A Constellation of Thoughts On Sarah Gerard’s ‘Binary Star’

Binary Star is an incredibly unique book that tells a story in short, bite sized pieces. It was blurbed by and compared to Jenny Offill, who wrote one of my favorite books last year, Dept. of Speculation. Though the short vignette type stories are similar, I found Binary Star to be much grittier and slightly harder to read.

The book deals with an anorexic woman dealing with a long distance relationship and struggling to get her teaching degree. She survives largely on Hydroxycut and Red Bull, aided only by the occasional grape or two. It really gives the reader an idea of what it would be like to struggle with an eating disorder, and the ways “healthy” eating can often be confused with or lead to, starvation.

The woman and her boyfriend, John, are vegan anarchists. They are strictly vegan, even believing that having a pet is cruelty. If you didn’t know this was a thing…well, neither did I.

The woman wasn’t given a name, which always stands out to me, because that’s like the most important thing. As Ruth Ozeki puts it in My Year of Meats, “Name is first thing. Name is face to all the world.” But she is starving herself. She wants to weigh less, to consume less, to be less. Ideally, she wants to disappear, and it’s as if by not naming herself, she has already begun to do so.

The best part about the book though, was the way the narrator compared what she was going through to something that occurs in stars or in space. She is fascinated with space exploration and stars and the way they interact, and incorporates these facts into the narrative.

Binary Star was an especially interesting read after having finished Ruth Ozeki’s My Year of Meats a few weeks ago. Both give in depth looks at what and how we eat, the importance of our names, and the way we treat animals before we consume them. Radically different but somehow weirdly similar, both authors managed to change the way I think about eating.

Though it might not be for everyone, Binary Star packs a lot of punch in its scant 172 pages, and Sarah Gerard tells an important story through her nameless narrator.

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  1. I’m reading a book right now with a nameless narrator and it’s driving me crazy (though I love the book so far)! I do really want to know the narrator’s name! This does sound like a tough book, but I think the nameless narrator might infuriate me!

    1. I usually notice them right away, but the writing is so different to begin with (very short, intense sentences), that it actually took me a while to notice that she didn’t have a name!