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Appetites: Why Women Want Paperback – April 13, 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The final and remarkable book of best-selling author Caroline Knapp underlines her gift of leveraging her life experiences into provocative lessons. On the surface, Appetites may appear to be about eating—-complete with Knapp's unflinching account of her anorexia. In fact, Knapp is writing about how every woman can decipher her hunger and loneliness by connecting with her desire to experience pleasure. She illuminates the ways in which cultural taboos about women who desire create vulnerability to disorders of appetite including food and alcohol addictions, compulsive shopping and promiscuous sex. In this expansive view, "one woman’s tub of cottage cheese is another woman’s maxed-out Master Card." Readers will nod in recognition as the author seamlessly weaves autobiography and anthropology, describing her family of origin, profiling women of appetite and countering what she calls "the culture of No!" that curbs and disguises women's desires. Knapp gets to yes by urging readers to ask: "What gives me delight and fully engages me?" Knowing that 42-year-old Knapp died of lung cancer makes this question all the more poignant. Such questions suggest Knapp’s brave and generous legacy. --Barbara Mackoff --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

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 lung 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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Counterpoint; 50240th edition (March 24, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1582432260
  • ISBN-13: 978-1582432267
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.7 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #931,885 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
More pragmatic than Kathryn Harrison, more emotional and romantic than Naomi Wolf, Caroline Knapp had the rare ability to lay bare her most elemental struggles as a woman of her generation, expanding the personal to a breadth of understanding that encompasses us all. I read her earlier book, "Drinking: A Love Story" years ago--largely in an effort to understand my own mother's alcohol addiction; confronted with issues of my own, I recently sought out this volume again, and was surprised and shocked to learn that Ms. Knapp had died, just after completing "Appetites". It came, however, as no surprise to me that she would have turned her attention to a broader scope of hunger and addiction, as I myself--and every woman in my immediate family--has battled both disordered drinking AND eating patterns. I devoured most of the book within 2 or 3 days--then spent over 2 weeks navigating the final chapters, as I was reduced to tears at the close of almost every paragraph. I found myself spilling copious quantities of ink both underlining and adding margin notes, so familiar was the language, the experiences she chronicled. I was particularly moved and impressed by the fashion in which she used intensely personal material as a starting place for a more scholarly investigation of the subject matter at hand; the book, which reads like a memoir, is nonetheless exhaustively researched and supported with extensive footnotes. I recommend it passionately to anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed by choice, exhausted by freedom, shamed by a hunger that seems insatiable.
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Format: Paperback
The book Appetites: Why Women Want, written by the late author Caroline Knapp, is an antidote to our culture's obsession with beauty and women's body-image. It is hard to believe that such a book, published in 2003 has only recently been written. The book contains simple but necessary ideas concerning women and the obsessions we are prone to face: material possessions, relationships, and eating disorders. Though the book definitely has an intended audience of women, it cannot be categorized as a feministic book. There is no lecture. Knapp speaks to her audience simply and slowly, allowing her ideas to get across thoroughly to the reader.

The memoir recalls of Knapp's childhood, growing up a perfectionist who got straight A's and her difficult relationship with her parents which all lead to her eventual eating disorder, anorexia, that she formed in college. Knapp watched her mother be an ideal late-fifties housewife-"she did all the grocery shopping, all the laundry, all the cleaning and cooking", yet "at the same time, she was one of the most intelligent and well-informed women I've ever known". Then, later on in life, she talks of her father having an affair, her own affair with a teacher, and then watching her boyfriend move across the country. It is a common and realistic story in people's lives, a story any reader can relate to in one form or the other. The fact that this is all true allows the reader, the woman, to find their story. Caroline Knapp says things without really explaining them, referring to examples that allow the reader to apply the book to their life more easily-"Obsessions-even mild ones, even the run-of-the-mill, mundane daily obsessions that can pepper a woman's thoughts (Do these jeans make my butt look too big? Should I go to the gym?
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Format: Hardcover
Plenty has been written about WHAT women want; movies have even been titled as such. But this book by Caroline Knapp isn't about WHAT; it's about WHY. Knapp's 1996 book, Drinking: A Love Story, chronicled her battle with alcoholism, whereas Appetites, a much more ambitious book, examines her early battle with anorexia, a condition which was referred to only peripherally in her previous book. According to Knapp's self-awareness revelations, the denial of food is a metaphor that explores the difficulties women have even acknowledging their deepest desires - desires for sex, love, freedom, professional recognition... just life. The message behind Appetites is made more poignant by the fact that Knapp died last year of lung cancer at age 42. Her book is full of wit and wisdom - and we can hope that before death, she came to appreciate those 2 qualities within herself.
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Format: Hardcover
Oh, Caroline Knapp will be missed.
"Appetites" is a powerful and profound exploration of her battle with anorexia in her twenties. She weaves the stories of other female bulemics and anorexics throughout her own-and also of other women with deep obsessions and cravings that lead to such behaviors as promiscuity, alcoholism, spending wildly, and shop lifting. What are they really hunger for, she asks. Love, acceptance, security? She writes with grace and force. The reader confronts these issues with her, but she eases them into the debate. And then he or she is engaged.
Knapp explores the emotional, psychological, and cultural reasons that drive American women to such behaviors. She has a softer, gentler voice than most feminists and she does not indict men for the most part. But she does blame society. It's interesting-most pop psychologists would diagnose some of the behaviors she describes as examples of an "obsessive compulsive disorder" (anorexia is a manifestation of it in many cases). Yet she doesn't use that term once in the book-in many ways, she digs even deeper for the causes than simply a diagnosis. She analyzes what triggers the disease.
I would recommend this book for most women, even if you haven't had an eating disorder. We all have appetites. I wouldn't recommend it for most men, except those who like women issue books or know someone who is anorexic.
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