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Part of a series of highly entertaining books on the history of sinning. Eating too much is one of the Western world's greatest problems, but relatively few people would consider it a crime against God. Yet even as gluttony has ceased to be an evil, food and dieting have become a cultural obsessions, with millions of pounds expended on mortifying the flesh with punishing diet and exercise regimes. This brief history of gluttony traces the changing cultural attitudes towards food and pleasure, scarcity and abundance. It reveals how notions of saintliness and purity have helped form modern views of enjoyment, self-mortification, and ultimately nutrition. Restaurant-goers and readers of gourmet magazines rationalize their pursuit of too much food in many ways, but does a slight tinge of guilt makes your meal taste that much better? This book provides the answer, thoroughly exploring humankind's attempts to quell its chief survival strategy - eating.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780195156997
ISBN-10: 0195156994
Format: Hardback
(186mm x 132mm x 15mm)
Pages: 128
Imprint: Oxford University Press Inc
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Publish Date: 6-Nov-2003
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions


US Kirkus Review » A collection of lectures by novelist Prose (Blue Angel, 2000, etc.), part of a series on the Seven Deadly Sins commissioned by the New York Public Library and Oxford Univ. Press (see Joseph Epstein's Envy, p. 892). Sandwiched between pride and lust, gluttony never really had the cachet of the other deadly sins, states the author. It was at once prosaic and perverse, conjuring up images of bedridden gourmands salivating over entries in the Michelin Guide Rouge. But Prose observes that gluttony, while no longer to the fore of our religious conscience, is very much alive as a moral failing in a nation where diet has become an obsession and young women tell pollsters they would prefer to suffer cancer than obesity. The author attempts to trace the origins of our attitude to the vice, beginning with a fairly facile exegesis of the Old and New Testaments, where feasting is seen as both a divine blessing and sign of human corruption, and going on to a consideration of the precepts of the Church Fathers, who also ranged widely in their attitudes. As Prose notes, the connection between lust and gluttony was established very early on, with many of the commentaries on the Genesis account of the fall of man stressing the role of gluttony (i.e., the apple) and some even speculating that it was because Adam and Eve broke their fast that they succumbed to carnal relations and were exiled from Eden as a result. The historical experience of the early Christians living in decadent Imperial Rome (whose aristocrats feasted while lying on couches) is also touched upon, as is the medieval cycle of widespread and recurring famine, during which people ate voraciously whenever they had the wherewithal to do so. The author's treatment of contemporary attitudes (bulimia, fast food, surgical diets, etc.) is a stale rehash of anecdotes we've all heard before. Pretty meager fare, even for a canape. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Francine Prose

Francine Prose's many works include Blue Angel, The Lives of the Muses, and, most recently, Caravaggio: Painter of Miracles. She is a contributing editor at Harper's and writes on art for The Wall Street Journal.

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