EARLY DISORDER by Rebecca Josephs


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Willa Rahv, 15, lives with her parents (dad's a theater critic, mom's a translator) and a brother and older sister on Manhattan's West Side. And everything is peachy and affluent and private-schooly and Bloomingdale's, with the whole family terrifically respectful of everyone's personal space and growth, etc. But Willa, such a good girl, could do with a lot less self-sufficiency. When she bleaches (then totally shaves off) her eyebrows, it's a sign; when she goes on a magazine diet--and pushes it beyond the limits--it's right there: anorexia nervosa. The Willa-narrated fiction that Josephs makes from this condition jibes with all the patterns that are usually mentioned: Willa is very bright, full of sophisticated references betokening her social situation; she's also scared ""of overdoing everything: eating, drinking, sex. Of losing control. Calories are the one thing I can control. The only thing."" Ultimately, however, diagnosis is the only involving element here; toward the end, the suicide death of an even more unhappy (but not anorexic) girlfriend promises some future pull-out by Willa from her tailspin toward bodilessness--but, since the plotting and non-clinical characterization are so thin, all you can do is hope. Rather more artful and certainly more sociologically specific than Levenkron's The Best Little Girl in the World (1978); still, neither full-bodied fiction nor a significant addition to the anorexia nervosa literature (see Bruch's non-fiction The Golden Cage).

Pub Date: April 25th, 1980
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux