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.
"What midsummer night's feast would be digestible without Francine Prose's Gluttony; what weekend jaunt to your best friend's chateau would be survivable without Joseph Epstein's Envy? And you'll need Wendy Wasserstein's Sloth (wickedly subtitled 'And How to Get It') while you're struggling out of your deck chair."--O, The Oprah Magazine (on the series)
"Whimsically packaged exminations of Lust by Simon Blackburn, Gluttony by Francine Prsoe, Envy by Joseph Epstein, Anger by Robert Thurman, Greed by Phyllis Tickle, Sloth by Wendy Wasserstein and Pride by Michael Eric Dyson become playgrounds for cultural reflection by authors and playwrights in Oxford's Seven Deadly Sins series."--Publishers Weekly (on the series)
"The perfect wry gift for the holidays."--Detroit Free Press
"This erudite little meditation on appetite and religion matches ancient and medieval texts (Petronius, St. John Chrysostom) with up-to-date references to stomach stapling and Saveur.... Prose offers up a wonderful smorgasbord of factoids and aperçus, whose chief ingredient is irony."--Publishers Weekly
"Invoking a parade of classical writers, philosophers, and religious figures, [Prose] traces and challenges the very notion of gluttony's sinfulness.... Prose deftly and snarkily brings gluttony out of the world of evil and into the world of pleasure, where she believes it belongs.... It has ever been thus, concludes Prose, that looking into the face of the glutton is akin to looking in a mirror wherein we see our 'darkest dreams and deepest desires.'"--Bitch Magazine
"An excellent addition to the shelf of sins."--Cleveland Plain Dealer
About the Author:
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.