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Binary Star

3.27  ·  Rating details ·  1,709 ratings  ·  236 reviews
The language of the stars is the language of the body. Like a star, the anorexic burns fuel that isn't replenished; she is held together by her own gravity.

With luminous, lyrical prose, Binary Star is an impassioned account of a young woman struggling with anorexia and her long-distance, alcoholic boyfriend. On a road-trip circumnavigating the United States, they stumble i
Paperback, 166 pages
Published January 13th 2015 by Two Dollar Radio (first published January 5th 2015)
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3.27  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,709 ratings  ·  236 reviews

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Paquita Maria Sanchez
Dec 24, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: literature, usa
It seemed ungenerous to rate an as-yet-unpublished book so low on Christmas Eve without explaining myself, so I thought I'd slap just a few words on the internet in order to make myself feel better about being the Mr. Scrooge of Small Press. Basically, I am almost certain this book has an audience, but I am 100% certain that auditorium does not contain me. It's important for me to insert here that the narrator of the book is a young woman experiencing (amongst other things, but mostly) some buli ...more
Jan 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
I first read Gerard in a NY Times Op-Ed piece "Anorexia and Escape" (see: And frankly I think she does herself an enormous disservice in having written this ostensibly as fiction. Her autobiographical voice is much stronger and doesn't rely on a somewhat flimsy astronomical metaphor as a creative crutch.

Does this book lack authenticity? No. As someone who has in the past struggled with eating disorder behavior, all of this rang true as an accurate portr
Edward Rathke
Apr 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is an interesting little novel that only takes a couple hours to read.

Living inside a disease. That's what this novel is. It is, I think, about emotion and connection, but because the disease at the heart of the novel and the diseases at the core of the relationship it revolves around are so much about disruption and dissociating from those around you, it has a sort of flat style. These are serious emotions and moments happening in the novel but the voice is sort of clinical or detached.

Jan 18, 2015 rated it did not like it
Binary Star is so steeped in the narcissism of its main characters that there wasn't much for me to salvage. Our protagonist and her trust-fund baby of a boyfriend are unlikeable. He's clearly a jerk from page one but our protagonist is too preoccupied with ennui to notice.

I get that these characters are both suffering greatly from mental illness. But layered on top of that is a hipstery piousness that has nothing to do with their respective diseases. Yes, yes, I understand, America is drowning
Edward  Goetz
Jan 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, literature
This book was terrifying. Because she had an eating disorder and she is such a gifted writer, Gerard gets as close as possible to making you feel what it is like without having one yourself.

I read the author is doing well and it is my hope she continues to be successful in fighting this insidious disorder.
Jan 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
Any novel that starts off with a quote from Raoul Vaneigem is OK with me. The quote: "Down with a world in which the guarantee that we will not die of starvation has been purchased by the guarantee that we will die of boredom." This quotation sets the book in its proper light, considering the first person account of struggling with anorexia, as well as with her alcoholic boyfriend. It's an impossible book to put down. Both due to the writing, but as well as the force to go to from beginning to t ...more
Jason Pettus
Dec 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

Earlier this year I had an opportunity to interview Sarah Gerard for CCLaP's podcast while she was in town, which unfortunately I didn't get to do because I was so busy with the computer coding bootcamp I was in; and that's a shame, because now that I've finally had a chance to read her novel Binary Star s
Apr 11, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mmm, this is a strange one. Deeply affecting, Gerard’s pared-down prose – single lines, fragments, lists, snippets – makes for bruising reading. I was fascinated at how these two deeply damaged individuals emerge from the deconstructed text as two whole characters I came to care about deeply (and let us not forget Dog).

The sex scenes are particularly unpleasant, involving pain and degradation … but I suppose this is precisely Gerard’s point: that this dysfunctional couple’s self-destruction inev
emily compton
Jan 11, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-in-2015

generally, i give a rating based on a gut reaction immediately after finishing a book. in this case, it was a little more difficult because i had so many conflicting feelings while reading this, but my final thought was that i was pleasantly surprised by not hating it as much as i had anticipated--and did, for at least the first half. to start, i had really high hopes for this. it was on seemingly every list i read of books to look forward to in 2015, and its description was right up
Mar 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: small-press
I don't think I would have been as disappointed in this book if the buzz surrounding it hadn't been quite so loud.

Binary Star explores the destructive orbits of a young woman struggling with a severe eating disorder and her alcoholic, long-distance boyfriend. Gerard definitely has the chops for great prose. Certain passages, like the in-class exercises the protagonist submits (or imagines submitting) her students to, are fantastic. These moments, however, serve to highlight the rest of the nove
Marc Kozak
Jan 26, 2015 rated it it was ok
Poetic prose -- sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn't.

This is a big swing and a miss, and particularly disappointing because between the themes and subject matter, this could've been so much more. A young woman with a severe eating disorder goes on a road trip with her alcoholic long-distance boyfriend, all the while playing up an analogy comparing the two people with binary stars (two stars orbiting around their common center of mass).

The biggest problem was the author's insistence on
Jul 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
I reviewed this for The Rumpus -- here's an excerpt:

There used to be a ride at my local amusement park called Time Shaft, a rotor ride where you got spun around with increasing speed, the centrifugal force pushing you against the wall as the floor dropped out beneath you. Reading Binary Star brought back some of that feeling of being spun into suspension. It feels dangerous and ecstatic; it feels sick.

Most literary narratives of female anorexia and bulimia are housed in either the young adult pr
Dec 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
Binary Star follows a young woman as she works to balance a long distance relationship and the start of a teaching career while dealing with the struggles of anorexia. In moments of reflection, she looks back on the cross-country trip that allowed her relationship a shared space and continues to sort out its purpose in her present.

At just 98 pounds when the novel starts, Binary Star‘s narrator paints a piercing picture of life with anorexia, dictated by lists and centered on control. While the r
Mar 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
Hopelessly privileged and self-absorbed characters. Nice prose. Cut out the people and it's a beautiful sky chart.
May 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015

This book would have held greater appeal for me had it not been for its unflattering portrayal of veganism and its trivialization of the animal rights movement. These often-maligned ideologies already suffer enough from casual misunderstanding, negative stereotyping, and reactionary prejudicial thought. The entanglement of veganism with eating disorders is a problematic and highly nuanced issue that I would prefer not to delve into here other than to point out that making this association in a w
Bud Smith
Jul 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
This one had me hypnotized. The narrator is stuck in a loop that is disintegrating her. There's a descent into near-madness and fanaticism that's hard to look away from, so much so, I read the whole book in one sitting, no interest in the real world for four hours. The prose is sharp, tragic, hurts. Walloping references to pop culture obsession and constant branding of products, drugs and alcohol, celebrities ... The world in Binary Star is a helpless, joyless world, but a true one. This is what ...more
Jun 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Binary Star is a readable novel. I read it quickly and I found it interesting. It's different and odd and unique. Sarah Gerard is a good writer, and she definitely experiments with literary conventions.

Binary Star is narrated by an unnamed young woman. She has an eating disorder, and is consumed by her relationship with food and her obsession with stars and space. She studies astronomy and education at school, and is working towards becoming a teacher. Our heroine has a long-distance boyfriend n
Apr 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
You haven’t eaten for hours. How are you awake? How can you drive?

I’m always awake. I’m always driving toward something.

Right now, I’m driving a line toward the void.

There is work to be done, but I won’t do it. I’ll circle my apartment elliptically burning calories from the kitchen to the bathroom.

I’ll eat a cup of grapes and purge, eat a cup of grapes and purge, eat and purge.

Fall into my hunger but never reach it.

Orbit its atmosphere.

Objects that fall into orbit around Earth can’t stay there f
Kati Heng
Feb 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
God, is this book extraordinary.
Where do I even begin? The book’s plot revolves around two lovers, a young woman, our narrator, who struggles with bulimia and anorexia, who spins through tabloids and celebrity gossip, and her long-distance boyfriend John, an alcoholic who ignores his illness. Both are resigned to enduring their lovers and their own problems, linked together less by passion than loyalty, than the need to be loved and cared for by someone as fucked up themselves.
There’s SO MUC
Jul 11, 2015 rated it liked it

[THIS BOOK IN ONE SENTENCE: An anorexic young woman falls deeper into her disease and veganarchism while engaging in a toxic relationship with an unemployed alcoholic.]

The format of Binary Star is not typical of most novels (excepting Ellen Hopkins of Crank fame and other dare-to-be-different young adult authors). This novel is written in poetic form, but more than that; it’s written as if you’re simply following the narrator’s train of thought. There are no quotations around the
Mar 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
You know when the author has you when the female lead has an eating disorder and you keep hitting the kitchen to eat.

Fraught with star symbolism poised against her eating disorder and relationship with her boyfriend.

Fantastic first novel I would have read it in one sitting had I not had other responsibilities.

Beautiful, painful, candid, brass, desperate and brave, I was sad to let it end.

Her style reminds me of Burroughs; poignant, sparse yet strong.

Must read!
Vincent Scarpa
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My favorite read of the year so far. In the hands of any other writer, this book could not have been pulled off. In Gerard's, it is executed to perfection. It is magic. One of the most exciting voices I've ever read.
Nov 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read2014
This is a hell of a book.
Mar 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
A bit disturbing, but raw, beautiful and captivating.
Oct 30, 2017 rated it did not like it
Did not finish this book. Got to page 72 and quit. The main character contradicts herself every other line. Gerard is trying to be poetic, but she’s not even the least bit successful with it.
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Strobo verse-prose autofiction for fucked-up kids. <3
Apr 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
Mmm. Not my cuppa. Not so much the fault of this particular book—I just don't respond terribly well to aggressively poetic prose. (Aggressively literary poetic prose?) I might have appreciated it better had I been inclined to read more slowly, process more gradually; I didn't take great pains to separate out past and present in the narrative.

It doesn't really help that the characters are so deeply unlikable—self-absorbed and self-righteous, manipulative and not terribly stable, destructive and s
Jun 19, 2015 rated it liked it
I really went back and forth on how I was going to rate this. Gerard has an impressive sense of the connections between our modern culture and its symptoms like eating disorders, disconnection, and narcissistic activism. I felt the star metaphors were very appropriate -- explosive behavior, the pressure inside, circling one another -- plus it's just nice to be reminded of everything I forgot from astronomy. The ending certainly knocked a star off for me as I've read a few similar to it recently. ...more
Leah Bayer
There are some elements in novels that I am just compulsively drawn to. Anything having to do with eating disorders is a big one. Space, especially the physics behind stars, is another. Never did I think the two would meet, but here we are. And it has yet another buzz trope for me (is that a word combination? like buzzword + your favorite tropes? it is now!) = dark and lyrical prose-poetry.

For me, this book was utter perfection. It’s just so many things I adore and it’s all executed perfectly.
This was a powerful, engaging read that was more like poetry than prose. Sarah Gerard captures a particular perspective beautifully, and underscores the lyrical cadence of the main character's visceral dysphoria and alienation with a map of celestial images and information that parallels her own shifts and transformations. If you need a literal, chronological narrative, then this is not the book for you, but I highly recommend it to anyone interested topics like ecofeminism, eating disorders, wo ...more
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Around the Year i...: Binary Star, by Sarah Gerard 1 12 Dec 04, 2016 02:26PM  

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Sarah Gerard is the author of the novel Binary Star (Two Dollar Radio), the forthcoming essay collection Sunshine State (Harper Perennial), and two chapbooks, most recently BFF (Guillotine). Her short stories, essays, interviews, and criticism have appeared in The New York Times, Granta, New York Magazine‘s “The Cut”, The Paris Review Daily, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Bookforum, Joyland, Vic ...more
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“The longer I live in time, the less I believe in the future.” 9 likes
“The way space-time curves around it: Love is a black hole. Undetectable except by the way it affects other bodies. Invisible but strong. Inescapable.” 6 likes
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