Synopses & Reviews
In America, notes acclaimed novelist Francine Prose, we are obsessed with food and diet. And what is this obsession with food except a struggle between sin and virtue, overeating and self-control a struggle with the fierce temptations of gluttony.
In Gluttony, Francine Prose serves up a marvelous banquet of witty and engaging observations on this most delicious of deadly sins. She traces how our notions of gluttony have evolved along with our ideas about salvation and damnation, health and illness, life and death. Offering a lively smorgasbord that ranges from Augustine's Confessions and Chaucer's Pardoner's Tale, to Petronius's Satyricon and Dante's Inferno, she shows that gluttony was in medieval times a deeply spiritual matter, but today we have transformed gluttony from a sin into an illness it is the horrors of cholesterol and the perils of red meat that we demonize. Indeed, the modern take on gluttony is that we overeat out of compulsion, self-destructiveness, or to avoid intimacy and social contact. But gluttony, Prose reminds us, is also an affirmation of pleasure and of passion. She ends the book with a discussion of M.F.K. Fisher's idiosyncratic defense of one of the great heroes of gluttony, Diamond Jim Brady, whose stomach was six times normal size.
"The broad, shiny face of the glutton," Prose writes, "has been and continues to be the mirror in which we see ourselves, our hopes and fears, our darkest dreams and deepest desires." Never have we delved more deeply into this mirror than in this insightful and stimulating book.
"A confident satirist and stylist....A chapter on celebrations of gluttony, from Fielding to M.F.K. Fisher, closes this stimulating, pointedly dispassionate investigation of a decidedly emotional subject." Publishers Weekly
"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 canapé." Kirkus Reviews
"Not unexpectedly, the writing is superb and memorable....Prose illustrates the very real psychological and physical results of overeating, which range from poor self-esteem to death itself....[H]ighly recommended." Library Journal
Prose offers engaging observations on this most delicious of deadly sins, showing how humans have transformed gluttony from a sin into an illness, but also an affirmation of pleasure and passion.
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.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -100) and index.
About the Author
Francine Prose is the author of many highly acclaimed works, including The Lives of Muses, Bigfoot Dreams, Household Saints, and Guided Tours of Hell. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, and Paris Review. She is a contributing editor at Harpers and writes regularly on art for The Wall Street Journal. She lives in New York City.
Table of Contents
Ch. 1 Is Gluttony a Sin? 7
Ch. 2 The Wages of Sin 43
Ch. 3 The Real Wages of Sin 77
Ch. 4 Great Moments in Gluttony 83