A set of personal essays on the author’s struggle to apply order to her hard-to-quantify self, from sleep to fitness to romance.
Arndt’s first book is largely a memoir of her body, focused on the ways she measures it to better comprehend herself, an effort that inevitably falls short. She undertakes a sleep study to determine (inconclusively) if she’s narcoleptic or has “idiopathic hypersomnia.” She takes Adderall to buy time that’s forever slipping through her grasp. She obsessively minds the time, which typically prompts her to arrive frustratingly early for appointments; at a judo tournament, waiting for her bout, she contemplates the sweet spot of having enough time to relax but not so much that she’s anxious. (“All I could think about was not thinking too much about the wait.”) Online dating, with its match percentages and other algorithms, almost seems designed to kill romance before it can bloom, to generate “a compulsive worry that there might be someone even better out there if only we’d swipe enough to find them.” Most memoirists address dating with humor and medical issues with pathos, but Arndt cultivates a stoic middle ground, an approach that at its best reflects rigorous observation but sometimes is so distant the writing feels flat. Throughout, though, she’s engaging about the ways that “normal” arrangements alienate us, from kitchens’ sexist design for “a person with a specific body shape” to our social norms about weight and sweat. The author occasionally writes in a more lyrical mode, as in a diary of small incidents experienced during her work commute. But her strongest pieces place her at the center of larger forces that make her (and us) feel abnormal. “If what ailed me was uncertain and unverifiable,” she writes, “then I was uncertain and unverifiable too.”
A keen, close study of the neuroses attached to everyday living.