May 6, 2007

"Bad for You" books.

The NYT Book Review this week has a theme: "Bad for You." I don't think the individual books are anywhere near as interesting as collecting them together like this makes them seem.

For example, one book is about email -- don't you know you can get yourself in trouble via email? -- and even with Dave Barry writing the review, email is a dull topic. Don't tell me, let me guess. People hit the "send" button hastily, writing lacks the emotional cues of a face-to-face conversation, and blah blah blah.

NYT writer Gina Kolata has written a book about our fatness -- "Rethinking Thin" -- that is reviewed by Slate writer Emily Bazelon:
Kolata ends on a quixotic note, by wondering if perhaps Americans weigh more for the same reason that we’re taller on average than we were a century ago — because we’re in better health. Maybe the extra pounds even help contribute to this well-being.
What's "quixotic" about another repetition of the idea that fat people are actually healthy? I suspect this is the sort of thing you say in a book about fat to appeal to the people who would buy a book about fat. If we're getting fatter all the time for the same reason we're getting taller, why does that mean we're more healthy? It seems to mean we have steady access to food, and our bodies evolved to deal with scarcity, so we're really good at using food, loading up when we get the chance, and storing it away for a famine. When the famine never comes -- which is good -- it's bad.

Nirvana! Is Nirvana -- the band -- bad for you? Benjamin Kunkel reviews Everett True's "Nirvana":
[I]t is difficult to hold on, from year to year, to all the strength and pain of being young. It is also difficult to remain quite so completely confused. Yet there is honor in confusion — since figuring out how you feel usually means abandoning one of your truths. And the adolescent, like the artist transformed into a commodity, is right to be confused: right to want to be popular; right to be contemptuous of popularity; right to hate the faults in himself that make his popularity undeserved; and right also to hope that winning a deserved popularity might actually redeem, for a time, the entire category of the popular.
There, now, does that help? Should you listen to your Nirvana records again, or do they embarrass you? Would you read a bio of the band?

Camille Paglia reviews Jon Savage’s "Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture":
Savage amusingly juxtaposes the earnest social prototype of the “muscular Christian” with the capricious iconoclasm of Arthur Rimbaud and Oscar Wilde. Missing, however, is the Romantic lineage of these writers in Théophile Gautier and other aesthetes : not everything in literature should be interpreted as a direct response to current events or social conditions.
Amuse me with juxtapositions and then piss me off by failing to juxtapose something that my capriciously iconoclastic mind juxtaposed.

Here's a review of "The Joys of Drinking." Barbara Holland has written a book about the history of alcohol use, and she's putting a positive spin on it. The Constitution's framers drank a lot, people socialize in bars, etc.
[Holland] can’t abide our current era of moderation. Hip urbanites, she writes, “turned drinking in moderation into a high-class avocation.” Wine tours caught on and microbreweries arrived. The devotees “aren’t drinkers. They’re connoisseurs and critics, priests of ritual, sniffers and tasters, discerning scholars scowling thoughtfully into their glass. Fun has nothing to do with it. ... In the metropolitan haunts of the highly sophisticated, the cocktail is no longer an instrument of friendship but a competitive fashion statement, or one-upmanship.”
Is that moderation? You can have different kinds of attitudes and tastes and still drink a lot. And hasn't there always been a high class and a low class approach to drinking? I don't get it. This review, by Robert R. Harris, is just not critical enough, but it is studded with tasty nuggets of information, gving me the feeling the "Bad for You" themed Book Review is just here to entertain us, to play the "most-emailed" list game to win.

9 comments:

Annie said...

Paglia sure does shake her erudition in your face.

Gahrie said...

Althouse:

You really have a lot of hostility for fat people don't you?

Is it because they are the last group of people to safely attack in the manner you do?

I myself happen to be fat. And believe it or not, I'm actually quite a nice guy. You might even like me once you get to know me.

Please note, I think you have every right to express your dislike the way you do, I just find it curious.

Ann Althouse said...

Gahrie, the hostility I've expressed here and elsewhere is not toward fat people, but toward denial and deception. You are in fact expressing hostility toward me and being in denial about what I've said. Where did I "attack" fat people? I compliment them for having bodies that process food efficiently, with lots of storage for the famine they are genetically engineered to defend against. It's perfectly normal to get fat in the presence of a permanent, ample food supply. How is that hostile? I just don't accept the added soothing deception that the state of being fat is also good for you.

Tim said...

"Is that moderation? You can have different kinds of attitudes and tastes and still drink a lot. And hasn't there always been a high class and a low class approach to drinking?"

My drinking in moderation centers around high value and low volume. Drinking in volume is for drunks.

Gahrie, regarding fat people, I'm the first to admit it is almost impossible NOT to be twenty or so pounds overweight, given our sedentary lifestyles and cheap, plentiful food. But as with all excess, if you're much fatter than that, I think gluttony and absence of self-discipline are evident.

I'm sure neither are virtues. How one feels about that, of course, is one's own business.

ricpic said...

Do the beautiful/perfect people ever have fun?

Ann Althouse said...

"it is almost impossible NOT to be twenty or so pounds overweight, given our sedentary lifestyles and cheap, plentiful food..."

Why is that a given? Clearly, it is possible to lose weight by moving around more and/or eating less. But we are being efficient and behaving rationally as the biological entities we are. We have to rise above our natural instincts if we are to avoid being overweight.

Bissage said...

Women sense my power and they seek the life essence. I do not avoid women, but I have risen above my natural instincts and I do deny them my essence.

Tim said...

"Why is that a given? Clearly, it is possible to lose weight by moving around more and/or eating less. But we are being efficient and behaving rationally as the biological entities we are. We have to rise above our natural instincts if we are to avoid being overweight."

Ann, the given is sedentary lifestyles and cheap food, which, added to your citation of our natural instincts and biology, make it hard not to be overweight. I agree we all have to clear those hurdles to keep from being overweight. Writing from personal experience as a former jock and now inconstant (injury-prone) runner, it's hard to keep the weight down - even staying away from excessive alcohol, desserts and empty calorie snacks. I try to get about an hour a day in - and I know triathletes who do more - and we still battle weight. I'm not surprised when (or judgmental of) someone who hasn't that kind of time to workout is pudgy.

But if you're 40, 50 or more pounds overweight, pre-diabetic or worse, you clearly have a problem with appetite and self-discipline.

Galvanized said...

I will always love Nirvana's music. It's a shame that Cobain gave up.