Read Devil in the Details: Scenes from an Obsessive Girlhood by Jennifer Traig Online


When her father found the washing machine crammed with everything from her sneakers to her barrettes, 12-year-old Jennifer Traig had a simple explanation: They’d been tainted by the pork fumes emanating from the kitchen and had to be cleansed. The same fumes compelled Jennifer to wash her hands for 30 minutes before dinner. Jennifer’s childhood mania was the result of herWhen her father found the washing machine crammed with everything from her sneakers to her barrettes, 12-year-old Jennifer Traig had a simple explanation: They’d been tainted by the pork fumes emanating from the kitchen and had to be cleansed. The same fumes compelled Jennifer to wash her hands for 30 minutes before dinner. Jennifer’s childhood mania was the result of her then undiagnosed Obsessive Compulsive Disorder joining forces with her Hebrew studies. While preparing for her bat mitzvah, she was introduced to an entire set of arcane laws and quickly made it her mission to follow them perfectly. Her parents nipped her religious obsession in the bud early on, but as her teen years went by, her natural tendency toward the extreme led her down different paths of adolescent agony and mortification.Years later, Jennifer remembers these scenes with candor and humor. What emerges is a portrait of a well-meaning girl and her good-natured parents, and a very funny, very sharp look back at growing up....

Title : Devil in the Details: Scenes from an Obsessive Girlhood
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781565118980
Format Type : Audio CD
Number of Pages : 8 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Devil in the Details: Scenes from an Obsessive Girlhood Reviews

  • Jules Q
    2019-04-24 17:48

    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 (and compulsions) are endless. Not to mention tedious. Had Traig chosen to tell her story without such depth of explication regarding Jewish ritual I would have enjoyed it much better. It’s one thing to inform a non-Jewish reader, but quite another to drone on ad nauseum. And entire chapters felt ad nauseum. The story would have been better served with less religious ritual detail and more social commentary, less education and more autobiography. What perplexes me still is that fact that I wasn’t truly enjoying the book but I couldn’t seem to set it aside. Somehow she made me care to know how things played out, even when I cared nothing about what she was telling me.Jennifer Traig is a good writer, and I would certainly read more of her work in the future. I did enjoy Devil in the Details. I was simply prepared to enjoy it more, and that never came. I can’t say I’ll recommend this book to anyone, but I’m happy to have one more title to pass along to an interested party.

  • Mrs. McGregor
    2019-05-06 12:08

    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), and various old testament dietary restrictions that eventually led Jenny to occasional bouts with anorexia, which she called "flare-ups". To make things more complicated, Jenny has a cooler, better-dressed and less socially-retarded sister just one year younger than herself, straight from the pages of a Brett Easton Ellis novel (or more likely a movie made from a Brett Easton Ellis novel). Add to the mix a Jewish surgeon for a father and a Catholic mom in charge of making sure Jenny gets a proper Jewish education, all whose secular sensibilities make it difficult to understand Jenny's strange form of spirituality.Having read three well-known and decidedly not comical accounts of anorexia (Wasted by Marya Hornbacher) and mental illness (Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel and Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kayson), Devil in the Details was obviously a more "fun" read, but not necessarily a lot more fun. Honestly, it's not that I didn't get Jennifer Traig's sense of humor, it just wasn't appealing to me. Oh, sure, I occasionally chuckled, but not enough chuckles to sustain me through 242 pages of repetition. Yes, who would have guessed an OCD writer would repeat things, or say, obsess about certain things? Just kidding. But honestly, this short memoir could have been a bit shorter, in my opinion. I probably didn't need to hear about the summer crafting frenzy she went through every summer more than once. And she probably didn't need to mention that her Mom was Catholic over and over and over again. In Traig's defense though, who can't appreciate a good Pentecostal joke from time to time?

  • Monica
    2019-05-06 15:44

    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 her compulsions into an amusing but heartwrenching tailspin. It helped me to understand what those who have this disorder go through, and it amused me as well. It wasn't written as a textbook, which was a big plus for me.

  • Rachael
    2019-05-20 13:59

    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 around on the runway because I didn't want to be away from my mother for a week. The inconsistencies in my childhood wallpaper kept me awake at night. I ritualize things like showering and going to the gym. I know that these things are all basically normal but I can see how easy it would be to tip over the edge. And it's all presented with a self-deprecating sense of humor and detailed descriptions of the most brutal 70's and 80's fashions, creative parenting, and compulsory summer crafting. Plus there are sheep getting castrated in home room. All in all a cathartically good time.

  • Jessica
    2019-05-07 12:53

    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 hankerin' for first person memoirs that this book satisfied, at least partially. And there's definitely a lot of good stuff in here about orthodox judaism and OCD, if you're into that sort of thing. Plus, SCRUPULOSITY is about the best diagnostic term I've ever heard.I'd give this one a solid B.

  • Briana
    2019-05-15 19:11

    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 mental maladies that quite often mirror those about whom I read and I'm not making money off of it. I think it is quickly becoming a pet peeve of mine, this over-glorification of one's experience. I'd rather read about someone's story who has some humility and who is writing for the benefit of others, not of themselves.

  • Tung
    2019-05-01 19:10

    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 that it had been contaminated by pork fumes (she’s Jewish). The book details her growing into her disorder, her struggles with maintaining a normal life while dealing with the impulses bred by the disorder, her struggles within her own family because of her disorder, and her struggles dealing with the everyday struggles of childhood as they are exacerbated by her disorder – typical memoir stuff under the added heat of mental illness. Traig also delves into her life in a multi-faith family (her dad is nominally Jewish, her mother nominally Catholic), and how that was a huge struggle if your religious beliefs are affected by OCD. Traig’s prose is mostly comical, trying to bring humor to her condition. For example, she describes her condition the following way: “Scrupulosity is also known as scruples, a name I much prefer. Scruples sounds like it could be a pesky, harmless condition: ‘I ate some bad clams last night, and today I’ve got the scruples.’” She also sprinkles in random OCD comic bits in between chapters – like how to play musical chairs the OCD way, which involves not being able to sit in any chairs since they’re all likely dirty, and ends with “Players may not sit on any of the toilets. This goes without saying. Don’t think about toilets. Don’t think about toilets. Don’t think about toilets. Oh, now you’re going to have to go wash. Game over.” Traig also does an excellent job of describing various aspects of OCD that we suffer that most people don’t realize are tied to the disease – like constant worrying about very morbid situations that are unlikely to occur. But while I liked this book’s humorous and accurate descriptions of OCD, I had three issues with it. First, Traig was not (for me) remotely likable throughout this recollection of her childhood. The fit she throws about her bat mitzvah had less to do with her OCD, and more to do with her selfishness. There were numerous instances throughout that made me think if I were her parent, I’d have institutionalized her or crushed her skull. Hard to like a memoir when you find the protagonist completely unlikable. Secondly, the chapters seemed disjointed, as if each were written independently rather than as part of a unified novel. Some of the timelines in each chapter overlap, making the whole feel disjointed. Lastly, some of the chapters seem tied into her OCD as an afterthought, as if she wanted to share a part of her childhood that wasn’t affected by her condition, only to realize her selling point in this book was her OCD, so she had to find ways to tie it altogether. For example, she discusses her mother’s love of arts & crafts, and how she spent many summers doing macramé or needlepoint. Then she’d throw in one sentence about how the arts & crafts used to calm her from her OCD. Overall, an interesting read, especially for those with OCD, but sloppily written in my opinion.

  • karenbee
    2019-04-24 15:46

    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 I enjoyed reading about it, at first. But it got tedious fast. Don't get me wrong, there are some funny parts, and Traig manages to get the feeling of helplessness (for lack of a better term) -- against OCD and especially against the religious compulsions -- across. I felt for her. I felt for her parents, I felt for her sister, I felt for everyone who has read this book and felt like they HAD to finish it even though it becomes a chore about halfway through the book.In addition, the whole book felt disjointed, as Traig bounced back and forth in time and topic. Maybe this was her intent and I should have read it as a book of essays instead of a whole-piece memoir. I can't really recommend this one; although I'm sure a few people WOULD enjoy it, I can't think of any of them offhand. The cover is pretty, though!

  • Greta
    2019-05-17 11:54

    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 discovered, very quickly. that THIS was precisely the point. the book is wickedly funny; i burst into laughter often and insisted on reading bits and whole passages aloud to my sister who was lying next to me because they needed to be taken off the page and appreciated for their wit. it was also refreshingly honest, truly, without the "praise me for being so honest" agenda. the only aspect of which i wasn't so huge a fan was the structure of the book- it was definitely non-linear and sort of like a comedy routine at times, organized by themes that sometimes overlapped a little too much (tendency toward repetition; but maybe that's just the ocd coming out, huh?). overall, though, a pretty brilliant quick read that makes you realize simultaneously how weird and yet how normal you yourself are.

  • Bethany
    2019-04-27 12:49

    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 of others’ mental interiors, and this is no exception.Traig treats her childhood with sensitivity, never falling into self-pity or hatred, and yet is brutally honest about the strange behaviors in which she participated. This book is humorous and well-written, and heartily recommended.

  • Cameron.h
    2019-05-18 19:00

    vote her out

  • Jamie
    2019-05-01 13:45

    3.5 stars

  • Christina
    2019-04-29 13:03

    3.5 starsVery interesting and educational memoir. A few minor things that didn't sit well with me. Full review soon!

  • Anittah
    2019-05-17 13:55

    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 reader, I wanted to love her and care about her. But she doesn't really let us feel her pain -- surely there was real hurt in those moments, yes? She doesn't dig deep enough; she is content to let those scabs merely become fodder for jokes. And in the end, because she seems to be dismissive and distant towards her former self, the reader has no choice but to do the same.If I were her editor, I'd push her for a rewrite and ask for more of the raw feelings. Yes, her skin was chapped -- but what about her heart? Bring us your pain, Traig, and let us cry with you as you are trapped in your disability. Show us that you love yourself, so that we can love you too. Because we want to!

  • Adam
    2019-05-22 15:43


  • Emma
    2019-04-30 18:11

    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.

  • Liz
    2019-05-05 12:57

    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 power over you away. Jennifer Traig talks about her particular flavor of OCD--scrupulosity, which is defined as "a psychological disorder characterized by pathological guilt about moral or religious issues"--like it was a dirty joke. Sure, it's funny, but you're going to feel kind of bad for laughing. Traig does this especially well. This is partially due to her skill as a writer, but the dumbfounding strangeness of her disorder contributes heavily to the effectiveness of her punchlines. Funny and awkward usually go hand in hand, and there's nothing quite as awkward as an anorexic, Orthodox Jew that compulsively rips her hair out because she can't decide if accepting a soda from a possibly contaminated cooler is more sinful than rudely refusing the drink. This sort of behavior makes most people uncomfortable. When most people feel uncomfortable, they laugh. Traig exploits this principle, creating a tense atmosphere for the reader to wallow in. And this is very, very funny. This strategy is a double edged sword, though. While cracking jokes about your problems can make them more accessible to your audience, resorting to these jokes every few pages can have the opposite effect. Traig's jokes begin to adopt a formula, and in the middle of the book, seem repetitive. However, the end recovers from this slight slack in the memoir. Traig balances out the humorous with the seriousness of her scrupulosity. Her jabs at her own mental problems never come off as truly light-hearted, and perhaps that is the powerful part of "Devil in the Details." Jennifer Traig seems to be laughing at herself as she paints a mocking self-portrait, but you can still hear her crying.

  • Hannah
    2019-05-05 14:56

    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 endless chanting, the incessant immersing of vessels-I couldn't get enough. The obsessive behavior quickly evolved from a casual hobby to an all-consuming addiction, a full-time occupation. It happened so fast. One day I was riding bikes to McDonald's like a normal kid; the next, I was painting the lintels with marinade to ward off the Angel of Death."Jennifer writes humorously about her agonizing condition and the many different compulsions she had. She mentions a few in the beginning."The disease manifested itself in different ways, but they were always, always embarrassing. Sometimes I had to drop to my knees and pray in the middle of student council meetings, and sometimes I had to hide under the bleachers and chant psalms. Sometimes I couldn't touch anything and sometimes I had to pat something repeatedly. Sometimes I had to wash my hands and sometimes I had to wash someone else's." Some parts of the book are slightly repetitive and the timeline is super jumbled, but that didn't prevent me from enjoying it.

  • K
    2019-05-14 17:06

    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 need to have OCD to empathize with the sense she had of being marginalized; many adolescents go through that, even if it's less extreme, and would be able to relate. Finally, memoirs often get on my nerves -- it's a genre that's inherently self-indulgent and self-absorbed, and too many of them are angry and bitter, especially about the evil family of origin. I found this memoir very refreshing in that sense. Even as she described herself, her humor was so self-deprecating and sharp that this memoir was the opposite of narcissistic. In addition, you got the sense that she loved her family and that they loved her -- they had their share of foibles but were decidedly not dysfunctional. They were depicted as sharp and witty, but also tolerant and accepting and trying their best to help her. In short, I was impressed by her talent and really enjoyed reading the book.

  • Lisa
    2019-05-05 19:02

    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? Which is an unfortunate ending because previous chapters offered no indication that this was the case, so I feel badly for her if her message was misconstrued. But if it is true, I wish the author had chosen to talk about her family relationships in more detail.*This book gets bonus points for mentioning my favorite childhood movie (and admittedly still a favorite!) Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.

  • Monica
    2019-05-16 15:59

    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 bathwater was chunky with scabs. Saint Marguerite-Marie Alacoque had similar tastes, relishing the phlegm and diarrhea of the infirm. At some point it seems it was fairly standard practice among the extremely devout to consume the bodily detritus of the lepers in their charge."Ok, so that's pretty gross, but I guess you can tell where my sense of humor lies. The rest of the book isn't all that gross, though, but it is amusing.

  • Oi Yin
    2019-05-04 19:03

    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 treatment, anything can be overcome, especially when one is as introspective and self-aware as Ms. Traig was/is. Despite the progress made, she also brings to light that although the symptoms can be controlled through sheer willpower, they will never disappear and will always threaten to take hold of her life.

  • yves
    2019-04-27 14:58

    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 serious illnesses -- which I understand that she has experience with and towards which she has every right to take whatever attitude she chooses -- that I felt were out of place and caused the book to lose some of its credibility as a positive story about mental health.

  • Karen
    2019-05-03 12:54

    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 easier to find commonality in the tale of a quirky girl's coming of age rather than feel distance from her OCD with orthodox Jewish law. I found my recent reading of A.J. Jacobs' "The Year of Living Biblically" quite helpful in quick understanding of Ms. Traig's obsessive religious pursuits.

  • Rebekkila
    2019-05-14 14:42

    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.

  • Anna H
    2019-05-18 18:51

    Insightful and hysterical Traig chronicles not only what it was like to be OCD as a teenager, but adolescent American life in the '70s and '80s, growing up in an interfaith family. I don't normally laugh out loud when I read, but I'm sure co-workers were looking at me funny as I was giggling through my lunch breaks this week....highly recommend.

  • Julie
    2019-05-16 13:47

    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
    2019-05-21 16:52

    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

  • Michelle
    2019-05-10 18:07

    What can I say? I enjoy reading about people more dysfunctional than me.

  • Sarah
    2019-04-28 16:09

    A must-read for anyone acquainted with obsessive-compulsive disorder, or anyone who dearly loves to laugh (that's you, Elisha).