cover image APPETITES: Why Women Want

APPETITES: Why Women Want

Caroline Knapp, . . Counterpoint, $24 (224pp) ISBN 978-1-58243-225-0

What looks like a consciously altruistic effort to encapsulate one woman's entire life into lessons for the benefit of womankind may be just that: after divulging every gruesome detail of her spiral into anorexia and subsequent self-discoveries in this memoir, Knapp died of breast cancer last June at age 42. Similar in tone to her previous Drinking: A Love Story, this work is candid and persuasive enough to reach many women with analogous problems. But it's more than one woman's tragic story; multitudinous interviews with women with eating disorders, excerpts from classic feminist texts and sociological statistics lend credence and categorize the book under cultural studies as much as self-help. Knapp hypothesizes that the feminists who came after the revolutionary 1960s, herself included, were stifled rather than empowered by the overwhelming choices before them. They gained "the freedom to hunger and to satisfy hunger in all its varied forms." Unfortunately, writes Knapp, size-obsessed fashion magazines and other social messages contradict a woman's right to desire, contributing to the rise in eating disorders and other illnesses. Knapp observes an aspect of the backlash against the feminist movement: when "women were demanding the right to take up more space in the world," they were being told by a still patriarchal society "to grow physically smaller." Though Knapp admits it's "easier to worry about the body than the soul," she hopes creating a dialogue about anorexia will enable all women to nourish both. (May 1)

Forecast:The bestselling success of Drinking and Knapp's death last year will certainly spike interest in this affecting book. Counterpoint plans a 75,000 first printing and ads in the New York Times, the New Yorker, Bloomsbury Review and the Women's Review of Books.