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  • Hardcover
  • 272 pages
  • How to Disappear Completely
  • Kelsey Osgood
  • English
  • 21 June 2014
  • 9781468306682

10 thoughts on “How to Disappear Completely

  1. says:

    It's definitely time for me to give up on this genre Again I really started out wanting to like this book and I was interested in reading a candid analysis of the eating disorder treatment subculture In the end the author does what I find so frustrating in all the other memoirs generalizes her experiences as THE universal recovery experience I can appreciate that she is trying to remove the glamor of illness and provide criticism but she does so without complexity or nuance let alone compassion essentially ascribing all eating disorders to cases of wannarexia gone too far inspired by memoirs with tips and thinspiration and the vanity of overprivileged teen girls who intentionally cultivate the illness and love being hospitalized Her research consists of reading the memoirs that inspired her to become ill rather than anything peer reviewed or so much as an interview She eventually admits that she is writing out of a desire to illuminate a subset of a problem but this doesn't come across in the manuscript We are left with the implication that this is how it is for most everyone with modern anorexiaToward the end I was trying figure out what the author was getting at and this seems to sum up the book Perhaps what we need to do is actually restore some of the myths about anorexia namely that it's a problem of vanity or resurrect some of the stigma that surrounds it in hopes that we move away from radically accepting itThat might be useful for the particular subset Osgood is writing about but in failing to present a diverse multicausational portrait of eating disorders this falls very very short of ideas that are applicable beyond her chosen archetype She focuses on exhibitionist and dare I say borderline traits But where are the people who work real jobs hide their illness or weren't raised in nice families who can finance multiple hospital stays? She acknowledges toward the end that we've all heard there is diversity in eating disorders yet her memoir lists page after page of rich teenage girls throwing temper tantrums in contrast to the pathetic older patients And predisposing risk factors and traits are completely out of the discussion I imagine because this would legitimize the illness Not to mention how hospital culture could influence behavior inside them while outside there may be people with different storiesThe above statement among many others may be gutsy if not audacious but sounding edgy or bold doesn't do anything to support an argument Frankly statements like this are downright damaging It's nothing groundbreaking to back up old stigmas and myths Why we'd like to take a big leap backward in mental health education and counter the uphill efforts in recent years to reduce harmful stigmatized attitudes is beyond me Studies have shown again and again that stigma does nothing but make psychological problems their treatments and public education far worse I was initially hopeful to see some intelligent criticism of the general discourse in recovery memoirs and there are some really great insights here and there But in the end this seemed like just another entirely simplistic reading Osgood criticizes memoir writers as she tries to set the record straight not exactly an unworthy cause if not self important but in the end she falls into the trap of yet again universalizing her experience and presenting an egocentric view of the essence of an entire diagnosis as if a trivial explanation can be generalized I like that she wants to deglamorize anorexia and is willing to call out some bullshit but I don't think a return to old stereotypes or reducing the problem to dramatic displays and adolescent whims is the way to do itI also find the premise unnerving Osgood sets out to overturn all the other memoirs out there but what exactly is compelling about her book on its own? It seems to only be written as a rebuttal which is fine enough I guess; but for a compelling literary piece that would stick with me longer I want to see something new here not just a rejection of other ideas and perhaps worse a call for a return to the old If she is writing to young girls who are reading memoirs for tips or writing to her former self then she does what she sets out to do But I imagine there are many others with diverging stories and her generalizations serve to stigmatize shame and silence It downright invalidates other narratives I also think this book could be potentially damaging if friends or family members are reading for understanding or educationOn the surface this reads like a reasonable reply to pro anorexia forums but I'm concerned that it also reduces eating disorders to no than these attitudes Pop media articles are already all over how terrible websites are converting our children to illness; this just reads as a sophisticated version of that old diatribe There is a lot going on but we get the opposite message as we read each decry against other writers and each description of yet another exemplary fitful teen and I can't help but wonder if any of their stories were complex or if these displays were a product of the hospital environment or anorexia; although the complexity is what the author is arguing against Perhaps if the author had better defined the scope of her work and its limits I would have had patience as a reader


  2. says:

    If you're just looking at the back cover copy or various other blurbs it's very hard to tell what this book is about so I'll try to summarize briefly This book is about the culture of anorexia—not just about the disease itself but about how the many books movies articles websites and TV shows about it affect and even harm women and girls in the name of education and awareness It's also about how the culture of inpatient eating disorder programs can actually lead to competition and comparisons among patients possibly making them worse instead of better and about the language we use concerning those who suffer from eating disorders and how detrimental it can be Finally the book is a memoir of the author's own anorexia although she tries valiantly not to give any triggering information—ie information about her lowest weight or her eating plans when she was sickI don't have any personal experience with full blown eating disorders so perhaps I'm not the best person to comment on this but I thought this book was uniue and uite valuable I've read some of the famous eating disorder books Wasted by Marya Hornbacher being the most famous and I've seen Lauren Greenfield's documentary but until recently it had never occurred to me that texts like these would be absorbed by patients and become an actual part of their experience with their disease Osgood also frames the addiction aspect of anorexia in a throught provoking way—what other addict besides an anorexic person actively strives to become the best addict they can be? These are only some of the issues the book addresses—there's a lot going on here The book is also entertaining in the best possible sense; it moves swiftly and gives you a lot to think aboutPerhaps not surprisingly the book is also problematic in some ways As I said Osgood tries not to be triggering but there's really no way avoid that pitfall entirely When she names famous anorexic women—not famous in the Mary Kate Olsen sense but famous among other anorexic women I couldn't help but be curious and Google them I uickly realized that this led down a rabbit hole where Google images of one anorexic woman engendered images of others some painful to look at Could be very triggering to a different type of reader no? Then too Osgood admits late in the book that although she considers herself recovered from anorexia she still struggles with the issues sometimes But by then I already knew this just based on how she depicted the few overweight women portrayed in the book—always with revolting imagery that made it clear Osgood still has some issues surrounding weight This is a very small part of the book but it was very telling for me Other reviewers have complained that Osgood seems to see her own experiences as universal when they aren't although this particular aspect didn't bother me—it comes with the territory of writing a memoir in my opinion Why do we write autobiographically at all if we don't think there's something universal about what we've been through?So yes this book is complicated but it's a complicated subject and wouldn't be served by a simplistic treatment even if such a treatment were possible But I think this is a necessary book and it's one I would particularly recommend for people who've absorbed a lot of the cultural artifacts addressing eating disorders up to this point—and that's many of us


  3. says:

    Myopic snooty and with such a lack of insight that it pained me to see this to the end I'm in concert with everyone else here who's critiued Osgood's universalizing and alienating read elitist rhetoric throughout I'd also add that the extreme binary thinking she displays applies also to the ridiculousness of her referring to certain nurses as Carribbean Asian and African American when she never EVER ualifies that all of the other personages are white Also her whirlwind rant on wannarexics and demonization of Horbacher's 'Wasted' which is an important text for MANY of us in recovery are completely self serving and unsubstantiated except through cloistered anecdotal evidenceLittle than privilege speaking its name over and over and over


  4. says:

    The author seems very concerned with copycat behaviours people newly anorexic following in the footsteps of those who write about it within books or blogs This seems to have put a lot stress on what the author she feels she can write and I found what I read to be insufficient for someone hoping to learn about the issue plus uncomfortable and disjointed


  5. says:

    I'd had some great luck recently with reading Anorexia recovery accounts Going Hungry and Gaining were life changing I read the back and was really interested in How to Disappear Completely However upon reading it I found it difficult to get through not in that telling hard truths for personal growth way but in that holy crap this is triggering the daylights out of me kind of wayInitially it seemed like a solid premise and presents as being overall pro recovery She talks about her struggles with the competitiveness of Anorexia which I very much related to I approved of her choice not to detail her diets and rituals since I tend to find those triggering Then she spent a chapter detailing pro ana websites and their history uoting directly from them I know she and I seem to have ideological differences on the desire to develop anorexia but well it's her point of view and she's entitled to have it Honestly she started to lose me at the Wannarexics section She had just spent a part of the book talking about the problems with labeling and diagnosis which I also found problematic She falsely reports that EDNOS was taken out completely when really it was just changed to OSFED Other Specified Feeding or Eating Disorders Then she details a list of people to be called out and judged as wannarexics I get that her premise deep down may have been that the idea of wannarexia is another construction of anorexic competition but her list and the judgement apparent in the tone directly undermines it I was also extremely put off by her tone and language choices She revisits the idea that she had to prove that she was really sick or the best anorexic and to me this feels like another expression of this My experience of reading this was a person trying to win a contest for how sick she was and judge others as sicker or less sick I don't know the author's intent but her tone comes off throughout the book as judgmental full of scorn for those of us who weren't real anorexics I think what really bothered me was that Osgood states her truth as universal in many ways There's a lack of acknowledgement that her view and relationship with her ED isn't everyone's I recognize that this is a memoir her ideas about her life so I may just be being a rigid jerk But I couldn't get to the experience and found her writing hard to follow at times It wasn't as positive a reading experience as I had hoped with would be


  6. says:

    The only thing good about this book was how it directed me to not read Wasted I immediately returned the shaming book and bought Hornbacher instead


  7. says:

    I don't know how I feel about this one? So let's go on this ride together as I figure it out I feel things for the author and her journey but at the same time I'm so annoyed by her for so many reasons I don't even know where to begin First of all this is part memoir partdissertation about how people develop eating disorders? I guess? Which is weird because she went to school to get an MFA not any sort of medicalpsychology degree and yet here she is Telling Us What's WhatI think my biggest gripe with this book is the author shitting on other people who have written much better memoirs than hers She particularly feels the need to tear down Marya Hornbacher and Elizabeth Wurtzel who wrote two of the most successful revered books about mental illness that were super popular back in the late 90searly 2000s when this author was coming of age She blames Hornbacher for making girls anorexic and about Wurtzel she saysWhen I reread Prozac Nation at twenty five I was for lack of a less elouent phrase 'grossed out' by Elizabeth Wurtzel's self obsessionI mean says a woman writing a memoir about herself despite her own story being as basic as they come Because unlike some truly memorable authors who have written about their accounts with anorexia in fascinating insightful and gut wrenching ways this account is forgettable and yet she sees and writes about herself as some brilliant wunderkind who was the first person to head down this path and write about it Her story is as unremarkable and boring as they come for this 'genre' and it's mostly because she refuses to really talk about anything in detail lest she inspire a new generation of anorexic girls So you get her babbling on and on about going into various hospitals and shitting on everyone she ever met in treatment but you don't really get any depth or insight out of her so likewhy write this thing?The answer is because she has this brilliant idea that anorexia is a communicable disease that is not so much developed as some underlying pathology that is awakened when triggered by something including something cultural like a book or movie but rather that it's something any old person can get if they want it simply by reading books about it ???? Again she's not any kind of doctor psychologist or medical professional and she clearly has done zero actual research into this aside from reading and pulling uotes from a few articles in the same way I used to pull uotes from books when writing papers in college picking and choosing what best fit my argument even if they didn't really fit it out of context So how can she just make these claims? Oh because for HER they're true In HER story she was a 14 year old girl who was unsatisfied with her body and so she sought out books about eating disorders to use as guides eventually helping her develop a full blown disorder of her own So because this is how things were for her according to her book this is the case for everyone in the world #SCIENCE While I do think there are many instances of people with eating disorders who are inspired by material they see actual research has shown that a majority of these people were eating disordered to begin with and naturally gravitate toward these either because they seek them out out of curiosity and want to know or because they happen to catch something in a magazine on TV in health class and find themselves mesmerized and wanting because they recognize themselves in it in some way I absolutely agree with the author's point that people learn tricks and tips from memoirs and TV movies In addition to Marya Hornbacher the author makes references to Kessa Lori Gottlieb For the Love of Nancy and many others you'd recognize from the ED lexicon if you've ever suffered from a disorder But I think in many cases people aren't seeking these things out SOLEY to learn tricks and tips If anything they seek out memoirs and TV movies and novels about eating disorders because they finally find something they can relate to and this kind of media can make them feel like someone out there understands Through this yes it's easy to pick up on habits as well but I think it's suuuuuuuuper rare that someone with no predisposition for anorexia would randomly be like I wanna be anorexic and go out and buy a bunch of memoirs to learn tricks that take her from fully healthy to someone with a full blown mental illness There are absolutely people who want to be anorexic but unless they have those underlying personality traits that predispose them to the disorder they're not going to be successful in getting anorexia because anorexia simply isn't something you get no matter how this author tries to convince us otherwiseI actually picked up this book out of curiosity because it sounded like the author and I had a creepy amount of things in common We're the same age from small New England towns we were both morbidly fascinated with and terrified of the world ending in 2000 we both found Kessa at a young age me to the point where I had an altar ego Ren who was my best little girl self lol we both went to Columbia we were treated at some of the same places and now we're both writers who live in Brooklyn I tend to love picking up books where I can find pieces of myself in the author because even if our journeys aren't identical I still feel like I am connected with him or her and that's what I thought this would be in the same way I connected with Unbearable Lightness and back in the day the way I connected with Kessa But instead I found myself learning almost nothing personal about the author besides these basic facts as she brought zero insight or understanding into her own personal journey as she attempted to turn her story into an example for some greater point she was trying to make but failed to And on top of that I had a hard time staying interested because every other flaw aside the flow of this book is so disjointed and jarring one minute you're watching her list everyone she's ever met with anorexia trying to use their stories to fit her thesis a minute later you're reading a rant about why Elizabeth Wurtzel sucks and then after that you're getting a bare bones narrative about her time in treatment It's just bizarre and doesn't work as a book A series of blogs maybe but having read this I would have zero desire to check that blog out


  8. says:

    The irony of this book is that Osgood tried so hard to show why her memoir was going to be less triggeringdamagingsalacious than the others but she ended up providing me with a fairly comprehensive list of books I would rather read I immediately bought Wasted and am reading it now finding it both of a deterrent to disordered behaviour than How to Disappear Completely and of a compelling readIt's frustrating to read a book with such an admirable goal Osgood wanted to deconstruct the culture around thinness and food and how deeply harmful it can be while drawing from her own experiences without being triggering or using the details of her disorder to uietly brag about how sick she was fail over and over to be anything other than a bloated self centered scathing dismissal of all other previous sufferers who dared to speak about their disorders I do think there is a tendency in writing about eating disorders especially in fiction especially by authors with no experience with an ED to try to make it horrible but to only succeed in ticking every horrible box that somebody moving into an ED finds appealing That's worthy of critiue and examination and unfortunately is something that Osgood doesn't manage to avoid This book reminded me of the outpouring of well intentioned documentaries and docu series in the mind 2000s that unwittingly exposed thousands of people to thinspo pro ana and a whole host of resources for tipz n trickz I think it would have benefited from some editing to give it structure and a clearer sense of purpose You know what she was trying to do because she tells you kind of I can tell she passionately wants change that will help young people be protected from AN She is well researched and I definitely agree with her views that our media is hungry for details like low weights that take stories meant for awareness and turn them into potential triggers or manuals But her tone is off putting and she circled her point for much longer than necessary talking around and around it until about 88% of the way through when she finally started to try to nail down a point Ultimately I found the first 80% of the book disorganised and unhelpful in terms of where it aimed its criticisms and solutions suggested Osgood's writing is still reasonably enjoyable When it lapses into anecdote instead of lecturing and uoting it can be pretty engaging But she doesn't mesh the two elements together very well If you read without expectations uite as high as mine were for a book with such a good conceptI originally had an almost 3000 word list of things that I found frustrating confusing and contradictory about this book but in the end I just give up


  9. says:

    Author Kelsey Osgood actively pursued anorexia She describes how at the age of fourteen mesmerized by books about eating disorders she set out to become anorexic Mission accomplished Bravo I'm being snarky people In the process she discovered anorexia is not as glamorous as it once seemed Osgood spends a fair amount of time criticizing other eating disorder centered literature for its romanticization of the disease Her contention being that such fare fosters eating disorders Although I do think anorexia is often portrayed in an attractive manner I do not think such fare can cause an eating disorder My belief is that the disease is biologically based To be sure it can be influenced by the media and other such factors; these may even be the catalyst that sets a diet in motion but one must have a predisposition in order to develop a full blown eating disorder The problem is for the most part Osgood's own book does exactly what she purports to be against Despite her stable recovery How To Disappear Completely often reads as a love letter to her own battle The tenderness and even affection she still clearly feels for her years spent cycling through various institutions is evident To her credit she never gives the oft triggering numbers so sought outdespised numbers in terms of weight or calories However the overall nostalgia she feels permeates her writing


  10. says:

    Premise wise Osgood sets out to do something that is far too uncommon in this type of memoir she seeks to tell her story without numbers and in a way that will not be triggering that will not glamorise eating disorders I've read others that set out to do the same if less explicitly but they are unfortunately the exception rather than the rule I'll add since I've read a metric fucktonne of these that I'm pretty desensitised but that doesn't mean I don't notice So I love that that's what she's trying forBut does she succeed? I'm not so sure For someone determined to avoid triggers Osgood spends a lot of time talking about them For the most part her approach to not sharing triggering details of her own experience seems to translate into limiting all details of her own experience At the same time a tremendous amount of the research portion of the book is about triggers and triggering booksOsgood knew about anorexia before she ever became ill and to her this is apparently a mark against her; even in the book she is struggling with the uestion of validity She doesn't measure her illness in terms of weight but she does measure it in terms of how many times she was in hospital and where It feels in places and of course I have no way of knowing if there's any truth to this that she's still trying to 'prove' her anorexia so that she can let it go p 139But I'm less concerned with how Osgood portrays her own illness than I am with how she portrays others She is by the time of writing distanced from any desire to relapse or any pro ana sentiment but to the extent that she comes off as disgusted by her former fellow patients Angry sometimes Not always and not in all of her discussions of other patients but often enough to be noticeable They seem to be the manifestations of all that is wrong with eating disorder memoirs and fiction She uestions whether individuals were anorexic or just wannarexic; she implies a hierarchy of illnessAnd I'm sorry but it has to be said I cannot imagine finding myself described in a book like this as 'flabby' 'plump' both p 110 or 'chubby' p 144 The last is in reference not to someone she knew but to a photo in a book of a girl in treatment for an eating disorder; I've read that book and what the hell? While we're at it the 'elderly woman' from the same book she describes in the same breath was 48 when that picture was takenI read this in mid late 2013 and then again in early mid 2014 because I wanted to be surer of what I thought about it It's an interesting book and an interesting take but most of the good points are lost somewhere in the wandering and in the really problematic points I wanted to like this a great deal than I actually did


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How to Disappear Completely She devoured their memoirs and magazine articles committing the most salacious details of their cautionary tales to memory how little they ate their lowest weights and their merciless exercise regimes to learn what it would take to be the very best anorectic When she was hospitalized for anorexia at fifteen she found herself in an existential wormhole how can one suffer from something one has actively sought out Through her own decade long battle with anorexia which included three lengthy hospitalizations Osgood harrowingly describes the haunting and competitive world of inpatient facilities populated with other adolescents some as young as ten years oldWith attuned storytelling and unflinching introspection Kelsey Osgood unpacks the modern myths of anorexia examining the cult like underbelly of eating disorders in the young as she chronicles her own rehabilitation How to Disappear Completely is a brave candid and emotionally wrenching memoir that explores the physical internal and social ramifications of eating disorders and subverts many of the popularly held notions of the illness and most hopefully the path to recovery