Part 1 Summary and Analysis
In the very first sentence, the protagonist and narrator of the novel, Craig, reveals that he wants to kill himself. He is at his friend Aaron’s house with a group of friends watching TV and smoking pot.
Craig is offered pot, but he refuses, because he is “doing an experiment with [his] brain” to see if pot is the source of his problems. His friends notice that he is “in the Craig zone” and ask him if he is okay. Craig says that he is fine. He secretly wishes that he were the octopus on the nature show they are watching.
Craig goes to the bathroom to urinate and enjoys his time alone in the bathroom. Before returning to his friends, he studies himself in the mirror and notes that he can “always manage to make a trip to the bathroom take five minutes.”
Craig is meeting with his therapist, Dr. Minerva. Craig describes Dr. Minerva’s bookshelf, comparing it to the bookshelves of other “shrinks” he has seen. In his conversation with her, Craig describes life as “a nightmare.” He refrains from telling her how hungry he was when he woke up that morning—a sign of the issues he has had around eating. Dr. Minerva is familiar with Craig’s terms: his “Anchors” are “things that occupy [his] mind and make [him] feel good temporarily,” and “Tentacles” are “the evil tasks that invade [his] life.”
Craig describes more of his symptoms, and tells the reader how he yearns for “the Shift” to occur, for his brain to “slide back into the slot it was meant to be in.” He finds joy in straightforward things, such as riding his bicycle and playing video games. Dr. Minerva asks Craig what, as a child, he wanted to be when he grew up.
Craig recalls his life at four years old, when he was living in a “crappy apartment” in Manhattan. Craig loved maps but became frustrated by his inability to trace the shape of Manhattan correctly. Craig’s mother suggested that he map imaginary places, and mapmaking became his “Anchor” until he later started playing video games. As a child, he dreamed of being a mapmaker.
Back in Dr. Minerva’s office, Craig tells her that he wanted to be a mapmaker when he was a child. When Dr. Minerva asks Craig what he is going to do after their appointment, Craig has an internal conversation between himself and the voice of a soldier. Dr. Minerva reminds Craig to follow the instructions of Dr. Barney, the psychopharmacologist.
On the walk to his apartment, Craig describes his family members as “good people, solid, happy.” He laments that they now live in Brooklyn; although they live in a better apartment, he sees Brooklyn as “a pretty statusless place.” On his walk, he feels mocked by the many food stores he passes. Craig explains that since the previous fall he has had a problem with food. He describes it figuratively as a man living in his stomach who asks for food by tugging on a rope that “closes up the entrance,” blocking Craig from being able to eat.
For Craig, eating is either a “Battle,” when he is hardly able to eat at all, or a “Slaughter,” when he is able to eat everything. He cannot determine what it is that enables him to “have a Slaughter eating experience,” but suspects that “it must just be chemistry.”
Craig arrives at his family’s apartment. He describes the family’s two dogs, Rudy and Jordan, as well as his mother. She hugs Craig and asks him if he is still happy with Dr. Minerva, offering to find a new therapist if he is not. Craig notes that his parents “are always looking for new ways to fix me” and that he is “ashamed” at the money they have spent.
Craig, his parents, and his younger sister, Sarah, eat dinner together. Craig’s mother has cooked squash, chicken, and rice. Craig’s parents ask him about school. Craig begins to tell them about the “experiments” he is doing by not smoking pot, but his mother changes the subject to Jordan’s veterinarian appointment....
(The entire section is 1,156 words.)