November 9th, 2007

reading, activism, writing

Book # 42: Appetites: Why Woman Want, by Caroline Knapp

The late Caroline Knapp wrote at the beginning of her book: "In Renoir's world, a woman's appetites are imagined as rich and lusty and powerful, the core of the female being celebrated as sensual, deeply attuned to pleasure. In my world--a place that unquestionably still exists, that's inhabited with varying degrees of intensity by all too many women--appetites had nearly the opposite meaning, the body experienced as dangerous and disturbing and wrong..."

Knapp occupied the weird alter-world of eating disorders, where thin is fat and eating is not nourishment, but an obsession that momentarily dominating her entire life. She whittled her body down to 83 pounds (she stood five foot four inches tall).

The book soars beyond a discussion of anorexia, into the idea of appetite and desire that are key to understanding the situation of a sector of women in the United States who are ruled by the numbers on the scale. A few pounds up and one feels despair and disgust. A few pounds down and ones' whole outlook brightens, self image rises, and the sun shines.

Knapp looks at the way women substitute shopping and other empty pursuits for satisfaction. The illusion of control that starving requires, with all the attendant and time-consuming emotions, removes the person from having to face any of the other problems and challenges that life has to offer.

Once again Knapp delivers insight into obsession and addiction from personal experience.