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The Man Who Couldn't Eat Hardcover – September 6, 2011
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“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
About the Author
More About the Author
After earning a B.A., magna cum laude, in English and theater at Fairleigh Dickinson University and an M.A. in English at the University of Maryland, where he was an instructor of writing and literature, he worked for two decades as a creative executive for international corporations and arts organizations. He has taught writing at Rutgers University and been a visiting lecturer at other universities. Jon lives in New York City with his wife and two children and is writing his next book.
He is still learning how to cook.
Top Customer Reviews
Jennifer C. Jaff, Esq.
Advocacy for Patients with Chronic Illness, Inc.
Downer? Defiantly not.
The Man Who Couldn't Eat chronicles Jon Reiner's sudden descent into (and faltering emergence from) a near-fatal and complication-fraught episode of Crohn's disease, for which the optimal treatment is a form of starvation called NPO -- no oral intake of solids or liquids for three months. In the inverted reality he comes to inhabit - and which inhabits him - normal nourishment is the enemy.
How does he manage an existence defined by absence and abstinence? Reiner responds to his forced anorexia with insatiable longings and a lifetime's worth of deliriously detailed, rapid-fire, food-centric acid flashbacks that prompt him to examine what it is to be alive while prohibited from that most essential social and self-sustaining act of eating. His first hot pastrami, dried apricots, New England lobster rolls... Reiner wrings improbable pleasure and poignancy even from the memory of inedible Thanksgiving chestnuts.
Proust and his petites madeleines have nothing on The Man Who Couldn't Eat.
Amazingly Jon has gone several months without food or water. He was hooked up to an IV in a hospital room when his intestines burst while he was home alone. When he was finally able to leave the hospital, he was still unable to eat and was fed intravenously. The agony of his situation is really unbelievable. I think taking food away is torture not only for the body, but for the mind as well. Food is comforting. I was shocked and very much moved as I read Jon's story.
As you read, Jon takes you back and forth from current day, to his childhood, and throughout different events in his life. You get to see the connection he has with certain foods, like most of us have. He is a great storyteller and as I read his story I was totally swept in. He describes food and the way it ties in with culture really well.
In between living with this painful illness, Jon has to balance his family life. Crohn's disease has made him a stay at home dad. His wife works while he cares for the children, yet when his intestines burst, he actually found the strength to call someone to pick up the kids from school for him that day. His descriptions of the pain and the procedures he has gone through were really heart wrenching and had me gasping in shock.
Crohn's disease does not have a cure, yet Jon doesn't feel sorry for himself, he doesn't ask for pity, he tells his story candidly and I found this to be an inspirational memoir.
I teared up as he speaks about his young children and their reactions his being sick.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Loved this book. Absolutely fantastic writer. Actually want to read it again. Will check out more books by this author.Published 12 months ago by Kathleen
Very good book especially for someone who has a family member or friend who has Crohn's Disease or other intestinal diseases.Published 13 months ago by Elizabeth Collins
Worth reading to peek into Jon Reiner's months without food. Vivid story of how Crohn's disease affected his life and his family's life. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Lorie Driscoll
Sufferers of Crohn's Disease will find in this book a vivid, moving, and often humorous account of the worst case scenario. Read morePublished 21 months ago by CritiCal
wordy, meandering, and ultimately irritating. while not overly self-pitying, the voice in this narrative is put upon enough to detract from the real story, and the writing manages... Read morePublished on October 1, 2013 by Erin Summers