By Frank Bruni
Reviewed By Susan Orlean
Frank Bruni’s early relationship with food did not bode well. As a toddler, still in diapers, he was such an avid eater that two large hamburgers could not satisfy him; even worse, if he was denied a third burger, he protested by vomiting the first two. If he was rationed to a more-than-reasonable three cookies, he would beg his mother for a fourth and vomit if he was shot down. He was an equal-opportunity glutton, as insatiably enthusiastic about his grandmother’s marvelous-sounding frits — crackling chunks of fried dough, used to shovel up drifts of sugar — as he was about the lowliest of supermarket cookies.
If “Born Round,” Mr. Bruni’s new memoir, just detailed his obsessive eating, his serial bouts of bulimia, the barometric rise and fall of his pants size, his frequent episodes of self-loathing punctuated by midnight snacks of enough roast chicken to feed a family, it would be an unexceptional book; after all, confession culture, and particularly food- and diet-related confession, has been popular for 20 years and pretty tedious for about 19.
But Mr. Bruni’s book is distinctive and intriguing on several accounts. The author is male (most diet memoirs are written by, and for, women); he writes well and insightfully (rare in this often sloppy genre); and in spite of his problems with food, he has spent the last five years as perhaps the most influential eater in America: the restaurant critic of The New York Times.
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