Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Born Round - Frank Bruni

After reading Ruth Reichl's memoir Garlic and Sapphires about her time as the restaurant critic for the New York Times, I was interested in reading Frank Bruni's memoir about his time in the same position. Bruni's story, however, was about so much more than enjoying great food and telling the world about it. Rather, Born Round is about Bruni's life long relationship with food. As a child, Bruni was always "big boned." His Italian grandmother and mother fed his insatiable appetite, and in his efforts to get skinny despite his addictions, Bruni developed a frightening eating disorder - which surely would been much more noticeable and seriously addressed by his family and friends had he been a young woman. Bruni tells in excruciatingly painful detail about his unbelievably binging, and his subsequent purging. He explains how he lost out on friends and potential love because of his fear of being seen as anything less than perfect, and his disbelief that anyone could love him unless he were thin. Despite Bruni's challenge with food, he agrees to take on the position as the New York Times restaurant critic. His acceptance of the job almost seems self-destructive, but somehow he finds a way to not only manage it, but to excel at it. Bruni honestly portrays the hard work he did physically to get himself in the shape he wanted to be in - but it's unclear, and I would have been more interested, in learning about his psychological work. While it's obvious that he gains self-worth with each pants size he loses, it's not clear that the reasons he delved into his excessive behavior in the first place were ever confronted or resolved. As with many memoirs, this book was difficult to read at times - Bruni's behavior is so obviously designed to deny him the very happiness that he seeks. And for anyone who loves books about food - the beautiful enjoyment of gourmet feasts and the fun of enjoying a meal with friends - this is not quite the right book. There are certainly glipses of this throughout - but mostly this is a book about the pain associated with eating, what happens when food is used as an emotional substitute, and one man's tremendous journey to see himself as more than just the food he eats.

No comments: