At Home With Books

In The Man Who Couldn’t Eat, Jon Reiner  recounts his months without eating as a result of Crohn’s Disease. In the process of reflecting on what life means to him without food, he also examines his marriage and the role that food played in his childhood.

My initial reaction to this book? Thank God I don’t have Crohn’s! This disease attacks the digestive system, causing many digestive problems and those who suffer from it can have blockages requiring surgery – some life-threatening such as the author had. (I’ll be the first to admit that I have a limited knowledge of this disease, and that my understanding about it is basic, so by all means visit this Crohn’s Disease page to learn more about it.)

The author writes about life prior to the surgery, and how he had to avoid certain foods that would trigger problems, but that he also had to try to pack as many nutrients as he could into whatever he ate in order to maintain a healthy weight. This book gave me a deeper appreciation of the benefits of my own body’s ability to process and store energy and reminded me of how much I take basic digestive functions for granted.

After the surgery the author is put on a no-intake regimen for several months, in hope that his body would heal better if the digestive tract was rested completely. I had no idea that such a state of existence was possible. I’ve heard of feeding tubes that go directly to the stomach, and even of people being on IV fluids for certain amounts of time, but I haven’t ever heard of no intake to the digestive system at all for months on end. It was fascinating to learn about how nutrients can be pumped directly into the bloodstream, but it doesn’t sound to pleasant. He writes about the effects of the injections:

I haven’t slept more than an hour straight since the surgery. Food never did this to me. Take away food, take away sleep; isn’t that covered in the Geneva conventions? Cheney must be behind it. I believe I have earned a dubious achievement. I’ve surpassed the acknowledged rock-and-roll record for sleeplessness – Keith Richards’s nine consecutive all-nighters. I’ve got ol’ Keef beat without the benefit of heroin.

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The author’s many descriptions of standing on the outside of the eating process, from the loss of social interaction at the dinner table or in restaurants, to the hollow empty feeling he felt from not being able to physically fill himself with food, give the reader a window into his life during that difficult time.

"Reiner gives the reader a window into his life."