The Man Who Couldn't Eat by Jon Reiner | Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
The Man Who Couldn't Eat

The Man Who Couldn't Eat

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by Jon Reiner
     
 

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“I’m a glutton in a greyhound’s body, a walking contradiction, in the grip of the one thing I can’t have—food.”

Food is not just sustenance. It is memories, a lobster roll on the beach in Maine; heritage, hot pastrami club with a half-sour pickle; guilty pleasures, a chocolate rum-soaked Bundt cake; identity,

Overview

“I’m a glutton in a greyhound’s body, a walking contradiction, in the grip of the one thing I can’t have—food.”

Food is not just sustenance. It is memories, a lobster roll on the beach in Maine; heritage, hot pastrami club with a half-sour pickle; guilty pleasures, a chocolate rum-soaked Bundt cake; identity, vegetarian or carnivore. Food is the sensuality of a ripe strawberry or a pork chop sizzling on the grill. But what if the very thing that keeps you alive, that bonds us together and marks occasions in our lives, became a toxic substance, an inflammatory invader? In this beautifully written memoir, both gut-wrenching and inspiring, award-winning writer Jon Reiner explores our complex and often contradictory relationship with food as he tells the story of his agonizing battle with Crohn’s disease—and the extraordinary places his hunger and obsession with food took him.
The Man Who Couldn’t Eat is an unvarnished account of a marriage in crisis, children faced with grown-up fears, a man at a life-and-death crossroads sifting through his past and his present. And it shows us a tough, courageous climb out of despair and hopelessness. Aided by the loving kindness of family, friends, and strangers and by a new approach to food, Reiner began a process of healing in body and mind. Most of all, he chose life—and a renewed appetite, any way he could manage it, for the things that truly matter most.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this engrossing and candid memoir, James Beard Award–winning writer Reiner tells of his doctor's orders following a diagnosis of a torn intestine: eat nothing. Reiner, who at age 46 had a history of Crohn's disease, gets even more bad news when emergency surgery results in a severely infected abdomen, among other complications, that force him to get his nutrition intravenously. The bulk of the book is given over to the singular experience of not eating at all and the graphic details of his treatment, while chronicling its impact on the author, his wife, and his two young sons. He endures a feverish dream of food-related memories from his childhood in the Caribbean and his adulthood in New York. Questions of mortality and even suicide arise, and while the immediate ability to taste does not return, the narrator's capacity for eating solid food eventually does, though swinging at times between extremes of hunger and appetite. Reiner's use of detail amid the haze of sickness sometimes tests the suspension of disbelief, but as a piece of writing it's fearless and singular. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
“An inspiring, incredible tale.” Starred Kirkus Reviews

“In this engrossing and candid memoir, James Beard Award–winning writer Reiner tells of his doctor's orders following a diagnosis of a torn intestine: eat nothing. Reiner, who at age 46 had a history of Crohn's disease, gets even more bad news when emergency surgery results in a severely infected abdomen, among other complications, that force him to get his nutrition intravenously. The bulk of the book is given over to the singular experience of not eating at all and the graphic details of his treatment, while chronicling its impact on the author, his wife, and his two young sons. He endures a feverish dream of food-related memories from his childhood in the Caribbean and his adulthood in New York. Questions of mortality and even suicide arise, and while the immediate ability to taste does not return, the narrator's capacity for eating solid food eventually does, though swinging at times between extremes of hunger and appetite. Reiner's use of detail amid the haze of sickness sometimes tests the suspension of disbelief, but as a piece of writing it's fearless and singular.” Publishers Weekly

"Jon Reiner has thrown the door to the mysterious world of chronic illness wide open in The Man Who Couldn't Eat, a memoir of an experience that is as illuminating to read about as it was horrifying to live. This wholly enthralling book will make you appreciate every breath you take—and every bite you eat." —Terry Teachout, drama critic for The Wall Street Journal and author of Pops: A Life of Louis Armstorng

"Reiner has the moxie and the courage not only to tell the harrowingly real story of his fight to stay alive, but to do so with detachment and a crazy sense of irony. His memoir about food, hunger, and a near-death experience is a food lover’s nightmare and—with his food memories as the focal point—a necessary read." —Jonathan Waxman, author of Italian, My Way

"I will never take eating for granted again. Wow! What a roller coaster. All I kept thinking was, You cannot be serious! But he was." —John McEnroe, author of You Cannot Be Serious

“I have spent years of my life obsessing about my weight, feeling guilt over every mouthful. Jon Reiner's magnificent and devastating memoir, The Man Who Couldn't Eat, accomplished the impossible. It made me shut up and enjoy my food.” —Ayelet Waldman, author of Red Hook Road

“Reiner is such a vivid writer that this first-person account of a food lover’s descent into hell is, at turns, gripping, horrifying, excruciating and, ultimately, redeeming.” —Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, James Beard Award-winning authors of The Flavor Bible and The Food Lover's Guide to Wine

“Reiner writes a horrendously funny account of his condition in which food is his mortal enemy. He is the Olympian of a modern truth—our daily bread has it in for us—and his book hits the mark.” —Lore Segal, author of Her First American and Shakespeare's Kitchen

Kirkus Reviews

A gifted food writer details his battle with Crohn's disease.

Winner of the 2010 James Beard Foundation Award for Feature Essay, Reiner expands his gripping article that first appeared inEsquirein 2009. With the spirit and edge of a seasoned sports announcer calling a fight, the author graphically depicts both the cumulative effects of two decades of living at the mercy of chronic illness and the staggering play-by-play of a recent life-threatening episode when his guts literally exploded. This self-described "glutton in a greyhound's body" first experienced Crohn's disease—a crippling autoimmune disorder typically causing severe intestinal inflammation—at a young age, when gorging on a bag of dried apricots brought on an attack of diarrhea that proved the harbinger of later flare-ups as an adult, culminating in the memoir's springboard, a small bowel obstruction that ruptured his ileum and spilled bacteria into his gut, causing mind-numbing pain and peritonitis. The resulting surgery left Reiner with an internal wound that wouldn't heal, forcing physicians to recommend he be NPO (nil per os, or absolutely "nothing by mouth") for three months. In an age when you-are-what's-eating-you memoirs line the shelves, Reiner's self-pitiless account stands out for the irony of a foodie being unable to eat, the sheer magnitude of the torment endured, the courage to stare down unrelenting pain, the honest introspection into how suffering made the author insufferable and rocked his family and, above all, his refreshingly snide attitude toward his disease. Reiner's heart-wrenching description of coveting even the smallest bit of food when he could not eat is as memorable as his behavioral observations when sick and in recovery: "After the patient's recovery, sympathy is as welcome as genital warts. It sounds like pity, and pity is the last thing you want to hear. Pity is a reminder that you were sick, and a sorry confirmation that people still think of you as sick."

An inspiring, incredible tale.

Library Journal
Reiner, who won the 2010 James Beard Foundation Award for Magazine Feature Writing with Recipes for the collaborative Esquire article "How Men Eat," has written a memoir about a medical crisis that forced him to refrain from eating in order to give his digestive system a break. During his days of being fed intravenously, Reiner, with support from family and friends, came to understand more fully the connection among food, community, society, and memory. VERDICT Dan John Miller (who appeared in Walk the Line and who has earned several nominations and awards for his narration) does a fine job of relaying the author's vulnerability. Recommended for libraries with large audio collections and medical libraries. ["This is a blood-and-guts memoir, plain and simple, for those who find solace in the 'misery memoir,'" read the review of the Gallery: S. & S. hc, 6/16/11 BookSmack!—Ed.]—Pam Kingsbury, Univ. of North Alabama, Florence

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781439192467
Publisher:
Gallery Books
Publication date:
09/06/2011
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
1,173,908
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Jon Reiner won the 2010 James Beard Foundation Award for Magazine Feature Writing with Recipes for the collaborative Esquire article “How Men Eat.” His memoir, The Man Who Couldn’t Eat, is based on an acclaimed article of the same name that he wrote for Esquire in 2009. He lives in New York City with his wife and two children.

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