Small Acts of Disappearance by Fiona Wright
Small Acts of Disappearance is Fiona Wright’s memoir of her eating disorder. It’s structured as a series of ten essays, and from the very first lines of the opening chapter, I was captivated by Wright’s voice: ‘I’ll always remember the particular intensity that malnutrition brings on … that alertness of sensation, where every minute cell in the body is awake and alive to the smallest details of the outside world.’
Wright is an award-winning Australian poet, and her careful, skilful use of language is apparent on every page of this book. Her essays tell of being in and out of hospital, and of living in Sri Lanka, Berlin and Sydney. Underpinning every piece is a larger story of hunger: what it means to starve yourself, how it feels, and why you would do it: ‘Hunger is, I think, always an attempt to transcend the body, to become something other, something more.’
Throughout many of the essays, Wright returns to the idea of what it means to be someone with an eating disorder, and her reluctance to accept that identity for herself: ‘I thought that eating disorders only happen to women who are vain and selfish, shallow and somehow stupid; it took me years to realise the very opposite is true.’ Her reflections on how she came to slowly accept her illness are some of the strongest parts of the book, and her observations of those suffering alongside her are honest and moving.
In several of the essays, Wright turns to literature. She writes in detail about Christina Stead’s For Love Alone and Tim Winton’s Cloudstreet, two Australian novels that feature hungry young women, and she weaves the stories of the characters expertly around her own.
I loved this book. Wright is an exceptionally talented writer. Her work is full of empathy and it provides deep insight into an enormously complex disease.
Nina Kenwood is the digital marketing manager for Readings.