyone acquainted with obsessive-compulsive disorder, or anyone who dearly loves to laugh (that's you, Elisha).
Nancy Behrendt
I thought this would be really embarrassing to read, but she embraces her eccentricities. I couldn't have written this book. I have done a lot of strange things -- not as ocd as Jenny, but weird. I have a mom with "ocd tendancies" and I would do things that seem ocd-ish but I felt no NEED, no I-MUST-DO-THIS-OR-SOMEONE-WILL-DIE feeling. I felt I should this because things wouldn't feel right if I didn't do it. . . .

Anyway, back to this book. I enjoyed laughing with Jenny. I felt her joy and her
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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 Don't Forget to Write for the Secondary Grades: 50 Enthralling and Effective Writing Lessons, Ages 11 and Up Don't Forget to Write for the Elementary Grades: 50 Enthralling and Effective Writing Lessons, Ages 5 to 12

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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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